By John Milward
Special for USA TODAY

  Pop the question and pour the champagne- Linda Ronstadt's new album Lush Life, to be released Friday, is a toast to love of the most romantic kind.

  This sequel to last year's surprise million-selling success What's New, could be Ronstadt's most successful album to date and - coupled with her upcoming role in La Boheme on Broadway - it could make her the cover girl of the Christmas season. Asylum is so hot on the album that it's shipping a million copies.

  Lush Life finds Ronstadt again working with orchestra arranger Nelson Riddle, but this time she doesn't simply evoke the torch singer, she adds a touch of herself and joins that enduring tradition.

  She's considerably more relaxed here than on What's New, her initial foray into the sophisticated song stylings of George Gershwin and Cole Porter. A major plus: A trio of swing tunes provides a needed change of pace. And Ronstadt sings as if she were in a club, not a recital hall.

  Ronstadt's precise but amiable tone is the key: She doesn't just sing the blues, she cuddles them.

Among the highlights of Lush Life's 12-song set:

  • When I Fall In Love. Ronstadt weakens us with a pure pop
        vocal over a muted jazz guitar; then the orchestra sweeps her
        declaration of love right into our hearts.
  • Skylark. A sweetly trilling harmonica adds a twist to this
        stylishly rendered Hoagy Carmichael melody.
  • It Never Entered My Mind. The torchiest of love ballads.
        Ronstadt winks at us through some saucy phrasing, then builds to a
        big climax.
  • When Your Lover Has Gone. Mournful but far from maudlin,
        Ronstadt imbues Billie Holiday's blue note with the barest hint of
        the sexual revolution.
  • Sophisticated Lady. Duke Ellington's scarlet rhapsody is
        rendered with lilting reverence.
  • Can't We Be Friends. The tempo is swing, but Ronstadt
        tosses off phrases born of rock 'n' roll.
  • Falling in Love Again. Launched from a music-box
        introduction, Ronstadt puts on the ritz and pleads guilty to
        never being able to say no.
  • Lush Life. This sentimental favorite, sporting a subtly shifting
        arrangement, is like a final exam, and Ronstadt pulls an A. Don't
        believe her when she sings, "Romance is mush."

      If there is any fault to be found with Lush Life, it is the uncomfortable element of retro-chic in the song selection. The chestnuts are wonderful, but Ronstadt's next challenge is to leaven them with compatible new songs written by such old friends as Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb.

  • USA TODAY, Thursday, November 15, 1984

    Thanks to Dr. Brian Krachman for providing this review.

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