Longtime Tucsonans know that music is only a part of the Ronstadt family business, right up there with hardware and public service. At the same time, there must be a responsibility inherent in maintaining the family brand to be interesting as well as good. By these standards, this album is an off-the-charts success.
Prelude has it all—songs that are tuneful and engaging, with expert and precise instrumentation (be it from the family core or the backing band, Los Tucsonenses), diversity, and terrific vocals and harmonies throughout. It's more than a mere collection of strong material. There is also artfulness in the way each song has been crafted, arranged and even selected for presentation.
While the first cut, "Prelude to a Highlife," opens with crisp guitars reminiscent of the Beatles' "All Together Now," Michael G. Ronstadt quickly takes things in a different direction with a big-time cello solo. A cover of Jimmie Rodgers' "California Blues" then brings Los Tucsonenses more into play, Alex Flores on sax in particular. The sound continues to expand on a cover of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth," distinguished by strong vocals and an original acoustic-guitar lick.
They don't hit full stride, however, until the band pulls back a bit with "The Mill of Oracle," "Malagueña Salerosa" and "Will You Fade," all of which contain elements of traditional and newly defined contemporary folk.
They're Ronstadts. What else would you expect?