The first attempt by a rock artist to tackle the Great Ameri
Paul Tognetti | Cranston, RI USA | 03/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To my way of thinking Linda Ronstadt is among the most versatile and gifted female vocalists in the history of American popular music. Case in point: in 1983 Linda Ronstadt was generally considered to be the leading female vocalist of the Rock Era. You can imagine the head scratching by her producer and her legions of fans when she boldly announced that she would be recording an album of standards with the legendary arranger and bandleader Nelson Riddle. It all began a year earlier when Linda called Riddle and asked him if he would consider arranging one song for her upcoming album. Rather, Riddle suggested that he do the entire album himself and thus "What's New" was conceived. Evidently Linda Ronstadt knew what she was doing because "What's New" sold more than two million copies and spent an impressive 81 weeks on Billboard's Album chart.
As I indicated earlier "What's New" was really the very first attempt by an American rock and roll artist to take a stab at the Great American songbook. And as is so often the case the first has proven to be the best. " What's New" offers up a relatively short program of 9 classic tunes that were written between 1923 and 1949. Linda's vocal stylings on the George and Ira Gershwin tunes "I've Got A Crush On You" and "Someone To Watch Over Me" and on Irving Berlin's classic "What'll I Do" are impeccable and as one might expect Nelson Riddle's arrangements are truly spectacular. Perhaps my favorite song on this disc is Linda's haunting rendition of a tune written and made famous by Bing Crosby in 1933 called "I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You". That one still sends chills up my spine each and every time I hear it. Truth be told there is not a bad track on this disc. Its just a darn shame that a few more tunes weren't added as the total playing time of "What's New" is something like 36 minutes. Linda Ronstadt and Nelson Riddle would continue their unlikely relationship and collaborate on two more albums of this material over the next few years.
After all these many years "What's New" continues to be one of my favorite albums of all time. This is the disc that I choose time and again when I am beat and need to just unwind. Over the years many other rock artists have attempted this kind of album with varying degrees of success. But "What's New" remains the gold standard of this genre. Very highly recommended!