Linda Ronstadt Live in Hollywood

The boomer generation is firmly out of cultural control and rock is pretty much dead—not in terms of interest but in the same way big band music is dead—though back in 1980 when this Linda Ronstadt concert was produced and recorded for an HBO special, boomer power peaked.

Linda Ronstadt appeared on CBS Sunday Morning last weekend and it was sad to see her dealing with the effects of Parkinson's Disease. She no longer can sing, but there are the recordings including this newly discovered and released live performance, which is her first on record.

Recorded April 24th, 1980 at Television Center Studios, Hollywood, CA, at the peak of Ronstadt's career, the performance aired on HBO and the tapes filed away. The story goes that Ronstadt's management consultant John Boylan discovered a bad bootleg DVD online and decided to find the original tapes for a possible release but they couldn't be found in HBO's vaults, or Ronstadt's or that of her label at the time Warner Brothers.

Through a bit of luck you'll have to read about in the liner notes, a Warner Brothers engineer found the mislabeled tapes and produced a high resolution digital transfer that Linda Ronstadt distilled down to this twelve song set. It documents Ronstadt in great rocker voice backed by a stellar band of "kids" including ex Stone Poneys guitarist Kenny Edwards, Russ Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar, Little Feat keyboard great Bill Payne and six string and pedal steel guitarist Dan Dugmore. Wendy Waldman—a "front woman" herself—provides back up and even producer Peter Asher contributes percussion. Engineer Val Garay, at the board for most of Ronstadt's studio albums was there for this one as well.

The stage was set for a memorable concert with great sound, though be advised that because it was made for television before the home theater era, the master's sound is dynamically compressed. But don't let that stop you! It's still a great mix and a good recording, especially of Ronstadt's voice, which thankfully was put to tape with little processing or watery reverb.

Bernie Grundman mastered the final edited files (which were also Plangent Processed) and Ian Sefchick cut lacquers at Capitol with records pressed perhaps at GZ Media. The gatefold packaging produced by John "Kosh" who won 3 Grammys for his Ronstadt covers and who designed the iconic Hotel California provides visual "comfort food" for a fading generation and for any youngsters interested in live performance greatness by both the singer and the backing band.

Beginning with "I Can't Let Go" popularized by The Hollies, the 11 other worthy tunes are Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy", Lowell George's trucker anthem "Willin'", "Just One Look", Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou", J.D. Souther's "Faithless Love", Little Anthony and The Imperial's big hit "Hurt So Bad", Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", "You're No Good", "How Do I Make You", "Back in the U.S.A. and of course "Desperado".

This is the soundtrack to a generation on both the originals and Ronstadt's well-known covers brought back to life for one more go round. If you're so inclined you will enjoy this very much and way more so than when PBS inevitably runs with it as $99 dollar fund raiser! I can't wait until the "grunge rock" generation gets the PBS treatments. I should live long enough to watch them lionize Kurt Cobain before an audience of flannel shirt wearing "grungers" after a set by Hole, Mudhoney and The Melvins.

But for now there's this and it will take some of you back for an enjoyable 40 or so minutes. There's an MQA version available on Tidal that sounds very good. This sounds better to me. Must be the distortion that makes it sound more alive.

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Tom L's picture

Terrible bootleg versions of this show have been circulating for years, so I was elated to finally hear this first ever live release from Ms. Ronstadt. The sound is surprisingly good for an old TV show, although the vocals sound a bit "steely" at times-probably due to her oversinging and getting too close to the mic over a loud band. The performances are nothing short of amazing as she swoops from soft, subtle work on Blue Bayou to the full-on rock of Poor Poor Pitiful Me and Back in the USA. What range, what a did she do this night after night when she toured?
This is just twelve songs from a much longer show. Perhaps the remainder will be released some day. There are video boots out there-maybe a cleaned-up video release??
I also really enjoyed her autobiography "Simple Dreams", which focuses on her music and personality instead of gossiping about her boyfriends and so on. Readers might be surprised at her intelligence, insight and musical knowledge.

ravenacustic's picture

Yes, the MQA sounds quite good and so does Ronstadt. I was trying to recall if she had another live album and I couldn’t. Thanks for the confirm Mike.

Ortofan's picture

... "high resolution digital transfer", if you're going to buy this release on physical media, is it worth paying more than twice the price of the CD to get the LP?

Tom L's picture

...the limitations of the original source material, I say "no".

Vinyl On Tubes's picture

The same comment of yours can be said of almost any record released today. The record is $22 and a CD is $11. It's a good record. It's probably a good CD. Grundman probably transferred to redbook, so I doubt it's brickwalled. If you want it on vinyl spend the extra $11. I'm not going to justify if whether an hour working at a minimum wage job is justified one way or the other. I'm guessing you don't come to analogplanet for CD reviews. So you aren't getting one from me.

Ortofan's picture

... in-store at Walmart - and Target will match that price.

EdwardDaniels's picture

All hail to the great WB engineer who found those mislabeled tapes and took the time to produce a high resolution digital transfer. Without him (or her), we would never be able to get the recordings. And yes, just like Linda said, despite so many years, the sound is surprisingly good.

Now, just find some missing songs from other stars, and I will be content :P

Thanks, Edward "Ali" D.

Vinylghost's picture

With the success of this CD/LP being sold out at many online retailers (someone must have misjudged the numbers). Hopefully this will lead to the release of the HBO Video. The few official videos of Linda Ronstadt Vevo look good considering they were recorded on video tape.

I have the CD version which sounds good considering.

Mark Evans's picture

I watched the CBS Sunday Morning show too. The 1978 FM movie soundtrack did include two live cover songs, Tumbling Dice and Poor Poor Pitiful Me.