New York Times Reviews AM/FM
Published: May 14th, 2012
“AM/FM,” the debut album of Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks), is a charming, nostalgic throwback to the soft rock of Los Angeles in the 1970s and early ’80s, when the music conjured a posthippie romantic lotus land. In the early ’70s Ms. Wilson, now 55, was attending Hollywood High School. She was a decade younger than musicians like Jimmy Webb and Jackson Browne, who appear on her album, along with Sheryl Crow and Faith Hill. On “AM/FM,” a gentler echo of the sound and style of albums by Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonoff and Nicolette Larson, Ms. Wilson sings 14 personal favorites, most of them hits from the 1960s and ’70s.
An unpretentious singer with a sweet, steady voice, Ms. Wilson lacks the forceful delivery of Ms. Ronstadt but imbues everything she touches with the kind of plaintive, unvarnished simplicity and understatement associated with Alison Krauss, who has a purer voice. There is not a forced or flat note. Fred Mollin’s production, with its spare arrangements and creamy strings, is in perfect step with Ms. Wilson’s appealing vocals.
The opening cut, “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” sung with the rocker Chris Cornell, establishes the album’s mood of fond remembrance. The songs from the late ’50s and ’60s, like “Walking in the Rain,” “Never My Love” and “Come See About Me,” tend to be hopeful and innocent, and those from the ’70s, like “Faithless Love” and “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” more careworn and disillusioned.
The best point of comparison between then and now is the classic Eric Kaz and Libby Titus torch song “Love Has No Pride,” which was memorably recorded by Ms. Ronstadt, who wailed it; Bonnie Raitt, who toughened it up; and Rita Coolidge, who crooned it. Ms. Wilson’s version is quieter and less fraught than its forerunners and distills the album’s retrospective attitude of looking back from a point of grown-up serenity. The view is lovely.