Ronstadt Goes Back to the '70s

Richard Cromelin writes about pop music for Calendar

Is there something in the millennial air that's driving pop singers of fiftysomething vintage back to their roots? First Rod Stewart comes swaggering out with an effort to recapture his old rocker's joie de vivre, and a few weeks later Linda Ronstadt releases an album that's being touted as a return to her classic '70s country-rock form.

"We Ran," due Tuesday on Elektra Records, does have some of the old signatures--a rocking sound played by Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, among others, and produced by classic-rock master Glyn Johns, and a diverse set of material from Dylan, John Hiatt, Springsteen, Doc Pomus, et al.

But any resemblance to such old hit albums as "Heart Like a Wheel" is strictly accidental.

"What I started out to make was an acoustic record with sax," says Ronstadt, 51. "I got Glyn to help with the guitar sound, and there went my concept of a sax-driven '50s thing. I also didn't nail the material down. I started chasing something and I ran into the wall, so what resulted was Glyn taking a very strong hand."

It's also an album with more apparent commercial potential than such notable Ronstadt explorations as her American pop standards trilogy and her collections of Mexican music. But the singer says that's not a concern: "I have the luxury of having an established career, so I don't have to worry anymore. If nobody buys a record ever again, I don't care. . . . I was never career-driven to start with. Frankly, my early records are not musically satisfying."

Backing up her declaration, Ronstadt plans to follow this project with some moves away from the mainstream. A long-planned collaboration with Emmylou Harris is one thing--at least the core fans can relate to that. But how about a Christmas album based on the sound of glass harmonica and other classical glass instruments?

"That is my passion now. It's the opposite of what we've been doing. It's a tiny, exquisite, thrilling sound. . . . It's the micro to the macro of the guitars in the coliseums. I love the music on the new record and I love the songs, and I want to go play glass music."


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