"Winter Light" E l ektra
* * 1/2
Ronstadt's voice is still a marvel--clean and effortlessly powerful, suggesting untold reserves without resorting to the melismatic overkill of today's top divas.
Her flair for picking and producing material, while never way off-base, does waver some, though: The pleasure of hearing her sing two terrific classics from the Burt Bacharach & Hal David songbook is somewhat balanced by her inclusion of two mediocre tunes by Jimmy Webb, to whom she has an undiscriminating loyalty.
"Winter Light" is Ronstadt's least high-concept album in a decade: Nearly half the album is made up of well-known '60s light pop, tastefully orchestrated, but you also get a '40s doo-wop chestnut, a contemporary Spanish-language ballad and a title song in a lush synthesizer bed that ventures well into Enya territory.
The common ground is arrangements tending a little toward the tepid, in keeping with her apparent post-rock convictions. But even Ronstadt's weaker efforts pretty well redefine pretty in a world that hasn't heard of it lately.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).