Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time

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  • An insanely good pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are rich and full-bodied with a nice extended top end and tight, note-like bass – Have A Heart is a Demo Quality track
  • Some of the sweetest, richest, most ANALOG sound we’ve heard from any record Don Was produced
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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. A great comeback album that made for a great story.”

The sound here is POWERFULLY BIG AND BOLD, with meaty, deep bass (such a big part of the rockers here, Thing Called Love being a prime example) and some of 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?

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 listening room as she did on stage, I can try. To do less is to do her music a profound disservice.

What Hot Stampers on Nick of Time have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1989
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Size Matters

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is SIZE of the record’s presentation. So many copies of this album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. Some copies do; they create a huge soundfield with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. When you hear a copy that can do that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the record could do that? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that did, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation. Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear it!

Pay Special Attention to:

How silky the cymbal crashes are; not too many copies get them to sound that way.

Listen especially for how all the elements of the recording are clearly laid out and audible, never forced or hyped in any way. The sound can be so 3-D!

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.

What We’re Listening For on Nick of Time

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

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.

Sibilance on Nick of Time

Testing with/for Sibilance

We’ve known for decades how good a test sibilance is for tables, cartridges and arms. Sibilance is a bitch. The best pressings, with the most extension up top and the least amount of aggressive grit and grain mixed in with the music, played using the highest quality, most carefully dialed-in front ends, will keep sibilance to a minimum.

VTA, tracking weight, azimuth and anti-skate adjustments are critical to reducing the spit in your records.

We discuss the sibilance problems of MoFi records all the time. Have you ever read Word One about this problem elsewhere? Me neither. Audiophiles, and, shamefully, the so-called audiophile reviewer experts who should know better just seem to put up with these problems. Or ignore them, or — even worse — simply fail to recognize them at all.

Play around with your table setup for a few hours and you will no doubt be able to reduce the severity of the sibilance on your favorite test and demo discs. Your other records will thank you for it too.

Especially your Beatles records. Many Beatles pressings are spitty, and the MoFi Beatles pressings are REALLY spitty. Of course MoFi fans never seem to notice this fact. Critical listening skills and MoFi pressings are rarely found together. You either have one or the other.


Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below. Here are some of the other records we’ve identified with Sibliance Issues.

Here is a list of more records that rank high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play them using anything but the best equipment.

Here’s a link with advice for setting up your Table, Arm and Cartridge that can be found in a section containing Audio Advice of all kinds.

This listing is a general guide to Getting the Most Out Of Your Records.

Using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success, you can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings.

Record shootouts are also the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.