A bit of a step back in time, as we celebrate the commercial resurgence of singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt. I initially selected the album from 1989, “Nick of Time”, as it is #492 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, but I’m adding in her follow-up “Luck of the Draw”, which came out in 1991, as I think these two albums served in tandem to re-establish Raitt as a superstar with massive chart success and blues-rock credibility. I also chose to add in “Luck of the Draw” to specifically discuss the two biggest hits from that record. There are certainly elements of easy listening moments within this music as well, but her unique vocal style and her excellent slide guitar work make even the most uneventful songs appealing to enjoy. Raitt has collaborated with so many musicians over the years, including my beloved Neville Brothers, and her work with producer Don Was on these two records is top notch.
“Nick of Time” has the larger number of memorable songs, as the title track, “Thing Called Love”, “Love Letter” and “Have a Heart” were all big hits. Raitt brings a unique presence to the crafting of these songs, even if she did not write the majority of them. She is the perfect blend of bad-ass guitar hero with subtle and sultry songstress, and her natural warmth makes these albums a legacy of success. On both records, all of the songs are well done and reserved, and the music is great to put on as you work or put your mind into other tasks in parallel.
As I mentioned, I had to talk specifically about the two big hits from “Luck of the Draw”. First, “Something to Talk About”, even with the extremely heavy radio rotation, remains my guilty pleasure among all of these two albums. The alluring melody and flirting recognition of growing love is a great story, and the guitar work and melody line on this song are phenomenal. I have to also shine a light on her memorable ballad, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. This song was originally not much of an attention getter for me, but it became one of the staples my son sang frequently in his college career, so thus I looked at it with new eyes and appreciation, particularly the sad sensation of realizing, as she sang, “I can’t make your heart feel something it won’t”. The song now is a much deeper part of me, both for my fond memories and the impression the lyrics made.
For all of the success of these albums, Bonnie Raitt has probably recorded and performed many songs that stretch the imagination much further than these two records, but I think she found a very ideal balance in recording commercially successful music without compromising her roots, her legacy, or her integrity as an artist that is reflected by the deep respect shown her by the music industry at large.
“Let’s give them something to talk about, a little mystery to figure out…”