Saturday, October 13, 2012

164. Heart like a wheel. Wheely?

Album: Heart Like A Wheel
Artist: Linda Rondstandt
Year: 1974
Genre: Country Rock


  1. You're No Good
  2. It Doesn't Matter Anymore
  3. Faithless Love
  4. The Dark End of the Street
  5. Heart Like a Wheel
  6. When Will I Be Loved
  7. Willin'
  8. I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)
  9. Keep Me from Blowing Away
  10. You Can Close Your Eyes

This is where my personal prejudices come into play. Listening to this countdown has made me examine my musical preconceptions and given me a greater understanding how I'm affected by the music I listen to and it's made me realise how much I've romanticised the idea of the artist as inspired creator.

You won't find Ani Di Franco on this countdown which is a shame. I love Ani, I love her voice, I love her guitar playing, I love her lyrics and I really love her as an artist. Ani is a modern folk musician who has her own record label which she managed to fund through her constant touring and by selling home made tapes out of the boot of her car. Today she regularly records albums of self-penned material which she plays and sings herself. She works with a producer but determines how she wants her songs arranged and performed (as the head of her own record label she's technically hiring any staff and nobody tells her what to do). 

I love the idea of Ani sitting at home (or more likely in a hotel room on tour) with a guitar and a pad writing down words and music because something has moved her that day. I love the idea that she says "I'm going to make an album now" and goes into the studio where she puts music to the thoughts and feelings she's been having since she last made a record. She chooses how to arrange her words and then plays the music she wants to play. The end result is an album by Ani DiFranco.

Compare that to Linda Rondstandt who didn't write any of the songs on Heart Like a Wheel. The record label brought in a producer and arranger who basically organized the studio sessions and helped choose which tracks they wanted her to sing. They then organized the host of talented musicians who put the instrumental backing together for Linda to sing on. The star came in and lent her (admittedly glorious) voice over the top of their work and an album was made after she entered another studio for an extended photo session to provide the cover. 

Now I'm not knocking Linda for a second. The woman has a wonderful voice, is very attractive and from all reports is a nice person. She's everything you could want in a pop star but I want something more than a pop star. I want an artist with a creative vision that they have a part in sharing. 

If Linda and her record company had a falling out and she was sacked they could have plucked another vocalist from a nearby bar band, plonked her in a studio and let her do the vocals in a day or two. It might not have sounded quite as good but it could have sounded better, who knows? The point is that Linda is just a singer. 

Knowing this keeps me distant from Heart Like A Wheel, it's a bunch of covers and country tracks chosen by a producer and arranger. I can't connect to it in the way I can an album by DiFranco. It tells me nothing about Linda except that she's got a nice voice. It doesn't torture me the way some other albums on this list do but it certainly doesn't involve me, move me or inspire me. 

If you want an album of pop/rock/country sung by a talented female then Heart Like a Wheel is probably your thing. It's the way pop albums are made.

Highlight: Willin (although I prefer the original)
Lowlight: Keep me from Blowing Away

Influenced by: Country and pop
Influenced: country pop crossovers from then on

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:  "Listen this CD and you are good"

-Excellent. I've always wanted to be thought of as good. It's nice to know I've got a way in.

So have you listened to this and do you feel like you're good? Let me know below.


  1. First off, I just want to say that I haven't listened to this album at all (although I am kind of interested)

    So I am wondering what you think of the actual songs themselves. Do they not hold up very well because of the fact that they were essentially prefabricated? Or are they actually good tunes, in your opinion?

    Also, this may highlight the fundamental problem with singing talent shows, like American Idol, X-Factor or The Voice, etc. You may have a great SINGER, but this does not necessarily mean that you will end up with a great ARTIST. So, firstly, what do you think of that theory? And, also, do you think that it kind of applies to the issues with Linda Ronstadt's music?

    Also, when you reviewed "The Very Best of Linda Ronstadt" (#324), you praised her music. Do you now not like her songs, or do you think that this just does not work so well as an album?

    Lastly, I am unfamiliar with Ani DiFranco and her music. It does sound familiar, and, although she doesn't really sound like my kind of artist, could you give me a song recommendation so I can check her music out? And what's your favorite album by her?

    And one more thing: again, you mis-spelled Linda Ronstadt's name. Just letting you know.

    1. Firstly the songs are great. They're written by some of the best songwriters around and they'd be great no matter who sang them. I've heard Willin done by an amateur in a Karaoke bar in Japan and it sounded great.

      I feel the same way I do about this album as I do about her greatest hits. She has a great voice, she's backed by talented people and she's backed by great musicians. It's definitely good music but I can't get involved because it's not really a creation born of inspiration.

      I've never really paid attention to American Idol or X-factor but the impression I get is that they're about image as much as they're about vocal quality. I don't think Linda is in the same category.

      Di Franco is definitely worth checking out. 32 Flavors, Untouchable face, As is, and Angry Anymore are all available to watch on youtube and are worth checking out (although there's a language warning for Untouchable Face). As far as albums go I'd recomend Living in Clip, her first live album which is a great listen.

      Thanks for the spelling corrections. I'll get onto that ASAP.

    2. Ok cool.

      Well, to be perfectly honest, I am not a huge fan of live albums, so what's a good studio album by Ani DiFranco?

    3. She doesn't have a standout album which towers above the others so there's no Sgt Peppers or Exile on Main street to point you to but my personal favourites are Little Plastic Castles or Revelling/Reckoning. She also has a best of called Canon which is worth checking out.

    4. Thanks I'll check it out.