1980 found Linda Ronstadt at the height of her popularity as her albums were selling millions of copies and she was headlining large concert halls across The United States.
No one can ever accuse her of not taking chances as, despite her massive appeal, she abruptly changed musical directions. While 1979’s Living In The USA sent her in a rock/ pop direction, Mad Love, released during 1980, embraced the new wave style of rock. Three compositions by Elvis Costello and three more by Mark Goldenberg of The Cretones gave evidence of this new direction. Her fan base followed as the album reached number two on the American charts, earning her another platinum sales award.
The album begins with the title track, written by Goldenberg, which is my least favorite song. While it does establish her new style, it is just too over the top for my taste. She fares much better on another tune of his, “Justine,” which contains one of the more powerful vocals of her career.
Two of the Elvis Costello covers are outstanding. Ronstadt's version of “Party Girl,” originally from Costello's Armed Forces album, just builds. And her take on “Girls Talk” is the best I have heard this side of Dave Edmunds.
The remaining tracks are both eclectic and in many ways successful. The only one that totally veers from her new musical direction is a fine cover of the old Little Anthony & The Imperials classic, “Hurt So Bad.” She delivers a powerful and soaring vocal, enabling it to become a top ten single. “How Do I Make You” is a rocker that she gets just right, making for another top ten single. “I Can’t Let Go,” an old Hollies hit from the Graham Nash days is given a different feel with her strong vocal. And her rocking version of Neil Young’s “Look Out For My Love” just draws you in.
Mad Love has aged a bit since its release as its music and Linda Ronstadt have long since moved on. Her rock phase may have lasted only three albums but it nevertheless managed to produce some interesting work. However, if I want to listen to some of her music this is not an album I would usually turn to. Still, it was nice to see a major artist actually take a few chances.