Prisoner In Disguise
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/13/2010
Linda Ronstadt was a star by 1975. Her Heart Like A Wheel album had topped the American pop charts and spawned two huge hit singles. Prisoner In Disguise, released in September of 1975, only increased her popularity. It would earn her another Platinum Record Award and contained two more hit singles and a top five country release as well.
This album was one of her most versatile; pop, Motown, country, and even a Jimmy Cliff tune would fall under her interpretive spell. She and producer Peter Asher had a knack for selecting just the right songs for her style and voice.
Her first foray into the Motown catalogue produced two hits. She gives a pure and emotional vocal of the old Smokey Robinson ballad, “The Tracks Of My Tears,” and she moves the Martha And The Vandellas classic “Heat Wave” over to a pop masterpiece.
As with many of Ronstadt’s releases, it is the ballads that truly shine. Her cover of the Neil Young penned “Love Is A Rose” was another in the long line of country hits for her. A little banjo and her powerful vocal added up to a memorable performance. I have always preferred her gentle version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” over Whitney Houston’s histrionic rendition, which topped the American pop charts for fourteen weeks during 1992.
The rest of the album is comprised by an eclectic group of material, which she was so good at gathering and making interesting. “Roll Um Easy” features wonderful and precise phasing, with Lowell George providing some expert slide guitar on his own tune. Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross” has a rare gospel feel for Ronstadt. James Taylor’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up There On The Jukebox” is both quirky and entertaining, while “The Sweetest Gift” is an early collaboration with Emmylou Harris.
Prisoner In Disguise was the second of seven albums for Ronstadt that would become some of the most commercially successful in pop history, cementing her status as a music superstar. It remains mid-‘70s pop/country at its best.