Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – Dynamic Vocals? For Those You Can Thank John Haeny

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I learned only today that Jack Haeny is one of the two engineers on this album, which goes a long way toward explaining the excellent ’70s analog sound. He worked on The Pretender, Don’t Cry Now, and many of the early and quite wonderful sounding albums Judy Collins did for Elektra in the earlier part of the decade. This guy knows sound.

(A good copy of The Pretender is an amazing Demo Disc that will put 99% of all the rock records you’ve ever played to shame. But the truly Hot Stamper pressings are few and far between, so most audiophiles have no idea how well recorded that album is.)

Dynamics

The vocal dynamics on this side are the best I have ever heard. We’re not used to hearing singers get loud on pop records. Normally the compressors prevent that from happening, and even most copies of this record do not have the dynamics that this one does. You will need a high quality front end to track this LP, that I can assure you.

And the last quarter inch or so of side one will invariably have some distortion on the vocal peaks, as well as track three on side two which also gets quite loud. These may not actually be groove damage; sometimes the cutting engineer is at fault and sometimes the cutting equipment may not be up to the job of putting so much energy into those slower spinning inner grooves. Practically every copy that was dynamic had breakup to some degree somewhere on the record. We much prefer lively records to compressed ones, and sometimes overcutting is the price you have to pay.

Bonnie’s Best

The three most consistent and enjoyable albums from her Warner Brothers period are this, Nine Lives and Home Plate (the album that preceded this one). All are Must-Owns if you’re a Bonnie Raitt fan. Sweet Forgiveness is probably her most consistent album, and quite possibly her masterpiece. It strikes me as being the truest reflection of Bonnie Raitt’s musical talents. Her Capitol period albums, as good as they are, don’t have this kind of heart and they certainly don’t have this kind of energy.

Like a lot of the best recordings from the mid-’70s, the production and recording quality are clean and clear, and we mean that in a good way. There is very little processing to the sound of anything here; drums sound like drums, guitars like guitars, and Bonnie sings without the aid of autotuning — because she can sing on-key, and beautifully. Her vocals kill on every song. (Her dad had a pretty good set of pipes too.)

Turn Up Your Volume

This is a classic case of a record that really comes alive when the levels are up. It’s so free from distortion and phony processing it wants to be played loud, and that’s the level this music works at. It’s the level it was no doubt mixed at, and that mix sounds pretty flat at moderate levels. If you want to hear the real rockin’ Bonnie Raitt you gots to turns it up!

So Mediocre

It’s amazing how mediocre sounding so many copies of this record are, even copies that are mastered by the right companies. The average copy of this record sounds very average. (This may be a tautology but it’s a concept that not too many audiophiles have come to grips with.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

About to Make Me Leave Home 

This is where you will hear the best sound on the best copies. If it doesn’t sound BIG, you don’t have a Hot Stamper.

Runaway
Two Lives 

This is my favorite song on the album. Many copies get congested when Bonnie and the chorus are singing loudly, but this one plays it fairly clean.

Louise 

This is an easy one. The guitars are sweet and tubey magical.

Gamblin’ Man

Side Two

Sweet Forgiveness
My Opening Farewell

This track has the most dynamic vocals on the album, some of the most dynamic vocals on any pop record. She really gets LOUD on this one.

Three Time Loser
Takin’ My Time
Home 

Possibly the most beautiful song on the album. As I am writing this, it becomes more and more clear to me that this is Bonnie’s strongest album. It has more good songs than any other that I can think of.