Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time – Our Shootout Winner for 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Minty Capitol LP has an UNBELIEVABLE White Hot Stamper As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) Side Two backed by a Side One that was nearly its equal! The original grade for side one was in fact A+++, but after hearing a copy that was even better we had to lower the grade to A Double Plus. Hey, that’s how we roll here at Better Records. Side one will blow your mind, but if we hear something better, we lower the grade on the nearly White Hot copy, no matter how good it is. 

We expect that, as good as side one is, when you drop the needle on side two you will hear EVEN BETTER sound.

Prepare to have your mind blown, because this album sure sounds a whole lot better than I remember it. And that’s a good thing. I have a new respect for this album (along with Don Was’ somewhat heavy-handed production).

Both sides are POWERFULLY BIG AND BOLD, with meaty, deep bass (such a big part of the rockers here, Thing Called Love being a prime example) and the sweetest, richest, most ANALOG sound we’ve heard from any record Don Was has been involved with. When you hear it like this — something probably pretty close to what he heard during the control room playback for the final mix — it actually makes sense. It works. It’s not exactly “natural”, but natural is not what they were going for, now is it?

Missing Too Much

The no-longer-surprising thing about these Hot Stamper pressings is how completely they MURDER the DCC LP. Folks, it’s really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound very good, but it can’t compete with the best original pressings. It’s missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we’ve discovered on these hot copies.

Like practically every Heavy Vinyl record pressed at RTI, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a kind of sterility to the sound. These remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing. Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a kind of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can turn up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want but they just never seem to want to come to life. We play albums like this VERY LOUD. I’ve seen Bonnie Raitt live a number of times and although I can’t begin to get her to play as loud in my livingroom as she did on stage, I can try. To do less is to do her a great disservice.

The DCC Approach

The DCC is too damn smooth. It’s an understandable approach for DCC to take, since this recording is more hyped-up than any of Bonnie’s earlier work, but this album has loads of personality and nuance. Just because an album sounds polished and maybe a bit too “clean”, it’s foolish to think that it lacks intensity or ambition. You listen to tracks like “Thing Called Love” on the DCC, and it sounds good — the tambourine sounds like a tambourine, the bass sounds like a bass. The problem is you don’t hear the jingles of the tambourine hitting each other; the bass doesn’t smack you in the chest. When these elements are veiled, the life and, for lack of a better term, the point of the music go with them.

When I’m listening to Bonnie perform on a Hot Stampers pressing, I’m not merely hearing her singing the songs and nodding along with the beat, I’m being enveloped by her voice and transported to another place, as though she were in my living room, or I in her studio (Newton’s third law). Although the DCC is very good, it doesn’t give us enough of what we’re looking for from an album like Nick of Time. It feels compromised, and you should never compromise the life of the music on an album that you love. (This is why I rail against panels and screens for speakers. Where is the life? The energy? The sound they produce bores me to tears.)

Sides One and Two

Both are superb as noted above. Listen especially on side one for how all the elements of the recording are clearly laid out and audible, but not forced or hyped in any way. The sound is so 3-D on this side!

Key note for side two — listen for the sibilance on Bonnie’s voice on Too Soon to Tell. Some copies have really gritty spitty sibilance, others keep it well under control, with a much more silky quality.

At Three Pluses side two here has what we like to call Master Tape Sound. We think you will be knocked out by it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Nick of Time
Thing Called Love
Love Letter
Cry on My Shoulder
Real Man
Nobody’s Girl

Side Two

Have a Heart
Too Soon to Tell
I Will Not Be Denied
I Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again
The Road’s My Middle Name

AMG Review

Producer Don Was used Raitt’s classic early-’70s records as a blueprint, choosing to update the sound with a smooth, professional production and a batch of excellent contemporary songs. In this context, Raitt flourishes; she never rocks too hard, but there is grit to her singing and playing, even when the surfaces are clean and inviting. And while she only has two original songs here, Nick of Time plays like autobiography, which is a testament to the power of the songs, performances, and productions.

It was a great comeback album that made for a great story, but the record never would have been a blockbuster success if it wasn’t for the music, which is among the finest Raitt ever made. She must have realized this, since Nick of Time served as the blueprint for the majority of her ’90s albums.