Linda Ronstadt - vocals; Andrew Gold - guitar, vocals; Ed Black - guitar, steel guitar, vocals; Herb Pederson - pedal steel; Glen Hardin - keyboards; Kenny Edwards - bass, vocals; Michael Bottis - drums; Peter Asher - vocals; Guest: David Bromberg - dobro, fiddle
1975 was a breakthrough year for Linda Ronstadt. This performance, recorded at Passaic New Jersey's Capital Theater, captures that special moment in time. The 1973 Don't Cry Now album was a significant musical advance and 1974's Heart Like A Wheel would send Ronstadt's career skyrocketing. The latter, perhaps Ronstadt's most perfectly realized album, would spend an entire year near the top of the charts. The single, "You're No Good," would sail right up the singles charts, followed by a series of singles that would also become major hits on the Country and Adult Contemporary charts. Billboard Magazine named Ronstadt the top female pop artist of the year, and she would also grace the cover of Rolling Stone. Ronstadt's setlists on this tour focused heavily on the two above mentioned albums, with a smattering of choice songs from her earlier years thrown in for good measure. Featuring an excellent cross-section of her best material from the past few years, plus a few previews of where she would be heading on the monumentally successful Prisoner In Disguise album, this performance finds Ronstadt achieving a near perfect balance in her music. Supported by a truly outstanding band and with opener, David Bromberg occasionally sitting in, this is a compelling performance all around, with a heavy emphasis on Heart Like A Wheel material.
Opening with a lovely cover of Rick Roberts' "Colorodo," Ronstadt and cohorts establish an intimate country vibe, one they will maintain throughout the performance. Soon to become a smash retro-hit, an energetic version of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" follows, before slowing things down for the Eric Kaz/Libby Titus staple, "Love Has No Pride." With opener, David Bromberg invited to sit in, she next delves back to her roots with a lovely cover of Dick Reynolds and Jack Rhodes classic country number, "Silver Threads & Golden Needles" (one of the four outtakes here, due to recording anomalies), a song she had been singing since her earliest performances fronting The Stone Poneys back in the late 1960s. This most authentic of her country music covers precedes another, in the form of Hank Williams tear jerker, "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)." Lowell George's classic truck driver anthem, "Willin'" is up next. Ronstadt was one of the first people to recognize the timelessness of this song and her rendition, as well as her persistent press mentions of Lowell George and his band, Little Feat, would go a long way toward bringing them national attention. She next covers "Desperado," the tale of life in the outlaw west, written by her former Eagle bandmates, before raising the energy level with the Everly Brothers rocker, "When Will I Be Loved."
Two previews of Prisoner in Disguise material also surface here, first in the form of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." Ronstadt performed this song that would become Whitney Houston's biggest radio hit nearly 15 years before it appeared in The Bodyguard. That album is also represented by the set-closing Motown classic, "Heatwave." The tail end of the set features Ronstadt journeying back in time, first with her definitive reading of John D. Loudermilk's psychedelic country rocker, "Break My Mind" and the song that first brought her significant recognition, the irresistible "Long, Long Time." The latter clearly shows Ronstadt's innate ability to deliver a vocal that is both powerful, yet vulnerable. Prior to performing her classic cover of Clint Ballard, Jr.'s "You're No Good," Ronstadt mentions that the writer is in the house and that she just met him for the first time, giving this version a special significance. Ronstadt ends the evening with the pensive ballad, "Heart Like a Wheel" accompanied only by piano.
Every artist who achieves career longevity inevitably has recordings that are perceived as career-defining moments. For Linda Ronstadt, those albums were Heart Like A Wheel and Prisoner In Disguise. This remarkable performance perfectly captures a moment in time, directly between those two career defining albums. As this set so clearly illustrates, Ronstadt could effortlessly vacillate between a heartbroken vulnerability to a gutsy rocker, and this versatility made her irresistibly sexy and vocally captivating, regardless of musical categories. These elements combined to make Ronstadt the first female rock 'n' roll superstar of the 1970s.
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