Posts Tagged ‘Blue Bayou’

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

In September 1977, Linda Ronstadt released her eighth album, Simple Dreams. Although not her best work (Heart Like a Wheel is that), it’s a sublime masterpiece. It captures her at the peak of her creative powers, melding yesteryear classics and contemporary offerings into a delectable whole. In a sense, it follows the formula she and producer Peter Asher established with Heart Like a Wheel – but it strays from it, too, by expanding the palette several hues. There’s pop, rock and country, in other words, but also two songs from the dawn of true Americana music – the Carter Family’s “I Never Will Marry” (1933) and “Old Paint,” which dates back even further, to the late 1800s.

In some ways, the set epitomizes what I like to call Southern California soul – it’s tasteful and tuneful, emotive, and never slick. Linda is a singer in service to the songs. Oh sure, her voice is on full display – but every note she sings is aimed at putting the songs over; she doesn’t show off. Her rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” which topped out at No. 3 on the singles chart, is one example…

… and her cover of Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy,” which topped out at No. 5, is another.

Because of my age and ignorance, I was unaware of Linda Ronstadt until the following autumn and Living in the USA, and didn’t become a fan in earnest until 1980, when I bought Mad Love.  And as a kid on a tight budget, I didn’t pick up Simple Dreams until March 1st, 1983 – not because I didn’t want it, but because four of its songs were featured on her Greatest Hits Vol. II, which I got in October or November of 1980. These two, for instance:

But I quickly wished I’d bought it sooner. Its strength comes not just from the hits and those two radio staples, but such exemplary tunes as the aforementioned “I Never Will Marry” and “Old Paint,” not to mention the Eric Kaz-penned “Sorrow Lives Here.”

Here’s the track list of the album:

Side One:

  1. It’s So Easy
  2. Carmelita
  3. Simple Man, Simple Dream
  4. Sorrow Lives Here
  5. I Never Will Marry

Side Two:

  1. Blue Bayou
  2. Poor Poor Pitiful Me
  3. Maybe I’m Right
  4. Tumbling Dice
  5. Old Paint

Aside from its contents, the LP is notable for selling 3 1/2 million copies within its first year of release; knocking Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours from the top spot of Billboard’s album chart, a position that album had held for 29 weeks; and being home to two singles (“Blue Bayou” and “It’s So Easy”) that were in the Top 5 at the same time – a feat that hadn’t been achieved since the Beatles in the ‘60s.

So why spotlight Simple Dreams now? The Rhino label has reissued the album in honor of its 40th anniversary, that’s why. The set features remastered sound and three bonus tracks from Linda’s 1980 HBO concert – “It’s So Easy,” “Blue Bayou” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.” I can’t speak for the CD, but the LP sounds great; and the bonus material is a delight – if you purchase the LP, they come on a separate 45-sized single (though it plays at 33 1/3 RPMs).

lindaronstadt_1978Yesterday afternoon, I found myself searching for several hours through boxes upon boxes – no, not at the Archives, but in our attic. When we moved from the apartment to the house in early 2014, I think everyone but us was surprised at just how much stuff we had accumulated through the years, with the vast majority of it being things that most folks would have churned into the second-hand market (or trash) long ago. I’m talking books, books and more books, plus CDs, magazines and assorted odds and ends, knick-knacks of every sort.

I didn’t find what I was looking for – Linda Ronstadt’s excellent memoir, Simple Dreams – but did come away with a few things of interest, including a September 1981 Circus, October 1980 Trouser Press, a November 1978 magazine called New Wave Rock and, as seen to the left, the 1978 Rolling Stone with Linda Ronstadt on the cover. I’d forgotten that we had it. The last led me, a little bit later, to sift through quite a few of the Linda clips on YouTube, including this one distributed by Reelin’ Through the Years Productions:

And this one, which lifts her performances of “Tumblin’ Dice,” “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and “Love Me Tender” from the FM movie:

So, for today’s Top 5: Linda Ronstadt, Volume II. (Volume I can be found here, though some of the chosen clips have since gone AWOL from YouTube.)

1) “Desperado.” Linda covers the classic Eagles’ song while backed by the Eagles, who came to be after Glenn Frey and Don Henley became friends while serving in Linda’s backup band. This clip hails from 1974; the song is from her 1973 album Don’t Cry Now.

2) “Hey Mister That’s Me Up on the Jukebox.” The James Taylor-written song comes her sixth LP, Prisoner in Disguise, which was released in September 1975. This performance, if the notes are correct, hails from December of that same year. (The video goes wonky at the 1:48 mark, but is cool to watch up until then.)

3) “Blue Bayou.” Linda’s cover of the Roy Orbison classic hails from her 1977 album, Simple Dreams. The concert was shot in Atlanta that year.

4) “I Knew You When.” From her oft-overlooked 1982 album, Get Closer. The Joe South-penned song was a hit for Billy Joe Royal in 1965.

5) “Lies”/“Tell Him.” And a twofer from Get Closer: covers of the Knickerbockers’ “Lies” and the Exciters’ “Tell Him.”

And two bonuses…

This seductive rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “Easy for You to Say,” also from Get Closer

…and Linda’s delightful 1986 Tonight Show appearance promoting For Sentimental Reasons, the final part of her Nelson Riddle trilogy, and the Round Midnight box set, which collected all three of the LPs.