Most of us in Northern California have just gone through the hottest July in years, and while August has been better, there’s still some hot weather ahead. If you live anywhere in the United States, you may be feeling the heat right now. So, it seems like a great time to salute a sultry female vocalist, Linda Ronstadt, with this post on her trilogy with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. In no way am I suggesting that these are the best albums by Ronstadt, but they are more like “obvious” but overlooked hidden treasures. That is, these albums are easily available, but they are often forgotten.
Known in the 1970s as the Queen of Rock and the Queen of Country Rock, these three Ronstadt albums were released from 1983 to 1986. They introduced me to this sultry music that was not quite jazz and was certainly not rock or country. These albums are commonly referred to as the Ronstadt and Nelson Riddle trilogy.
The Trilogy with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra
So let’s start with this trilogy. Originally released as three albums, “What’s New,” “Lush Life,” and “For Sentimental Reasons,” they contained songs from the Great American Songbook and had a combined sales of over 8 million copies in the United States. So, I guess I wasn’t the only one to discover their parents’ music in the ’80s. Then they were released as a box set of all three albums called ‘Round Midnight. These albums became late night regulars at our house for years. They were beautifully recorded, beautifully orchestrated by the great Nelson Riddle, and, as it turns out unbelievably beautifully sung by Linda Ronstadt. In a New York Times article written in 1986, Ronstadt said, “There was no more blissful musical experience than singing those songs with Nelson’s arrangements.”
The albums are easy to find used and very inexpensive. The three-box set is much harder to find, but why does that matter; the original pressings sounded better anyway. I have both the original pressings and the box set. I like the box set’s looks so I put the original in the box, but the originals are the ones you want to find. If you are a digital fan, you can also find these albums available for both download and streaming.
The songs on these LPs cover so much of the American Songbook with songs like: What’s New, Skylark; Sophisticated Lady; When You Wish Upon a Star; Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; Am I Blue, and ‘Round Midnight; just to name a few. What makes these great songs very special on these albums is the beautiful arrangements Nelson Riddle and exquisite performances from a world-class orchestra and an exceptional vocal artist. When you add to this the deep beautifully rich tones that are on the recording, you have something very special to listen to in your home. The recordings are very quiet, and the soundstage and scale of the instruments are simply wonderful. The Trilogy is highly recommended!
Notes from Linda Ronstadt’s Facebook Page
On September 22, 2017, Rhino Entertainment will release a special 40th Anniversary Edition of Linda Ronstadt’s multi-platinum album “Simple Dreams.” It will be made available on CD, vinyl, and Hi-res digital downloads, carefully remastered from the original analog tapes. The original packaging has been preserved, and an extra booklet containing liner notes by producer Peter Asher, will be included. As a special addition in all formats, three bonus tracks will be included, live versions of the songs It’s So Easy, Blue Bayou and Poor Poor Pitiful Me. On the LP version the bonus songs will be on a second record. More detailed information can be found here.
For those well-heeled Linda Ronstadt fans who want to help a charitable cause, this year’s Danville d’Elegance Gala Dinner features a presentation by special guest Linda Ronstadt, with her personal story: My Life in Music and Living with Parkinson’s. This event will be held at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California on September 16, 2017. More information here: Danville d’Elegance Weekend