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Music Review: Linda Ronstadt – Prisoner In Disguise

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Linda Ronstadt was a star by 1975. Her Heart Like A Wheel album had topped The American pop charts and spawned two huge hit singles. Prisoner In Disguise, released in September of 1975, increased her popularity. It would earn her another Platinum Record Award and contained two more hit singles and a top five country release as well.

She had settled into a pop/country niche that tended to revolve around up-tempo pop tunes and country style ballads.

This album would be one of her most versatile as pop, Motown, country, and even a Jimmy Cliff tune would fall under her interpretive spell. She and producer Peter Asher would have the knack of picking just the right songs for her style and voice.

Her first foray into the Motown catalogue would produce two hits. She gave a pure and emotional vocal on the old Smokey Robinson ballad, “The Tracks Of My Tears,” She moves the Martha and The Vandellas classic “Heat Wave” into a pop masterpiece.

As with many of her releases it is the ballads that truly shine. Her cover of the Neil Young penned “Love Is A Rose” was another in the long line of country hits for her. A little banjo and her powerful vocal all added up to a memorable performance. I have always preferred her gentle version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” over Whitney Houston’s histrionic rendition which topped The American pop charts for fourteen weeks during 1992.

The rest of the album was comprised of an eclectic group of material which she was so good at gathering and making interesting. “Roll Um Easy” featured wonderful and precise phasing and Lowell George provides some expert slide guitar on his own tune. Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross” had a rare gospel feel for Ronstadt. James Taylor’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up There On The Jukebox” is both quirky and entertaining. “The Sweetest Gift” is an early collaboration with Emmylou Harris.

Prisoner In Disguise would be the second of seven albums which would be some of the most commercial in pop history and cement her status as a music superstar. It remains mid-seventies pop/country at its best.

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