Rare Tease [1CD]

Sad to say, this collection is an awful lot more impressive on paper than in reality. The sound quality is variable enough to render every third song a brand new (and frequently objectionable) listening experience, while the performances themselves bound so furiously around that it's impossible to settle into any one mood, before it's time to seek out another. Or press the "next" button on the remote control.

As a gap-filling anthology, of course, Rare Tease is unimpeachable. Opening with a couple of genuinely powerful performances from Ronstadt's 1973 showing on Midnight Special, it marches on through performances as far apart as the Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, the Grammy Awards and Motown 25. There's a couple of guest appearances from Saturday Night Live, duetting with Phoebe Snow (1979) and Paul Simon (1986), further duets with Randy Newman and Smokey Robinson, and an excellent 1977 version of "Blue Bayou," queered only by an audience full of drunken whoopers, and a song-long buzzing out of one speaker.

But it's not a disc to which you'll be returning again and again; more a handy one-stop box for the kind of odds and ends you like to have around for reference, or to prove a point to a doubting friend. "Oh, you missed Linda on The Muppet Show? Believe me, you haven't lived till you've heard her sing 'When I Grow Too Old To Dream' with the frog." - Dave Thompson

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