Monday, March 25, 2013

Even Less Likable Than Others, Linda Ronstadt's Dedicated To The One I Love Disappoints.

The Good: Moments of voice.
The Bad: Short, No compelling arrangements, Simplistic, Monolithic vocal presentation, Narcolepsy-inducing
The Basics: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. This is the most common reaction to this album of lullabies that guts the meaning of many of its songs for the sound it wants.

I have no problem with concept albums. In fact, I like concept albums when they are executed well. Heck, I even get into the occasional concept album that does not fly as high as it could. I remember listening to Joni Mitchell's concept album Both Sides Now and finding a lot of merit in it, despite not being thrilled that she didn't write most of the album. But with Both Sides Now, there was a clear purpose, development and, well, concept.

Linda Ronstadt's album Dedicated To The One I Love might be a concept album or it might just be a collection of tunes reinterpreted as lullabies. At the end of the day, this album is tiresome and sleep-inducing and it is unified by Ronstadt cooing the songs out over light strings. The thing is, it is an exceptionally difficult album to relisten to because it does appear that the whole purpose of the album is to put adults and children to sleep. Let me tell you, it is effective at that. The problem is, it is not much more than that.

With eleven tracks clocking in at 29:25, Dedicated To The One I Love is a collection of mostly-recognizable songs covered by international performer Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt provides the primary vocals, many of which are actually harmony vocals with others - like Valerie Carter - and she arranged five of the songs. But otherwise, Dedicated To The One I Love is very much out of the hands of Ronstadt. Most of the vocals are harmonies, so it is a difficult album to evaluate even for vocal talents and the instrumentals take each song, slow it down to lullaby tempo and essentially make the listener want to fall asleep. But how much of the album is Ronstadt's musical vision is up for a best guess.

Ronstadt did not write any of the songs (she is credited as one of three co-writers on "Winter Light"). She does not play any instruments on this album. Moreover, with the instrumental track "Devoted To You," one is forced to wonder how and why it made the album. Honestly, how can a track be considered of an artist or performer when they do not play either of the instruments on a track they did not write and/or arrange?! Dedicated To The One I Love is a sleep-inducing album of such limited appeal that only the track "Winter Light" from this appears on her compilation The Very Best Of Linda Ronstadt, and as it turns out, it had already been on another album so I'm just as inclined to think it made the cut from its association on that.

Otherwise, this very short album is utterly disappointing and rather bland for its concept. First, Linda Ronstadt and her harmonizing vocalists present soprano interpretations of each and every song, making Dedicated To The One I Love suffer for listenablility. The ear quickly tunes out the lyrics and is left with the high white noise of soothing feminine voices that does little for expressing anything.

Moreover, this is not the most ideal or impressive interpretation of various songs. So, for example, my favorite song on the album, "Be My Baby" is absolutely terrible as a lullaby. I love the song and the strings that present a romantic, almost secondary vocal presentation on this version, are wonderful. But honestly, who wants the plaintive and desired filled lines, "So won't you stay and love me / I'll make you so proud of me / We'll make them turn their heads / Every place we go . . . I'll make you happy, baby / Just wait and see / For every kiss you give me / I'll give you three . . . So won't you be . . . Be my little baby" ("Be My Baby") met with snores? "Be My Baby" is a song about love, desire and the willingness to prostrate oneself to love. It's a song of devotion and it can easily be reinterpreted as one of desperation. Lyrically, it's a simple and phenomenal song, but on this album it becomes utterly pointless. It is the musical equivalent of a marriage proposal lullaby. One seeks an answer of great import and consequence, the other seeks to put one to sleep. The two are not exactly congruent goals.

Dedicated To The One I Love is riddled with songs like that where the lyrics do not match the intent of the lullaby concept. Perhaps most notable among these is the singsong reinterpretation of Queen's "We Will Rock You." Yes, the favored sports anthem is reinterpreted here as a somnambulic musical endeavor that - at best - keeps a beat for mothers who are rocking their baby to sleep. Or fathers who . . . who are we kidding? Listening to a Queen song coo-ed out by Ronstadt will either put the men to sleep or enrage them.

To be fair, some of the tracks naturally translate to the lullaby format. It is hard to make the Beach Boys' "In My Room" into anything else other than a lullaby and "Baby I Love You" works just fine as a slow tempo, narcolepsy-inducing song. And Ronstadt gets her pal Aaron Neville to back her up on the vocals for "Brahms' Lullaby." So, if nothing else, the purpose of Dedicated To The One I Love is very clear. This is a lullaby album designed to put the listener to sleep.

This is most effective with the monolithic instrumentals that accompany each song. The Skywalker Symphony accompanies most of the tracks providing a very light string and woodwind section that has the desired musical effect of lightly accompanying the whispy vocals. The dominant instruments outside the orchestra is the harp. The harp, of course, is not known for rocking tunes that do much of anything other than relax the listener and . . .

I've been pussyfooting around this the entire review; Dedicated To The One I Love is just terrible. I've had it on at least eight times and I don't think I've actually HEARD the album more than four times. I've fallen asleep at least three times and I've just tuned it out as white noise at least two other times. This is not musically interesting, it is not clever and when I picked up the album, there was no warning as to what the concept was, or else I would have avoided it. I like music that engages me - preferably on multiple levels - this does not. Instead it is universally slow, sacrifices the meaning of many of the songs for the sound the album desires, and otherwise disappoints the listener.

If you want to hear one of your favorite oldies butchered as a lullaby, this album is for you. If not, let this review be the cautionary tale that was previously lacking for Dedicated To The One I Love: the purpose of this album is to put the listener to sleep. It does not rock, it does not roll and it does not need to be bought.

The best track is "Be My Baby," but only because I loved the song before this misinterpretation. The whole album can be left behind.

For other Artist Of The Month works, please check out my reviews of:
Goodbye Alice In Wonderland - Jewel
Cake And Pie - Lisa Loeb
50 Greatest Hits - Reba McEntire


Check out how this album stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page where reviews are organized from best work to worst!

© 2013, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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