- This copy is doing it all — huge, rich and lively, with Linda’s vocals reproduced to near perfection
- “Her big but pretty voice is a stunning instrument for expressing feelings, particularly intense feelings that require a slightly understated delivery… a fine album that begs closer inspection than, I fear, many of us are willing to give to Linda Ronstadt’s art. Like the best moments of the preceding nine, though, the best moments of Hasten Down the Wind will be with us a long, long time.”
The sound is rich, smooth, full-bodied and natural on both sides. In other words, this is Classic Analog from the ’70s, recorded by none other than Val Garay, one of our favorite engineers.
Most pressings of this album have quite obvious problems. If you own the record see if you don’t notice some of them on your own copy. Some have a phony boosted top end, a subject we have discussed on Linda’s records before. Some are just too fat and Tubey. Perhaps the result of too much Aphex Aural Excitement? Some are thick, some are thin, some are too clean, some are not clean enough, every sonic issue you can imagine can be heard on this album if you have enough copies to play, and we had plenty.
We know that this copy is about as correct as can be. We know because we cleaned and played it and listened to it critically in comparison to other copies, and we did it all by ourselves. (Of course we did. There’s really no other way to do it.)
What the Best Sides of Hasten Down The Wind Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Val Garay Is The Man
Kudos once again must go to Val Garay, the co-engineer here with Dave Hassinger (who owns The Sound Factory where the album was recorded). Garay is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound. With BIG drums — can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.)
I don’t think Mr. Garay gets anything like his due with audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them. This is a shame; the guy makes Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as those kinds of records can be made. If you have a Big System that really rocks you owe it to yourself to get to know his work. This is truly a KNOCKOUT disc if you have the equipment for it. We do, and it’s records like this that make the effort and expense of building a full-range dynamic system so rewarding.
What We’re Listening For on Hasten Down The Wind
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
If He’s Ever Near
That’ll Be the Day
Lo Siento Mi Vida
Hasten Down the Wind
Rivers of Babylon
Give One Heart
Try Me Again
Down So Low
Someone to Lay Down Beside Me
That Queen of Lost Ladies whose golden heart is always broken by unfeeling men is back again with another unique delivery of country/pop/rock-oldies laments and defiant good-time pledges. Ronstadt’s highly effective stage image of the romantic female loser leads the listener smoothly through a wide variety of music by a staggering variety of songwriters. There’s even a lovely Spanish Tex-Mex song, shades of Freddy Fender.
Peter Asher’s production is again remarkable, particularly in the way it avoids repeating itself. It took Ronstadt a long and determined time to get to the top of the heap, but if she can keep up the quality of albums like this, she’ll be on top even longer.
Her big but pretty voice is a stunning instrument for expressing feelings, particularly intense feelings that require a slightly understated delivery for maximum effectiveness. Best cuts: “That’ll Be The Day,” “Lose Again,” “Give One Heart,” “Try Me Again,” “Rivers Of Babylon.”
A few days after Linda Ronstadt released Hasten Down the Wind, we caught the country singer in concert. At the end of the first song, she asked the audience to bear with her — she was recovering from a cold and was still hoarse. We should all be so hoarse. During the next few hours, she moved through old favorites and introduced the audience to the songs on her new album. The verdict was unanimous: Ronstadt is stronger and more confident than ever before, and with good reason — the new material is equal, if not superior, to the best of her standards.
Backed by one of the strongest bands in the business, she moves from an infectious reggae tune, “Give One Heart,” to a funky Ry Cooder classic, “The Tattler” — then breaks your heart with “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” by Karla Bonoff. The nicest surprise of the evening (and of the album) was “Try Me Again,” a magnificent song in the tradition of “Love Has No Pride,” co-authored by Ronstadt and Andrew Gold. If Linda loses her voice, she can make it as a songwriter.
– Playboy, 12/76.
Hasten Down the Wind is a Grammy Award-winning 1976 album, her third straight million-selling album. Ronstadt was the first female artist in history to accomplish this feat. The album earned her a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in early 1977, her second of 11 Grammys. It represented a slight departure from 1974’s Heart Like a Wheel and 1975’s Prisoner in Disguise in that she chose to showcase new songwriters over the traditional country rock sound she had been producing up to that point. A more serious and poignant album than its predecessors, it won critical acclaim from critics and the general public alike.
The album showcased songs from artists such as Warren Zevon (“Hasten Down the Wind”) and Karla Bonoff (“Someone to Lay Down Beside Me”); both of whom would soon be making a name for themselves in the singer-songwriter world. The album also included a cover of a cover: “The Tattler” by Washington Phillips, which Ry Cooder had re-arranged for his 1974 album Paradise and Lunch. A reworking of the late Patsy Cline’s classic “Crazy” was a Top 10 Country hit for Ronstadt in early 1977.
In Depth Rolling Stone Review
This is Linda Ronstadt’s tenth album (including the three made with her first group, the Stone Poneys). While it is certainly not in a league with her masterpiece, Heart Like a Wheel, (and I’m beginning to believe its perfection occurs but once in an artist’s career), Hasten Down the Wind is nonetheless representative of Ronstadt redivivus, of Ronstadt, the sensitive, introspective stirring we have admired all these years.
I’ve always appreciated Ronstadt’s good-natured approach to her remakes of rock ‘n roll oldies. The version of “That’ll Be the Day” included here neither alters my feelings for nor threatens the Buddy Holly original. Her reading could be tougher, but the music behind it — particularly the solo sparring between guitarists Andrew Gold and Waddy Wachtel — has enough bite to overcome the vocal shortcomings.
Ry Cooder’s “The Tattler” is one of the album’s two gems. Swirling electric piano figures and a barely audible mandolin establish an irresistibly exotic ambiance. Ronstadt’s interpretation is extraordinarily subtle, sly and witty. She sounds at peace with herself as she sings of foolish lovers who don’t take the time to discover love’s true meaning. She doesn’t battle the instruments; she doesn’t strain for high notes. She simply allows the beauty of this well-structured song to speak for itself.
Ultimately, there is the Ronstadt-Gold song, “Try Me Again.” As in “Love Has No Pride” and “Long Long Time,” something precious is at stake here. The song’s theme summons from Ronstadt myriad emotions; midway through the first verse, she is befuddled — not yet wanting to admit what is going on in her life:
Lately I ain’t been feeling right
And I don’t know the cure, no
Still I can’t keep from wonderin’
If I still figure in your life
Realization and abject resignation in the second verse turn into frustration by the third (“When you say you tried/And you know you lied/My hands are tied”), which elicits the final, desperate plea of the title.
Near the end of the song, Gold hammers out angry piano chords beneath Dan Dugmore’s sorrowful steel guitar lines, then comes back with a powerful guitar solo that is the instrumental topping for the quintessential Ronstadt performance.
Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” an inspired choice, follows. After the tumult of “Try Me Again,” “Crazy”is rather a boozy coda; a “what the hell, you gotta give love a try” barroom ballad that is lighthearted and loose enough for Ronstadt to falter on the last line without destroying the mood.
This isn’t Heart Like a Wheel. But it is, despite its flaws, a fine album that begs closer inspection than, I fear, many of us are willing to give to Linda Ronstadt’s art. Like the best moments of the preceding nine, though, the best moments of Hasten Down the Wind will be with us a long, long time.
– David McGee, Rolling Stone, 10/2/76.