Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It's been forever since I've done my album posts about favorite new and old albums of mine. Yes, I still call them albums. So I'll be stacking up months worth of albums that I'm listening to currently in the near future.

This Ronstadt album is one of my all-time favorites of the country rock genre. I mean, it just couldn't be done better than this. This is one of those ESIGA albums, meaning an album where Every Song Is Good Album. There are alot of ESIGA albums out there, and of course they vary as to our own personal taste, but let me tell you why this is a great album not only in the history of rock and roll but just for listening and rocking out.

The history of Linda Ronstadt and the band known as the Eagles is intricately intertwined in this album. You can hear it in the playing and in the feel of the album. When Heart like a Wheel was released in 1974, I had been drumming for about 4 years. I was well in command of the drum set enough to cover exactly the parts on the album, and the cover bands I would play with the next few years in high school and thereafter into modern times would cover many of the hits of the Eagles and Ronstadt.

The short version is that Glen Frey was recruited by Ronstadt in LA in 1971 to put together a backing band to record Linda's self-titled third solo album. All of the folks who would form the Eagles were playing in the L.A. music scene at the time and knew each other. Of course, that was an exciting time to be an up and coming or connected musician in L.A. and probably a very good time to be a club live music listener in L.A.

Don Henley had a band called Shiloh, and ultimately he and Frey formed the Eagles. Several personnel changes occurred along the way, losing originally members Meisner and Leydon for Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit.

The Eagles came right out the gate with their first album in 1972 being a success, and several years later as listed in the personnel below, the Eagles guested along with a crowd of excellent musicians on Heart Like A Wheel. You can read more about how that all happened here

Ronstadt is in her finest form ever in 1974 with this album. Her vocals are on fire, and driving the band AND the song like a great vocalist should. When she belts out the opening lines of "When Will I be Loved?" or "Willin'", you feel it.

I know she did lots of great stuff both before and after Heart Like A Wheel, but imho, it's her shining moment. Frankly, it's the only album of hers that has remained in my collection, and although I do enjoy her early solo work, it's the only album that made the transition to cd from vinyl 20+ years ago in my collection.

It is the legendary players who make this album phenomenal. It's a who's who of first call L.A. studio musicians, band members from bands like the Eagles and various other musicians who were then or are now famous for being rocking on their axes.

First and foremost, Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel makes Heart Like A Wheel unforgettable. What an excellent pedal steel player. Sneaky Pete was already well-regarded when he did Heart Like A Wheel, but to me it's one of his finest moments. I'm a big Sneaky Pete fan.

Look at the great personnel who played on this #1 album, which by the way has never been out of print since 1974. It's been a big hit for Ms. Ronstadt. I'll just throw out a few of the more well-known names from the list below, like Eagles Don Henley and Glen Frey. Timothy Schmit and J.D. Souther. You can't miss some of the big names like Cissy Houston, Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur or David Lindley either. Those are some pretty heavyweight names. Andrew Gold was a big factor in the musical success of this album as well, being a well-regarded multi-instrumentalist and arranger.

Linda Ronstadt – vocals, background vocals
Andrew Gold – guitar, percussion, piano, drums, keyboards, electric piano, tambourine, ukulele, background vocals
Peter Asher – guitar, percussion, background vocals, cowbell
Ed Black – guitar
John Boylan – guitar
Paul Craft – guitar
Kenny Edwards – bass, background vocals
Chris Ethridge – bass
Jimmie Fadden – harmonica
Richard Feves – bass
Glenn Frey – guitar
Emory Gordy – bass
Tom Guidera – bass
Emmylou Harris – harmony vocals
Don Henley – drums, background vocals
Dennis Karmazyn – cello
Sneaky Pete Kleinow – pedal steel guitar
Russ Kunkel – drums
Lloyd Myers – drums
David Lindley – fiddle
Cissy Houston – background vocals
Sherlie Matthews – background vocals
Maria Muldaur – background vocals
Clydie King – background vocals
Wendy Waldman – background vocals
Joyce Nesbitt – background vocals
Herb Pedersen – banjo, background vocals
Danny Pendleton – pedal steel guitar
Dennis St. John – drums
Timothy B. Schmit – bass
J. D. Souther – guitar, background vocals
John Starling – guitar
Bob Warford – guitar
David Campbell – viola, string arrangements

It's a great album and won all kinds of sales records and accolades for just being an excellent album. If you're an Eagles fan, you'll like this album. If you're a fan of the legendary country-rock genre, you'll love this album.

It's a slice of the mid-seventies. The Eagles were about to make a turn in their sound, moving from country rock to lots of flat out rock, adding Joe Walsh and Timothy Schmidt to replace Randy Meisner and Bernie Leydon. Rock and Roll was really at the top of it's game by this point, with artists from Led Zeppelin to Bad Company to Heart and Aerosmith and countless others filling the air waves with rock and roll. Country music was likewise flying high, with everything from traditional artists making career high singles and avante garde country artists like Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson also flying high.

The mid-seventies was a great time for great music. Music that is memorable to lots of people. Like this album. Heart Like A Wheel has never been out of print since 1974. I'm sure there are other albums like that, but I can't name one right here off the top of my head. So it's selling and it's been selling steady since 1974, otherwise it would have gone out of print except for special marketing efforts.

This is one of those albums like Van Morrison's Moondance or John Klemmer's Touch, where you can really feel the emotion of the music coming from the players. It's real, and it's always nice to feel something real.

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