Heart Like A Wheel
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/12/2010
Every once in awhile, an artist creates an almost perfect album, and so it was with Linda Ronstadt and Heart Like A Wheel.
Linda Ronstadt’s career had been on the rise both commercially and creatively, but there was no sign as to what 1974’s Heart Like A Wheel would accomplish. It reached the number one position on the United States album charts and spawned number one singles on both the pop and country charts. The release also enabled her to win her first Grammy Award, appear on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, and sell millions of copies. It remains one of the best fusions of country and rock music in history.
Peter Asher produced several tracks for 1973’s Don’t Cry Now. He was in complete control and put together a smooth, intimate, and brilliant album. He surrounded Ronstadt with some of the best musicians of the day. Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Emmylou Harris, Kenny Edwards, Maria Muldaur, Timothy B. Schmidt, J.D. Souther, and Andrew Gold are all on board ,and Asher manages to keep them under control so that they enhance Ronstadt without overwhelming her.
“You’re No Good” is the lead track and it is quickly apparent that Ronstadt’s sound and style have changed for the better. It treads that fine line between rock and country. Ronstadt’s powerful vocal is out front and propelled the song to the top of the singles charts. As good as that cut was, “When Will I Be Loved” is probably better. Her lead-in vocal has purity, and when the instruments kick in, everything just soars. This old Everly Brothers track went number two on the pop charts and number one on country.
While the two big hits were up-tempo, in many ways, the foundation of the album are ballads. “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” was an old Hank Williams tune that she modernizes with a smooth vocal, leading the track to win the Grammy for Best Country Vocal. She gets Lowell George’s “Willin’” just right; her phrasing is perfect. “The Dark End Of The Street” contains one of the more emotional performances of her career, a nd James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes” is the perfect album closer.
Heart Like A Wheel spent a year on the charts and pushed Ronstadt to superstar status. She has released dozens of albums during the course of her career, but if you have to pick just one, this is it.