What immediately becomes obvious when you listen to "Duets," the "new" album by country icon Linda Ronstadt, is that this record is a gem-studded showcase for how she bridged multiple genres and styles during her 40+ year-career, as well as the wow! factor it generates when you realize how in that period she collaborated with most of the biggest names in music on the planet.
With the exception of "Pretty Bird", a previously unreleased duet with Laurie Lewis, the other fourteen tracks were originally released between 1974 and 2006. Sadly, due to suffering from Parkinson's disease, which has left her unable to sing, Linda Ronstadt won't be releasing any new material, although she did choose the tracks and organized the sequencing of the "Duets" album herself.
The "Duets" album starts with three tracks from the 2006 "Adieu False Heart" collaboration with Cajun singer Ann Savoy, Linda's final studio album: the folk minstrelsy "Adieu False Heart," the mournful ballad "I Can't Get Over You" and a stunningly beautiful, spare rendition of the classic "Walk Away Renée." Then we move into country territory with the bluegrass "The New Partner Waltz," a duet with Carl Jackson, the folksy "I Never Will Marry" with Dolly Parton, the acoustic "Pretty Bird," an a-cappella duet with bluegrass musician Laura Lewis, and the Hank Williams country classic "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)," a boisterous duet with Emmylou Harris.
Then we move to Southern California country-rock with songs like "Hasten Down The Wind," with subtle harmonizing by Don Henley, the doleful ballad "Prisoner In Disguise," a vocal twosome with J.D. Souther, and the funky rocker "I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine," which couples her with James Taylor. Next we switch to the soulful "Don't Know Much" and "All My Life," both duets with Aaron Neville, and the sweeping R&B-laced crooner "Somewhere Out There," which teams her up with James Ingram. The album closes with the jazzy swinger "Sisters," a duet with Bette Midler, and the string-swathed, jazzy double act with Frank Sinatra, "Moonlight In Vermont."
"Duets" is a great album. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention there are some omissions from her vast duets-oeuvre that made me wish they had made this a 2-disc set. Especially as it was a sore point for Linda Ronstadt that they could only fit so many tracks on this CD. There's nothing from her Mexican recordings, or from her 1999 duet-album "Western Wall" with Emmylou Harris, nor her collaborations with iconic artists like Johnny Cash and Neil Young, to give a few examples. Anyway, I sure hope these other collaborations will be released on a Duets - Volume 2 in the near future.
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