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Music Review: Linda Ronstadt – Silk Purse

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As the seventies dawned, Linda Ronstadt released her second solo album and the decade would prove very kind to her. By its end she would be recognized as a superstar in the music world.

She would relocate to Nashville for the recording of the album and this move to the country capital of the world would be reflected in the music. This country sound would prove commercially successful as the album would reach the American charts and spawn her first solo hit single.

Silk Purse may be country, but its major strength is the power and purity of Ronstadt’s vocals. She covers an eclectic group of songs with passion and preciseness. Producer Elliot Mazer provided the perfect background for her material as he combines fiddles, harpsichords, and other assorted instruments into an interesting and at times exceptional mix.

“Long Long Time” was almost left off the album but it quickly became her first in a long line of hit singles. It featured a smooth vocal which would become a standard on her early solo material.

The opening track was an energetic cover of the old pop-turned-country classic “Lovesick Blues.” Hank Williams had a huge hit with it in 1948, and Frank Ifield moved it over to rockabilly in 1962. Ronstadt’s version is a country pop hybrid that sets the tone for the album.

Two early rock ‘n’ roll hits are moved over to a country/pop style. “The Goffin-King classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and The Dale & Grace hit “I’m Leaving It All Up To You” feature a country foundation of fiddles, harpsichords, and pedal steel guitars with Ronstadt’s pop voice floating over the mix.

There are several other fine performances. “Life Is Like A Mountain Railway” is a traditional bluegrass song which is given an almost spiritual quality. “She changes the Gene Clark and Bernie Leadon song “She Darked The Sun” to “He Darked The Sun” and takes it in a country direction. “Are My Thoughts With You,” written by Mickey Newbury, is a song that was made for her as she gives an exceptional interpretation.

Silk Purse was a unique stop on the musical journey of Linda Ronstadt. In many ways it was a transition album as she was moving toward the rock/country sound for which she would later become famous. She may not have been a star at this point in her career, but she was able to produce a highly listenable and interesting album that has with stood the test of time well.

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