Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Best Album Covers: Heart Like a Wheel


This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.

Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.

Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue, shall we?


Edging ever closer to the number Paul McCartney wrote about in song on last month’s album entry, thought to look back upon the album Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic captured well:

“Following the same formula as her early records, Heart Like a Wheel doesn’t appear to be a great breakthrough on the surface. However, Ronstadt comes into her own on this mix of oldies and contemporary classics. Backed by a fleet of Los Angeles musicians, Ronstadt sings with vigor and passion, helping bring the music alive. But what really makes Heart Like a Wheel a breakthrough is the inventive arrangements that producer Peter AsherRonstadt, and the studio musicians have developed.

If there’s one female voice that haunts those my age, it’d have to be Linda Ronstadt’s. From seizing a sense of the Sixties with a Michael Nesmith number reaching fifty this year to reminding us of the rich heritage that nurtured it twenty years later with “Canciones de Mi Padre”1. More than thankful we’re left with plenty to replay in the decades since. Especially as her splendid instrument now silenced due to Parkinson’s. Put simply, the woman is a treasure.

No question this LP2 the game-changer in a music career few individuals could match. Her octaves reverberated with a core to the country-folk material, one that plucked at the heartstrings. Even for those mesmerized with the increasing guitar-dominated rock of the period, or the Jazz Fusion coyly enticing my ears, Linda astonished, whether we admitted it or not. Moreover, she went hand-in-hand with one of the best black & white album art to come out of a decade known for them.

Music producers made sure “la linda”3 and photogenic Ronstadt graced her album covers just so. Heart Like a Wheel‘s jumped out from the hodgepodge of her first four LPs through Rod Dyer‘s beautifully clean design. Graceful grayscale focusing viewers without distracting color. As Lauren Filipelli wrote, “The cover was a black and white close-up of a woman, her hair windswept, her name scrawled above her in a font usually reserved for truck stops…” Yet, the elegant mix of title and photo a statement.

Photographed by Len Correa

Centering on a cover that captured the sweet quintessence locked inside the vinyl and this sublime singer.

Artist: Linda Ronstadt
Title: Heart Like a Wheel
Date: 1974
Label: Capitol

Side one

  1. “You’re No Good”
  2. “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”
  3. “Faithless Love”
  4. “The Dark End of the Street”
  5. “Heart Like a Wheel”

Side two

  1. “When Will I Be Loved”
  2. “Willin”
  3. “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)”
  4. “Keep Me From Blowing Away”
  5. “You Can Close Your Eyes”

The entire series can be found here.

  1.  She once lamented half-jokingly that she “…sang like a German and thought like a Mexican and wished it were the other way around.” 
  2. It spent 51 weeks on the album charts and Billboard picked Ronstadt as the top female pop artist of the year. Rolling Stone ranked Heart Like a Wheel at number 164 on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  3. Linda Spanish for “beautiful.” 

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