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Thin Red Line

December 10th, 2009

The Cretones - Thin Red LineLinda Ronstadt took a lot of flak in 1980 upon the release of her new wave influenced album Mad Love. She was accused of jumping on and trying to ride the punk/new wave bandwagon, a place where many believed she had no business. She was, after all, known primarily as a “folk,” “country-rock” “70s pop” artist. She didn’t write her own songs. To many she was nothing more than a fluffy Top 40 songstress. But, Ronstadt was always so much more than that and throughout her career she had a great talent for discovering songwriters before anyone else. Warren Zevon, Karla Bonoff, J.D. Souther, to name just a few. One of her main influences for the Mad Love album was Mark Goldenberg and his band The Cretones. Goldenberg played guitar on most of the album and contributed three tracks (“Mad Love,” “Cost Of Love” and “Justine”). Along with three Elvis Costello songs and more typical Ronstadt fare (Neil Young, 60s pop) Ronstadt created a unique slice of something I can only describe as Southern California Female Power Pop. It’s a singular album in her catalog, none of her records before or after it bore much resemblance to this outing.

The Cretone’s first album, Real Love, was released on Planet Records around the same time in 1980 (Planet was distributed by Elektra/Asylum, Ronstadt’s label).  From the opening blast of “Real Love” it’s clear that this music has bite. The guitars are loud, bracing and ringing, the backbeat solid and muscular. Power pop never sounded so good, at least to me. Perfectly produced by the band’s drummer, Peter Bernstein, it’s a non-stop barrage of catchy pop songs with a hard edge and plenty of drive. This is not punk rock. This is not new wave (although the band is often labeled as such). This is straight ahead power pop and Goldenberg is one hell of a songwriter. It’s a relatively short album, clocking in at 34 minutes, but there’s not a throwaway tune anywhere to be seen or heard on the disc.

The Cretones released a follow up album, Snap! Snap! in 1981 and then they disappeared. Goldenberg later worked as lead guitarist for Jackson Browne (as well as working with Peter Frampton, Bonnie Raitt and Chris Isaak). The wrote a couple of hits for The Pointer Sisters and The Eels.

You won’t find any Cretones music on CD. None. It was a shame they were left off of the otherwise wonderful Rhino No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion box set, where they would have sounded perfect next to Elvis Costello, Eddie And The Hot Rods, Blondie, Joe Jackson and others.

2 Responses

  1. Joe M says:

    I share your enthusiasm with this album. Although I must quickly mention that Bernstein was the bassist, not the drummer.

    Growing up I use to hear Ronstadt on the radio singing Blue Bayou. Otherwise, I didn’t know much about her except that she had a pretty face. Years later, I came across her singing Mad Love live in concert. I had to hear more of that concert. And I did. it turned out to be one album that I couldn’t get enough of. I ended up getting my hands on the Proper Mad Love release of hers. Coincidentally, my favorite tunes on that album were Mad Love, Justine, and Cost of Love. At that point I had never even heard of the Cretones.

    Anyway, I was reading an article online that mentioned her Mad Love track was written by a fella in a band called the Cretones. So I though to myself, if that guy wrote that song, he must have some other good ones. So I checked out their Thin Red Line album. That grew on me fast. EVERY SONG. I hadn’t been listening to Ronstadt’s album so much anymore. Because the Cretones album does it all.

    I ask myself. HOW IN THE WORLD CAN THIS NOT BE RELEASED ON CD? Shame on whoever didn’t jump on this one. All that’s floating around on the Internet is a copy of a record album. It’s good. But the quality is well below today’s standards. I got my hands on a cassette in an attempt to do a proper transfer to bump up a quality copy. It sizzles. But isn’t all that much better than the album transfer.

    If a remaster happened to this album, many would be ecstatic. There is certainly a cut following for it.

    WE’RE WAITING!!

  2. Hey Joe M:

    I agree, hard to understand why this album has yet to be released on CD! Not on Apple Music or Spotify either.

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