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.