On April 10, Linda Ronstadt joins the class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – an honor that was certainly not needed to acknowledge Ronstadt’s place as among the top vocalists of her generation, but a welcome and long-overdue honor nonetheless. Two days earlier, Rhino celebrates the career of the versatile artist with the release of Linda Ronstadt – Duets. Its fifteen tracks encompass performances alongside artists including Aaron Neville, Emmylou Harris, Don Henley, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, James Ingram and others, including one previously unreleased recording with bluegrass musician Laurie Lewis.
Curated with the cooperation of Ronstadt and her longtime manager, John Boylan, Duets touches on the varied sides of Ronstadt the artist. Since her earliest days as a member of The Stone Poneys, she’s refused to allow herself to be pigeonholed in one genre. That inclination towards musical exploration has led her to treat the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hart, Warren Zevon, Lowell George, and Jackson Browne with the same kind of respect and innate understanding. The Rock Hall induction comes on the heels of the publication of Ronstadt’s memoir Simple Dreams and her sad announcement that Parkinson’s disease has left her unable to sing. Ronstadt has never completely fit in with the rock clique, despite having placed 38 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 (including ten that went Top Ten) and 36 entries on the album chart, including ten that reached the Top Ten there too, and three that hit the top spot!
Duets draws on a variety of sources spanning 1974 to 2006. A number of tracks show Ronstadt’s love of country music, including duets with her Trio partners Dolly Parton (1977’s “I Never Will Marry”) and Emmylou Harris (1974’s Grammy-winning “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)”). Other tracks draw on the group of Southern California/Laurel Canyon rockers in which Ronstadt flourished commercially and artistically; Eagles’ Don Henley joins Ronstadt on the harmonies of Warren Zevon’s “Hasten Down the Wind,” and J.D. Souther sings on his own “Prisoner in Disguise.” James Taylor, who shared a producer with Ronstadt in Peter Asher and recorded many of his best works with that SoCal flavor, duets on a revival of the Ike and Tina Turner staple “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.” Ronstadt, whose three collaborations with Nelson Riddle remain among the finest expressions of her art, is heard on a couple of Great American Songbook standards via “Moonlight in Vermont” with Frank Sinatra from Old Blue Eyes’ Duets II project, and Irving Berlin’s “Sisters” with Bette Midler from Midler’s 2003 Rosemary Clooney tribute album produced by Barry Manilow.
Among the most successful tracks here are the Grammy-winning “Somewhere Out There” written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and James Horner for Don Bluth’s 1986 animated film An American Tail, on which Ronstadt duets with James Ingram, and two tracks with New Orleans’ legendary Aaron Neville from their joint album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind. “Don’t Know Much” reunited Ronstadt with Mann and Weil, this time writing with Tom Snow. The song had been performed previously by Mann, Bill Medley, Bette Midler, Glenn Jones and even Dallas actress Audrey Landers, but Ronstadt and Neville took it all the way to No. 2 Pop/No. 1 AC in 1989, also picking up a Grammy for their trouble. “All My Life,” written by Karla Bonoff, won yet another Grammy, and though it barely missed the Pop Top 10 at No. 11, it also topped the AC chart. Ronstadt had been an early champion of Bonoff’s songs, recording three of them on 1976’s Hasten Down the Wind. The three most recent tracks on Duets hail from what will likely remain Ronstadt’s final studio album, Adieu False Heart with Cajun music singer Ann Savoy, including a cover of the Left Banke’s 1966 hit “Walk Away Renée.”
After the jump: more on Duets, including the complete track listing and pre-order links!
Duets doesn’t represent the tip of the iceberg of Ronstadt’s collaborations; a frequent guest on others’ albums, she’s harmonized with Brian Wilson, Ruben Blades, Rodney Crowell, Rosemary Clooney, k.d. lang, Ned Doheny, George Jones, Nicolette Larson, Maria Muldaur, Andrew Gold (a frequent musician on Ronstadt’s own albums), Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Neil Young, and even Kermit the Frog, just to name a few! There’s also nothing from her Trio albums (long rumored for expanded and remastered treatment) with her sisters in song Parton and Harris. But Duets’ 14 songs represent a solid cross-section of Ronstadt’s collaborative musical works with many of her peers, friends and colleagues.
This new collection is in stores on April 8 from Rhino, two days before Linda Ronstadt’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can order it below!
- “Adieu False Heart” with Ann Savoy
- “I Can’t Get Over You” with Ann Savoy
- “Walk Away Renee” with Ann Savoy
- “The New Partner Waltz” with Carl Jackson
- “I Never Will Marry” with Dolly Parton
- “Pretty Bird” with Laurie Lewis
- “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)” with Emmylou Harris
- “Hasten Down The Wind” with Don Henley
- “Prisoner In Disguise” with J.D. Souther
- “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” with James Taylor
- “Don’t Know Much” with Aaron Neville
- “All My Life” with Aaron Neville
- “Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram
- “Sisters” with Bette Midler
- “Moonlight In Vermont” with Frank Sinatra
Tracks 1-3 from Adieu False Heart, Savoy CD 79808-2, 2006
Track 4 from Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers, Universal South B0000458-2, 2003
Track 5 from Simple Dreams, Asylum LP 6E-104, 1977
Track 6 previously unreleased
Track 7 from Heart Like a Wheel, Capitol SW-11358, 1974
Track 8 from Hasten Down the Wind, Asylum LP 7E-1072, 1976
Track 9 from Prisoner in Disguise, Asylum LP 7E-1045, 1975
Track 10 from Get Closer, Asylum LP 60185, 1982
Tracks 11-12 from Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, Elektra CD 9 60872-2, 1989
Track 13 from An American Tail: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack, MCA 39096, 1986
Track 14 from Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook, Columbia CK 90350, 2003
Track 15 from Frank Sinatra, Duets II, Capitol CD CDP 7243 8 281032 2, 1994