Trio II

Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt & Dolly Parton

Elektra Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


All I can say is "shame, shame, shame" on Elektra Records.

Back in 1995 Linda Ronstadt recorded arguably one of the best records of her post-70's career, Feels Like Home. It was - and still is - a revelation of what can happen when a singer is perfectly matched with the songs she's performing. I recall at the time Ronstadt did several interviews that indicated Feels Like Home was initially to have been the follow up to 1987's Trio, which she recorded with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton.

Unfortunately, the second trio album didn't happen for whatever reasons, but apparently the record company kept the tracks of the songs - and have released them now four years after Ronstadt's solo versions. Five of the 10 songs on Trio II were also included on Ronstadt's '95 album - why, that's nearly unforgivable.

Worse, yet, both projects were produced by George Massenburg and the players on the duplicated songs are nearly identical. One has to surmise that Massenburg at the least started with the same sonic "bed" as used on Ronstadt's disc, then added Parton's harmonies (Harris were already there) - or vice versa he started from the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Trio sessions to create Ronstadt's solo versions.

All of the songs that feature Ronstadt on lead vocals ("The Blue Train," "Feels Like Home," "High Sierra," and "Lover's Return") plus a true trio song, Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush," appeared in practically the same arrangements on Ronstadt's Feels Like Home. The only difference is Parton replaces Valerie Carter in the Young song.

Which is not to say any of these songs sound bad. Far, far from it. These artists are too good to release songs that bark, so these songs still sound as good now as they did then - of course, they are essentially the same songs. Especially moving are Jennifer Kimball and Tom Kimmel's haunting "The Blue Train" and Randy Newman's beyond excellent "Feels Like Home." (Only Bonnie Raitt on Newman's Faust album performs the song better.)

The extent of the duplication here is so complete that it's difficult to hear anything good in the five songs on Trio II that aren't repeats. But, once again, these three are professionals and those five songs do sound darn good.

Of the "new" songs, two by Parton are standouts on this impoverished disc: "I Feel the Blues Movin' In" by Del McCoury, and "He Rode All the Way To Texas" by John Starling. On both, her "little-girl lost" voice perfectly augments the blue tone of the songs.

Harris also shines on her moments in the spotlight, "You'll Never Be The Sun" and "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind." On the latter, Parton's high soprano enriches in an exquisite way.

The saddest part of this effort is not that 50 percent of the disc has already been released. The saddest part is that those of us who were anxiously waiting for Trio II since the release of the first effort are still left waiting - and waiting with a bitter taste in our mouths.

I understand that the record industry doesn't exist for the reasons I'd like it to - quality, artistry, originality, etc. No, the record industry exists for one reason - bucks. What burns me is not that they would essentially re-release half of Ronstadt's album as something new - after all that's a cheaper, though despicable, way of making an album.

What sticks in my craw is the incredible waste of talent. Harris, Ronstadt, and Parton have more talent singing in the shower than most of today's "artists" have in all of their overdubs put together.

Ronstadt and Harris are teaming up for another album, or may have even done so by this time - let's all hope they are treated better by the record company this time around.

Rating: D

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© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.