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Elektra Video presents
Canciones de mi padre: A Romantic Evening in Old Mexico—Linda Ronstadt (1992)

"When I was a little girl and my father sang these songs to me, I didn't always understand the language, but it never mattered because the music told me what I needed to know."
- Linda Ronstadt

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: June 06, 2004

Stars: Linda Ronstadt
Other Stars: Danny Valdez, Gilberto Puente, Sal Lopez, Urbanie Lucero, Melinda Marie Ronstadt
Director: Michael Smuin, Bruce Franchini

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:08m:57s
Release Date: June 08, 2004
UPC: 603497029822
Genre: folk

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-C D-

DVD Review

Linda Ronstadt has made a successful musical career out of morphing from one genre to another: from her beginnings as a pop star with the Stone Poneys and as a solo act, into later phases of her career singing romantic ballads with Nelson Riddle, torch songs and even Gilbert & Sullivan. But this episode of Great Performances takes Ronstadt to a very personal place as she sings the melodies that her grandfather and father learned in Sonora, Mexico.

Ronstadt is accompanied by a lively ensemble, the Mariachi Vargas de Taclitlan. The music is very much in the milieu of the mariachi, with thrumming guitars and brassy trumpets, not to mention plenty of hand clapping and foot stomping. Most of the pieces were unfamiliar to me, though there were a few old favorites such as the original version of La Bamba, a courtship song, and El Jarabe Tapatio, better known as the Mexican Hat Dance. Love and romance are the primary themes, but there is also a fair amount of politics as these songs express the sentiments of the Revolution and pride in the adventures of Pancho Villa outwitting the Americans under Pershing.

Visual interest is nicely maintained by the dancing of the Ballet Folklorico de la Fonda; the elaborate dresses of the women are flashy and gorgeous, and their precision dancing is delightful to watch.

These songs clearly mean a great deal to Ronstadt on a personal basis, and she gives them a truly heartfelt performance. She plays it a bit safe in the first half of the program, but really gets flashy in the second half, knowing she's in the home stretch. El Crucifijo de piedra shows off her range nicely, as well as demonstrating her sensitivity. She also clearly is having a great time with story songs such as La Rielera, which she performs with much gusto. She doesn't sing on every tune, and she has an adequate supporting cast of vocalists who take over for her on occasion for her frequent costume changes. She also performs an entertaining drinking song with her niece Melinda, with Linda getting amusingly into the mode of a borrachera even though she's reportedly a notorious teetotaler.

While the program is mostly made up of the live performances, Ronstadt does on occasion interject a short voiceover to give a tidbit about the meaning of a particular song, or to give a nugget of history about mariachi traditions. With 21 songs, there's plenty of entertainment here.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This very attractive presentation was unfortunately shot on videotape, with all the drawbacks that that format implies. The picture is quite soft and lacking in fine detail, which is a shame, given the beautiful costuming. Color is generally quite good, and black levels are excellent for a live stage program. The grade is about as high as one can expect for something shot on video.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English (songs in Spanish)yes
Dolby Digital
English (songs in Spanish)yes

Audio Transfer Review: Two tracks are presented: a Dolby Surround track and a DD 5.1. Both feature the voiceovers in English and the songs in the original Spanish. The 5.1 track has excellent definition and deep, powerful bass. Unfortunately, it's mixed horrifically loud: even at only one-fourth of reference it was still painful to listen to. The Dolby Surround track is much less ear-shattering, but it also doesn't have the broad soundstage of the 5.1 track. If you have a high tolerance for loud sounds, the 5.1 track will be preferable, since it does give a sensation of being in a large concert hall, but my dainty ears frankly couldn't stand it and I had to switch to the DS track before long. The 5.1 track would rate much, much higher if I could hear it without risking permanent deafness. As usual for such programs, the applause is mixed much too loud, which makes the 5.1 track even more painful than it is during the music.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras. The chaptering is an adequate one stop per song. Although subtitles are provided, they only cover the English spoken portions of the program. However, the closed caption track does include the full Spanish lyrics, so I found it to be preferable. On a few occasions the captioner gets completely lost and just sticks in "[Spanish]" but for the most part does a competent job.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Linda Ronstadt demonstrates her Mexican roots in this lavish live production; shot on video and sporting a deafening 5.1 track, it's unfortunately short on supplemental materials.


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