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Music Review: Linda Ronstadt – Winter Light

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1989’s Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind was Linda Ronstadt’s first album of pop/rock material in seven years. It was also one of the strongest releases of her career and her fan base quickly made it one of her best selling studio albums as it went triple platinum in The United States.

It would not be until 1993 that she would issue another pop/rock album. The interim was filled by more music from her cultural heritage.

Winter Light was a good, if not great album. She reached back into rock and pop history for many of the songs. The musical landscape was changing and this release would mark a downturn in her commercial appeal. It would fail to reach gold record status and would only reach number 92 on the album charts.

What is immediately noticeable is the absence of long time producer Peter Asher for the first time in twenty years. She co-produced the album herself with engineer George Massenburg. The sound is crisp and layered and the song selection good, so it is debatable whether Asher’s absence was critical. At age 47 Ronstadt was taking full control of her career and moving on with life and the music she desired to create.

When Linda Ronstadt is good she is very good and three tracks fit that definition. The old and somewhat obscure Beach Boys track “Don’t Cry (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” which was a part of their classic Pet Sounds album is given a gentle and brilliant interpretation as her delicate vocal just floats over the top. A tune, written by old buddy Emmylou Harris, returns her to her country comfort zone with nice results. The title track is a rare song co-written by Ronstadt along with long time friend Eric Kaz. The ethereal vocal fits the song well and remains one the better performances from the last two decades of her career.

A number of other songs are more than adequate if not brilliant. Two Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” were originally recorded by Dionne Warwick. She gives a nice performance on each but adds nothing new. The old Goffin/King song suffers the same fate as the performance is very listenable but does not approach Maxine Brown’s original or even Dusty Springfield’s rendition. Jimmy Webb songs formed the foundation of Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind but “Do What You Gotta Do” and “You Can’t Treat The Wrong Man Right” are only average.

Winter Light remains a CD which rarely leaves my storage shelf. The intent of the album was sound, but it pales next to many of the other releases in her superb catalog.

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About David Bowling

  • JANK

    How could you not mention Heartbeats Accelerating? That song is a stunner! One of her best.

  • Lawrence Monn

    While it is true that WINTER LIGHT was a commercial disappointment for Ronstadt it is more due to the lack of connection to her fans. This disconnection is due in part to the marketers dumping of established artists such as Ronstadt who have aged out of the coveted 18-34 age bracket to appeal to the broadest spectrum of the buying public. This album’s title track alone is worth the price of the CD. It features Ronstadt using what is known as her head voice which is actually the use of facial cavities to produce sound. Only females can do this. And Ronstadt seems to particularly proud of the title track as it appears on two of her CDs, her box set and the very best of Linda Ronstadt. When I first heard the tune I didn’t know who it was until I listened closer. Give this CD a listen and you won’t be disappointed. Lawrence Monn

  • Mary Langford

    I have all of Ronstadt’s albums including the 3 Stone Poneys. I ignored Winter Light for a long time and just started playing it in my car stereo. It blows me away every time. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Favorites: River for Him, Can’t Treat the Wrong Man Right, Heart Beats Accelerating. Never have been a fan of Burt Bacharach songs but I can enjoy them with Linda singing.

  • Erik North

    I think that another part of the reason WINTER LIGHT didn’t fare well commercially was that just enough people felt alienated by the two Spanish-language albums that preceeded it that, when WINTER LIGHT was released, it was largely ignored commercially, and so was Linda. As a fan, I really find this very sad because it is one of the best of her latter-era albums.

  • Pat DeVitto

    I must admit, I hate it when Linda’s music doesn’t sell. How selfish of me! She SOLD MILLIONS!
    I feel sorry for those who stopped buying her records.
    Winter Light contains some of the best singing of her career! DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO has a melody and final sustain that makes me happy to want to cry my eyes out. I JUST DON’T KNOW…is a masterpiece! IT’S TOO SOON TO KNOW may seem, at first, to be sweet, yet simple filler. No way. Listen to this! Listen to Linda! The more I listen, the more I am blown away!