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RECORD RACK

Ronstadt & Riddle

October 05, 1986|DENNIS HUNT

"FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS." Linda Ronstadt. Elektra/Asylum. It'll be a shame if Linda Ronstadt permanently goes back to pop-rock and forsakes those '30s'-'50s ballads she's been recording since 1983 with arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle. Though she's good at pop-rock, she's great at singing those romantic oldies. Her vocal style has a touch of sweetness and wholesomeness that's somewhat inappropriate for pop-rock but just right for the oldies.

"For Sentimental Reasons" is the third and final album of her collaborations with Riddle, who died last year. The first two were fine but the new one, because of the exemplary song selection and Ronstadt's formidable performance, is the best of the lot. The highlight of "For Sentimental Reasons" is her lush, intense "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," which ranks with the finest renditions of this terrific ballad.

The music on "For Sentimental Reasons" is serene, dreamy and, on tunes like "Little Girl Blue," "My Funny Valentine," "But Not for Me" and " 'Round Midnight"--quite melancholy. These are difficult songs to sing because, with Riddle's minimalist orchestration, it's almost like singing a cappella. But Ronstadt, armed with that high, crystal-clear voice, glides effortlessly though the ballads. She aims for simplicity and understatement and wisely sidesteps emotional excess.

She only falters on the album's two uptempo songs. Her "Am I Blue" doesn't ring true because it sounds like an inferior Billie Holiday imitation. "Straighten Up and Fly Right" is undone both by her vocals--which don't have enough bounce and merriment--and by an overly busy vocal arrangement. But these two flawed cuts don't seriously detract from the overall excellence of the album.

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