Linda Ronstadt
We Ran

It seems like it's been decades since Linda Ronstadt recorded the type of music that made her famous in the first place back in the early '70s with country rock songs like "You're No Good," "Blue Bayou" and "When Will I Be Loved."  In the '80s she turned to big band and soft adult contemporary music, recording with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and scoring a hit with James Ingram on "Somewhere Out There." More recently, she's recorded albums with Cuban and Mexican influences, and an album of children's lullabyes. But with We Ran, she at last returns to the classic small band format, and wends her way through a delectable Cajun organ and ukelele ditty in "Give Me A Reason," a '60s "ooh-oooh"  ballad in "Ruler of My Heart," and a gorgeous rock ballad in the John Hiatt-penned title track, which could also have worked well on a Bonnie Raitt album. Ronstadt has members of Tom Petty's band, as well as longtime guitar pal Waddy Wachtel  (who also plays with Warren Zevon) helping her out to get that organic rock band sound and the result is a timeless album of  grace and spirit.

Ronstadt brings a delicate, full flower of feeling to Bruce Springsteen's introspective, ambling "If I Should Fall Behind" and Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench pulls off evocative classic Hammond organ work on a cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues."  Ronstadt gets to belt above a woman's choir in the '60s flavored sax and string ballad "Cry 'Til My Tears Run Dry," and lets loose with a country rock handclap-worthy duet with Waddy Wachtel's "I Go To Pieces." It all wraps up with the south of the border flavor of "Dreams of the San Joaquin," a sweet Spanish-guitar flavored love song that features background vocals by Ronstadt's family. It's a very special moment on a special album.


Mitchell Froom

Mitchell Froom is the keyboardist/producer who has created classic albums with artists ranging from Elvis Costello, Crowded House and Paul McCartney to Los Lobos, Sheryl Crow, and Suzanne Vega. This album, sadly, includes little of the pop sense he displayed as a producer of those albums.

While Crow and Vega stop by to sing on a couple tracks, and a variety of other former Froom clients also stop by to help out on various instruments, this is ultimately a sound effects album that allows Froom to show off his exotic keyboard collection on tape and toy with some hallucinatory Eastern rhythms and spaced-out beatnik jazz.

It's interesting from a sonic standpoint, but a zero from a pop listenability perspective.



I think there have been more albums on MCA from alternative rock-ska act Sublime since their singer overdosed on heroin a year or two back than when he was alive and performing...the latest, following a collection a b-sides and other leftovers, is Stand By Your Van, a live album that sounds as if it was recorded in a very small club (you can hear people talking at the side of the stage as the band starts its songs). There's a version of their breakthrough hit "Date Rape" which won't satisfy purists — label this for rabid fans only...New Age pianist and lite pop hitmaker Jim Brickman has put together Visions of Love for Windham Hill, a collection of love songs including his own hit "The Gift" as well as a collaboration between him and saxophonist Dave Koz. Also included are collaborations between Brickman and David Grow and Brickman, Grow and Ann Cochran ("That's What I'm Here For" and "After All These Years," respectively.) But this is not all about Brickman's music. Janis Ian offers "Getting Over You" and Amanda Upchurch updates James Taylor's "Shower The People" with an urban groove. Peabo Bryson and Stephen Bishop also turn up....

If a blues vibe is more up your alley, Columbia's Legacy reissue label offers a new series of Mojo Workin' albums. This batch includes Big Bill Broonzy's Warm, Witty & Wise which collects some of his late '80s material. Willie Dixon's Poet of the Blues contains some of the bluesmaster's pre- and post-Chess label output. Also new in the series is Son House's The Original Delta Blues, Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was The Night and a various artists collection called Slide Guitar: The Streamline Special featuring Lead Belly, Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Taj Mahal and more...

Rhino Records — which seems to release about 10 album collections a week these days — has just unveiled yet another series. This one centers around, of all things, cable channels. A collaboration with The Discovery Networks, the first three releases are titled Discovery Channel Presents: Great Chefs Dinner Music, Travel Channel Presents : Songs From Around the World and Animal Planet Presents: Sing With the Animals. Each disc  focuses on a distinct musical style. The Discovery Channel  disc works with jazz, spotlighting artists like Laurindo Almeida and John Coltrane. The Travel Channel disc offers exotic Middle Eastern, Brazilian and African rhythms with artists like Ottmar Liebert and Strunz and Farah. And the Animal Planet disc offers '50s rock classics from The Trashmen and Bill Haley and his Comets...

Hard to believe they can still find unreleased material, but there's a new Janis Joplin live disc out celebrating the 30th anniversary of her label signing to Columbia Records. Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company Live At Winterland '68 includes 14 tracks, including "Piece of my Heart" and "Ball & Chain."