Linda Ronstadt always had little use for the trappings of fame. She loved to sing. That was it. In the ’70s, she found a hit-making formula that let her became the highest-paid woman in the history of rock up to that time. But Linda didn’t want the sheer attention and the loss of privacy that has always been part of the whole shebang. And in the early ’80s, the Tucson-born singer said goodbye to it all for the best part of the decade.
She was to star in Broadway musicals (including “The Pirates Of Penzance” and “La Boheme”), record two albums of Mexican songs, and release three albums of standards. None of these even approached her commercial pinnacle. And that was just fine by her. A course like the one she embarked on in the ’80s let Linda distance herself from a scene that she simply saw as not nurturing. And that very same distancement was what let her release one of the most accessible pop albums of her career as the decade was coming to an end. The sights were simply not on her when that happened. People listened to her sing that time. There was no longer anything to prove to anybody. It was just Linda and her voice.
The year was 1989, and the album went by the name of “Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind”. It was largely a collaboration with Aaron Neville, the New Orleans musician best known for shooting to the top of the charts in 1967 with the song “Tell It Like It Is”. The album gave Linda and Aaron a Top 2 hit in “Don’t Know Much”, and a Top 11 entry in the striking “All My Life”, a song bristling with so many emotions that nobody could distill all of them without having to come to terms with a good couple of home truths in the process. It is easily my favorite song on the record. And the runner up is undoubtedly “Adiós”. Its got everything going for it: an achingly lush orchestral arrangement, Brian Wilson on backing vocals, some truly scorching choruses…
It is not the only valedictory number on the record, mind you – the set closer is “Goodbye My Friend”. It is not bad, but it barely gets off the starting line while “Adiós” is already acknowledging the crowd’s ovation.
The songs which are faster in tempo such as “Trouble Again” and “So Right, So Wrong” feel a little strained in the context of the album, although Linda sings them with a lot of gusto. The only fast song which is really appealing is “I Need You” – it has a playful melody and an even more playful set of lyrics. And in any case, not all of the slow numbers are memorable – “Shattered” is definitely one ballad too many.
But that doesn’t mar the appeal of the album at all. “Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind” marked the point where Linda Rondstadt began re-exploring the genres that the buying public cherished most of all. Because she didn’t stop there. Her next record saw her rekindling her original country fire. That was the album that we have come to know as “Feels Like Home”, and you will be able to read more about it when I review it later this week.