|BEST RECORDING OF THE MONTH|
|PAST GLORIES RE-CREATED FOR TODAY|
Talk about upward mobility! Linda Ronstadt first appeared in
the Sixties in a group called the Stone Poneys, then took
some time out to learn how to sing, and finally became a
genuine folk-rock star in the Seventies. Now, in the
Eighties, she's taken to singing major roles in operetta
and opera on Broadway and off. At the same
time she's releasing albums that fondly explore the past
glories of American popular music. Last year's "What's New"
turned out to be a sleeper hit, and her brand-new "Lush Life"
promises to be an even bigger seller.
"What's New" suggested a tribute to Frank Sinatra's classic album "Only the Lonely." "Lush Life," again arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle with stylish grace and true glitter, ranges a much broader field. It presents a greater challenge to Ronstadt to make something new, interesting, and most important- emotionally valid out of material that has had classic if not "definitive" interpretations in the past. On the whole, she succeeds superbly. Thanks to her authentically contemporary musical sensibility and voice (and Riddle's masterly arrangements), her performances ring true on their own terms.
Perhaps many who have (or have heard) the old recordings of these songs will be unable to banish completely memories of, say, Marlene Dietrich's insolent Falling in Love Again, Ella Fitzgerald's filigreed Lush Life, Hoagy Carmichael's wistful Skylark, Jeri Southern's haunting When I Fall in Love, or Billie Holiday's desperate I'm a Fool to Want You. But the songs are strong enough to support more than one interpretation, and Ronstadt is so convincing in her attacks and performances that such memories recede after the first few bars. There is no nostalgia or gimmickry or retro cuteness to her work here. It is all just lovely music, beautifully performed for today's ears.
What's next for Linda Ronstadt? Well, I wouldn't be the least surprised if in the Nineties someone mounts a new production of Wagner's Ring starring you know who.