Top Artists – Bonnie Raitt

The Turn Up Your Volume Test – Bonnie Raitt’s Home Plate

More of the Music of Bonnie Raitt

Reviews and Commentaries for Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

This is a classic case of a record that really starts to work 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 turn it up!

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.)

Her Best Material

What sets this album apart from others made around this period is the strength of the material. Every song on side one would fit nicely on a greatest hits album, they’re that good. The reason side one has always been a personal favorite is that it ends with the best track on the album, maybe the best song Bonnie ever sang, the excruciatingly heartfelt ballad, My First Night Alone Without You. If that one doesn’t hit you hard, something somewhere is very wrong. 


More Hot Stamper Commentary from 2008

This original WB Palm Tree label LP has THE BEST SIDE ONE we have ever heard here at Better Records. “A Triple Plus” sound means you’re probably hearing the album better than they did when they played back the master tape in the control room. (Studio monitors being what they are.) Since this is one of my three favorite Bonnie Raitt albums — the others being Sweet Forgiveness and Nine Lives — and quite possibly the best sounding album she ever made, it goes without saying that this is THE Must Own Bonnie Raitt Hot Stamper Pressing of All Time.

Nine Lives? Luck of the Draw?

What about the Capitol albums she recorded with Don Was?

Man, they sure don’t sound like this! That stuff is way too digital, overly-processed and modern sounding for my taste, not to mention my delicate hearing.

The first two she did for Capitol are fine albums in their own right, but she was already out of gas by the time she got accepted by the record buying public and the Grammy Award committee.

That was 1989; this album is from 1975 when she still had her groove on. You may gain a lot of wisdom as you age from thirty-six to fifty, but you don’t gain a lot of rock and roll energy (or any other kind, for that matter).

The Big Sound

This a big production, with horns and strings and lots of wonderful sounding instruments thrown into the mix such as tubas, mandolins and autoharps to name just a few. Getting all these sounds onto the vinyl of the day is a tough challenge, but some copies had the goods, and this is one of them.

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Bonnie Raitt – Luck of the Draw

  • This UK import pressing will blow the doors off any other Luck Of The Draw you’ve heard with superb sound from start to finish
  • Amazingly open and transparent, with tons of energy and real immediacy to Bonnie’s wonderfully present, breathy vocals
  • This copy had more ANALOG qualities than most others in our recent shootout, which tended to have that digital / sterile sound that kills so many albums from the era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Luck of the Draw is an unqualified success, filled with strong songs — including the hits ‘Something to Talk About’ and ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me,’ plus the Delbert McClinton duet ‘Good Man, Good Woman’ — appealing productions, and just enough dirt to make old-school fans feel at home.”

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Bonnie Raitt / Nick Of Time – What to Listen For

One of the biggest problems we ran into over and over again with this album is a lack of top end. The sound gets a bit too smooth and some of the ambience and spaciousness of the studio disappears. (This, to a much stronger degree, is the problem from which the DCC suffers.)

On the best copies note how silky the cymbal crashes are; not too many copies get them to sound that way. 

The sound has the potential to be 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?

What to Listen For 

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 to her vocals.

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 living room as she did on stage, I can try. To do less is to do her a great disservice.

Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – One of Bonnie’s Best

  • Full-bodied and warm, with harmonically rich guitars as well as real immediacy to Bonnie’s heartfelt vocals, this is the classic sound of Seventies Rock
  • The sound is big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic, which wouldn’t mean anything if the music weren’t good, but this actually happens to be Bonnie’s best album in our opinion, with Home Plate a close runner-up

I learned recently that John 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.) (more…)

Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – Dynamic Vocals? Thank John Haeny

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Reviews and Commentaries for Bonnie Raitt’s Albums

I learned only recently that John 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.)

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.

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Bonnie Raitt – Home Plate

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  • Sound this good means you’re probably hearing the album better than they did when they played back the master tape in the control room — studio monitors being what they are
  • Since this is one of my three favorite Bonnie Raitt albums — the others being Sweet Forgiveness and Nine Lives — and quite possibly the best sounding album she ever made, it goes without saying that this is THE Must Own Bonnie Raitt Hot Stamper Pressing of All Time
  • “. . . a wonderful hybrid of American music, built on a thoroughly impressive set of songs, all delivered with Raitt’s warm, expertly shaded, and undeniably sexy singing.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. This is a classic case of a record that really starts to work 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 turn it up!

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.) (more…)

Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time

  • 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.”

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Bonnie Raitt on Heavy Vinyl – DCC + RTI = Audio Enervation

More of the Music of Bonnie Raitt

Reviews and Commentaries for Bonnie Raitt’s Albums

This commentary was the first I wrote criticizing the sound of DCC vinyl, probably around 2008 or so. During our shootout for Bonnie’s first Capitol album, we found that the DCC pressing was lacking in so many ways that I felt compelled to spell out for our customers what its shortcomings were. I had enthusiastically recommended the album in 1996 when it came out, but our first big shootout had shown me how wrong that judgment had turned out to be. Our complete commentary from 2008 is reproduced below.

The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Nick Of Time 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 the better original pressings. 

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern 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 bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse 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 listening room as she did on stage, I can try. To do less is to do her a 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 actually 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 passion.

You listen to a track 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. (more…)

Bonnie Raitt / Nick Of Time – Sibilance Is a Bitch

More of the Music of Bonnie Raitt

Reviews and Commentaries for Bonnie Raitt’s Albums

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, while others keep the spit well under control, allowing much more of the silkiness to come out.

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

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Bonnie Raitt / Nine Lives – An Early Shootout Winning Copy of Her Underrated Album from 1986

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Reviews and Commentaries for Bonnie Raitt’s Albums

I did a little shootout today (7/3/06) with a few copies of this album and this one was CLEARLY SUPERIOR. The others were a bit smeared and thick sounding. This copy has the LIFE of the recording preserved in the grooves. With George Massenburg involved, there’s no way this record could sound “natural”. This copy does sound the way it’s supposed to and that’s the most we can hope for. If you have an aggressive or thin sounding stereo this is not the record for you.  

Side One COOKS from start to finish, with some of her best work — far better (IMHO) than anything she did for Capitol.

Of course the rest of the world disagreed with me about that, as after this album the label dropped her, and her first album for Capitol outsold all the records she ever made put together. But that’s sales. I’m talking about musical quality. Her Capitol albums are much too mellow for my taste. I discovered Bonnie with Home Plate and saw her live numerous times, where she proved she can rock with the best of them (like on this album).

Mellow isn’t the Bonnie I like. If you want an album with more energy, try this one. If you want something to play in the background while you sip wine and engage in polite conversation, both the DCC titles are perfect for that.

Actually that’s not fair: they have much to offer the serious listener whose tastes run more to Norah Jonesy middle of the road fare. I like that kind of material too, but Bonnie Raitt can do both, and I prefer her this way.

Two of her best songs ever are on this album: the rocker “Who But a Fool (Thief Into Paradise)” and the ballad “Angel”, with some of the best slide guitar she ever played while the tape was running. If you don’t like those two songs, send this record back to me and I’ll give you your money back. (more…)