Linda Ronstadt

Hummin' to Myself

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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham

Beginning with her 1983 album What's New, Linda Ronstadt broke away from the pop/rock world and collaborated with Nelson Riddle on a trilogy of traditional pop standards that were confidently performed and well-received. Riddle's satiny arrangements swirled around Ronstadt's rich voice as she played the kind of demure chanteuse who might have been headlining at a fashionable nightclub back in the day. The albums were lush and beautifully crafted but by the third album the formula had become tired and the novelty had worn thin. Twenty years later another fading rocker, Rod Stewart, recorded his own highly successful standards trilogy and perhaps it was his success that spurred Ronstadt to revisit the traditional pop catalog once again. Hummin' to Myself is basically a throwback to her albums that were throwbacks when first recorded. This time around Ronstadt and arranger Alan Broadbent dispense with the full orchestra in favor of a smaller big band-style combo and this setting actually works in her favor. As a rock vocalist, Ronstadt could growl with the best and there was a certain spark in songs like "Get Closer" that let a listener know that this pretty woman had a slightly naughty side. That spark was appropriately missing from the Riddle albums and with Hummin' she has a chance to incorporate a little of her rock bawdiness into her selection of standards. She does this to perfection on "Never Will I Marry," as Frank Loesser's jazzy tune showcases a performance that is sassy and one of Ronstadt's best covers. To a lesser extent, the title track and "Get Out of Town" have some zest to them, but even with the lighter arrangements, her reliance on ballads like "Cry Me a River" and "I'll Be Seeing You" take up the majority of space and bog down the disc. Even her down-tempo version of "Miss Otis Regrets" completely stifles the song's comedic, yet tragic, story line. Ronstadt was on to something when she dispensed with Riddle's orchestrations in favor of Broadbent's big-band arrangements, but the spunk shown in a few tunes isn't enough to fully carry the disc. However, with its different approach Hummin' to Myself is quite possibly Linda Ronstadt's most successful standards outing.

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