#163: Heart Like A Wheel by Linda Ronstadt


#163: Heart Like A Wheel by Linda Ronstadt (1974)

Favorite Tracks: "You're No Good" and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" and "Heart Like A Wheel" and "When Will I Be Loved" and "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" and "Keep Me From Blowing Away" and "You Can Close Your Eyes"

Thoughts: This is our second (and possibly final) Linda Ronstadt album, which makes me sad, but I'm happy to have as much of her as possible.* I just finished Simple Dreams, her memoir. She's really tight-lipped about her romantic relationships (which was fine with me) but my favorite part wasn't even her stories of working with other musicians, but the recounting of her childhood in the southwest. I loved this excerpt from her years in Catholic elementary school:

"In the front of every classroom, above the blackboards, was a fairly large crucifix, fully loaded with a suffering Jesus and complement of thorny crown, nails, and oozing side gash. Whoever had the idea to force six-year-olds to contemplate an image of a man being horribly tortured to death was a sick person indeed. I thought the whole thing was gross and tried not to look. We were instructed that our childish peccadilloes had been responsible for this guy Jesus being treated in such a cruel fashion. Furthermore, they told us, he had eventually died to atone for what we did. I knew this couldn't possibly be true, because when all this stuff happened to him, I wasn't even born. This made me question the veracity of everything they ever told us."
She goes on to talk about this album, and more specifically her strong desire to cover the McGarrigle Sisters' "Heart Like a Wheel." She had to wait until she was popular enough that her record label didn't see it as too risky for commercial success. Of course this album ended up being career-defining. I've heard a lot of these songs before on the radio, and this 'forced' listening to them just made me appreciate this album's production, from amazing vocals by Don Henley and Emmylous Harris to the lush orchestrations and smooth velvety butter that is Linda's voice.

I think the new-to-me song I enjoyed the most was her cover of Little Feat/Lowell George's "Willin.'" I just wanted to play it over and over. I was nervous to hear her cover of James Taylor's "Close Your Eyes", as it's a very important song to me, but of course she interpreted it beautifully. It won't be replacing my favorite versions any time soon, but it's lovely. (Personally, I would have left out the strings and drums.)

*I've been really holding out hope that Prisoner in Disguise (1975) makes it on the list but I'm beginning to think it's unlikely. Is it because Heart Like A Wheel was released on Capitol and Prisoner in Disguise is on Asylum? Prisoner in Disguise's album art included hand-written lyrics by the original songwriters! We listened to that album all the time in my family...and it's still my favorite of Linda's.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: It's certainly as good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Linda Ronstadt's voice indeed becomes more memorizing the more you listen. Thinking it is the natural heartbreak in her tone(nothing forced just pure sadness) and the clear unadorned power that she brings in, only when necessary, not like the schreeching to the rafters so common nowdays. Whatever it is - now more than ever Linda's vocals seem rare and remarkable. Hasten Down the Wind is my favorite album of hers. Thank you for your post.