Flame-haired "queen of the blues" Bonnie Raitt has put out many reliable, solid albums over a career getting near to fifty years now. The ones I have covered are:-
Bonnie Raitt (1971)
Bluebird/Mighty Tight Woman/Thank You/Finest Lovin' Man/Any Day Woman/Big Road/Walking Blues/Danger Heartbreak Ahead/Since I Fell For You/I Ain't Blue/Women Be Wise
The sassy, redheaded veteran guitarist, singer and songwriter released her debut album way back in 1971.
It is a very rough and ready album, recorded on a farm by Bonnie and a group of her musician friends. Consequently, it has a few sound vaults, even on the “remastered” version but it is far more “pure” in its country blues style than later, rockier albums. There is much less pounding, electric instrumentation, concentrating on an acoustic, sparse, stripped back style.
Hints at the powerful blues rock that was to come in her career can be found in two standout tracks - Mighty Tight Woman and Finest Lovin' Man. There is also the Janis Joplin-esque advice to the sisterhood in Women Be Wise.
Give It Up (1972)
Give It Up Or Let Me Go/Nothing Seems To Matter/I Know/If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody/Love Me Like A Man/Too Long At The Fair/Under The Falling Sky/You Got To Know How/You Told Me Baby/Love Has No Pride
Give It Up is a far more full-sounding album than the downhome, farm-recorded eponymous first one. From the first track, the rousing horn-driven fun of Give It Up Or Let Me Go we get an artist who is growing up, album by album. Nothing Seems To Matter is a soft, tender ballad backed by acoustic guitar, basic bongo percussion and a wailing saxophone. Bonnie got earthier as she got older, although she could always be sexy. Here she is still comparatively young and romantic, as opposed to hard-bitten and world-weary. I Know is a funky, bluesy groove with some New Orleans-style trumpet and a down ’n’ dirty vocal from Bonnie. If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody is a lovely, rich, bassy number with some more sumptuous saxophone and a sort of fresh, innocent sounding vocal, together with some clunky piano.
Love Me Like A Man is a slide guitar-led bluesy cornerstone of the album, with young Bonnie developing that blues lady voice and attitude. “Love me like a man” she pleads - ok , Bonnie, if you insist…Top notch guitar work on this one and a full, confident sound. After the slightly scratchy sound of the debut album, things have improved for this album. Too Long At The Fair is a nicely bass heavy slowie, with a sensual vocal and mysterious atmosphere. A convincing, rocking cover of Jackson Browne’s Under The Falling Sky shows how Bonnie can make a cover version sound as if it has always been her own song. This song suits her immensely. it turns into a roadhouse knees-up by the end of it - harmonica and keyboards giving it their all.
You Got To Know How is a jazzy, upbeat piece of bluesy fun, with some lovely saxophone and and a knowingly sexy vocal. You Told Me Baby is an upbeat slice of country rock in a sort of Fleetwood Mac style but coming years before their Stevie Nicks era. There is a real touch of Nicks in Bonnie’s voice here. Love Has No Pride is a plaintive, end of the evening, crying into your Budweiser, heartbreaker.
A bit like the early Jackson Browne albums, this is a good album, but it is still somewhat raw around the edges, and now, in retrospect, we know that better was to come.
Takin' My Time (1973)
You've Been In Love Too Long/I Gave My Love A Candle/Let Me In/Everybody's Cryin' Mercy/Cry Like A Rainstorm/Wah She Go Do/I Feel The Same/I Thought I Was A Child/Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues/Guilty
This album really should have broken it big for Bonnie Raitt. Quite why it didn't is a mystery. It is bluesy, lively, rocking, tender too. Just a great album.
You've Been In Love Too Long has an infectious funky percussion beat and a great soulful vocal from Bonnie. A cover of a Martha Reeves & The Vandellas number, it is a great, ballsy opener to the album. The album has excellent sound quality and the bass on this number is big and throbbing. Great stuff. The bluesy, rocking voice, the interplay between guitar and percussion, the funky beat, all of it is wonderful. I Gave My Love A Candle is impressive too, sounding almost Jackson Browne-esque in places in its tenderness. Lovely piano backing too and a laid-back, romantic country rock feel. Let Me In is a lively, New Orleans-style brassy upbeat number, full of fun and vitality. Before anyone gets too happy though, we revert to a bluesy mood with a sumptuous, powerful blues cover of Mose Allison's Everybody's Cryin' Mercy. This is Bonnie Raitt at her bluesy best.
Then it is back to mid-tempo country rock balladry with Cry Like A Rainstorm , which is the sort of number that would appear more on the next album, Streetlights, as opposed to the bluesy stuff. Wah She Go Do is a rather bizarre calypso/vaguely reggae Caribbean number, with Bonnie putting on an unconvincing voice. It all sounds pleasant, summery and appealing but I have to say it doesn't really work. I Feel The Same sees a return to the blues, with a haunting, evocative bottleneck guitar backing and excellent vocal. Great guitar at the end.
I Thought I Was A Child actually is a Jackson Browne song and is delivered in a solid mid-tempo rock style. Bonnie sounds like a female Browne, with exactly the right cadences for the song. It is probably a better version than Browne's original from For Everyman. Maybe it is the definitive version of the song. Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues is a lively, slide guitar-driven blues while Randy Newman's Guilty is delivered in a beautifully blues meets slow rock'n' roll sort of way. This was a good album, but the emphasis for the next album was to be less of the blues and more of the AOR mid-tempo country rock style.
Live In San Francisco (1973)
Love Me Like A Man/You Got To Know How/I Thought I Was A Child/Under The Falling Sky/Everybody's Crying Mercy/Give It Up Or Let Me Go/Too Long At The Fair/I Feel The Same/Guilty/Women Be Wise/Love Has No Pride/Baby I Love You
This really is an excellent live radio broadcast album, with clear, fresh sound and Bonnie and her band on fine, laid-back bluesy early seventies form. There is a youthful vibrant innocence to this recording that makes it most appealing. Most of the tracks are from Bonnie's 1972 Give It Up album, some from her debut and some from her 1973 Takin' My Time outing. The Give It Up tracks, in particular, are played with a real vitality. I am fond of the bluesy Love Me Like A Man and the jazzy fun of You Got To Know How.
Bonnie covers two Jackson Browne songs with impressive confidence and conviction - I Thought I Was A Child and Under The Falling Sky, which has a great vocal. The band backing her are top notch and the atmosphere on the recording is laid-back, relaxed and positive. There is a nice homely vibe, with Bonnie gently fooling with the band and generally sounding relaxed. It sounds as if it is a small audience in an intimate surrounding. Some great bluesy piano on the latter track too. A nice bass and blues piano introduces Everybody's Crying Mercy from what was her forthcoming album, Takin' My Time. The quality jazzy piano continues throughout the track. The sound is excellent. I am always amazed at just how good the sound is on these old radio broadcasts, and also, why they have been siting around for so long unreleased. Presumably copyright reasons - but forty-five years?
Give It Up Or Let Me Go is some rockin', copper-bottomed blues, with some impressive New Orleans-style clarinet, boogie-woogie piano, finger picking guitar and a husky, sexy vocal. Too Long At The Fair is a plaintive, acoustic and bass slow, reflective number. This is a nice late evening album. Again, the vocal is faultless. I Feel The Same is a lengthy, smoky blues. Guilty is a mournful, slow piano-driven bleak ballad with Bonnie feeling sorry for herself, while Women Be Wise sees her giving some sound advice over another great New Orleans blues/jazz backing.
Love Has No Pride is a sad, plaintive ballad to finish off with, before the slow blues of Baby I Love You. This has not been a rollicking or rousing album, more a late night, drown your sorrows one, and, as mentioned earlier, the sound quality is good.
That Song About The Midway/Rainy Day Man/Angel From Montgomery/I Got Plenty/Streetlights/What Is Success/Ain't Nobody Home/Everything That Touches You/Got You On My Mind/You Got To Be Ready For Love
This was Bonnie Raitt's fourth album, and was, like its predecessors, a comparative commercial failure. Her record company had asked her to tone down the blues and become more folk/rock acoustic in style, so, there is none of the guitar-toting blues rock that she became well-known for and successful with in the late eighties/early nineties. It is an AOR rock, but often laid-back album on the whole. It was looking for the crossover to the rock mainstream and didn't quite get there, at least commercially. It does, however, have a more muscular, much better-sounding backing to the somewhat starker backing of the earlier albums (certainly from the first two, if not the third). It has a soulful feel in places too. Many musicians and strings and horns are used. The credits are endless. In many ways, it has to be said, it is a most mature, impressive album. She also looked more mature on the cover, less of the coy, country girl more of the sassy woman who knew what she was doing.
Joni Mitchell's That Song About The Midway is evocative and acoustically beautiful. Rainy Day Man is ever so slightly bluesy, with a solid drum and guitar backing, but it is still tender and relaxed in tone. Angel From Montgomery is an Eagles-ish slow tempo Americana-style country rock ballad. She still plays the song in concert many years later, so not all the material on here has been forgotten. The same goes for Rainy Day Man. I Got Plenty is a brass-backed, confident slice of bluesy rock that still retains her sassy sexiness of previous albums. Streetlights is another big-production slow tempo rock ballad of the sort Judie Tzuke and Fleetwood Mac would be in subsequent years. Bonnie's voice is excellent on this one.
What Is Success, an Allen Toussaint song, is given a Stax-ish, slightly funky soulful backing. It is one of the best cuts on the albums. It shows that Raitt could handle soul vocals with ease. Ain't Nobody Home also has a horn-driven soul vibe to it. It is another impressive track that makes you wonder why this album didn't do well. Everything That Touches You has a sumptuous bass line and a beautiful laid-back feeling. Fleetwood Mac must have listened to this. They did so much material just like this a few years later. Got You On My Mind is a delicious slice of airy, country rock. The album closes with the Philadelphia soul-sounding, upbeat tones of You Got To Be Ready For Love, which sounds as if it should have been sung by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. It is another convincing number from an album which is actually quite underrated. Although it is not as good an album as its predecessor, Takin' My Time, it has its good points which deserve a listen.
Home Plate (1975)
What Do You Want The Boy To Do/Good Enough/Run Like A Thief/Fool Yourself/My First Night Alone Without You/Walk Out The Front Door/Sugar Mama/Pleasin' Each Other/I'm Blowin' Away/Sweet And Shiny Eyes
After three rootsy, bluesy albums, Bonnie Raitt had made a play for the mainstream with her fourth and, on this, her fifth outing, she left everyone in no doubt that her direction had changed from those edgy, downhome early albums. The production of her albums by now was far slicker. The roster of musicians is huge, including Jackson Browne and Emmylou Harris. It is a punchy, lively album, with lots of brass backing and full guitar sounds but although it is aimed at the mainstream, it is still not an overtly commercial album.
The album begins with the horn-driven country soul of What Do You Want The Boy To Do, written by Allen Toussaint, and it has suitably Stax-y moments. Good Enough is a rousing piece of funky soul. Bonnie's voice has really developed over the years and she now sounds confident taking on many different styles. Run Like A Thief is an Eagles-like country rock ballad. It has a killer guitar solo in it too. Bonnie could never leave that plaintive bluesy soulfulness too far behind, however, and Fool Yourself perfectly exemplifies that.
My First Night Alone Without You is a winning, Fleetwood Mac/Judie Tzuke type of slow rock ballad. This obviously influenced those two artists in particular. Walk Out The Front Door is a ballsy, piano and guitar-driven mid-pace rock number. Sugar Mama continues in the same vein. This is "my man done me wrong" country rock. Very effective it is too.
Pleasin' Each Other is very Elton John circa Tumbleweed Connection/Honky Chateau with its piano and horn backing. I'm Blowin' Away is a classic, big production country ballad, while Sweet And Shiny Eyes is a more traditional roadhouse country maudlin drinking song. This album is a success because you know what you are going to get by now. Yes, the early rough and readiness has gone but it is still appealing music all the same. Worth an occasional listen indeed.
Sweet Forgiveness (1977)
About To Make Me Leave Home/Runaway/Two Lives/Louise/Gamblin' Man/Sweet Forgiveness/My Opening Farewell/Three Time Loser/Takin' My Time/Home
This was the third album since 1974's Streetlights that saw Bonnie Raitt going "mainstream" with her radio-friendly country rock approach, as opposed to her earlier rootsy, bluesy offerings. She was now an accomplished, polished, confident artist and this album offered more of the same fare that Streetlights and Home Plate had offered. Each album seems to get slicker and more solid. This time, however, Bonnie used her touring band as backing, as opposed to the myriad musicians used on the previous two outings. This gives this album a slightly looser, rockier feel.
About To Make Me Leave Home is an impressive, earthy and muscular blues rock opener. It is like her earlier blues material given a slicker, bigger production, with some excellent slide and wah-wah guitars in there. Bonnie's cover of Del Shannon's Runaway, turning the rock 'n' roll number into a grinding blues rock number is interesting and appealing. Her voice is excellent on this - throaty and soulful. Two Lives is a gentle, melodic country rock ballad. Louise is a true maudlin country heartbreaker and the sombre mood is lifted back up by the bluesy guitar-driven rock of Gamblin' Man. Despite "going mainstream", the blues are never far away on Bonnie Raitt albums.
Sweet Forgiveness is another of those Fleetwood Mac-style polished rock ballads, with a funky blues rock break in the middle. Again, Bonnie's voice is down 'n' dirty and bluesy. Jackson Browne's My Opening Farewell is a good cover of a sensitive song. Raitt always covers Browne's songs impressively. Three Time Loser is a ballsy slice of barroom rock. The mood continues with the solid rock of Takin' My Time. Home is a plaintive country ballad to end the album.
By now, listeners knew what they were going to get from Bonnie Raitt albums, the early homemade-style albums were long gone and these type of albums would continue to the end of the seventies and throughout the eighties and beyond.
The Glow (1979)
I Thank You/Your Good Thing (Is About To End)/Standin' By The Same Old Love/Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate/The Glow/Bye Bye Baby/The Boy Can't Help It/(I Could Have Been Your) Best Old Friend/You're Gonna Get What's Coming/(Goin') Wild For You Baby
This album is one of Bonnie Raitt's bluesiest, rocking albums for a while. It is, for me, my favourite of hers since 1973's Takin' My Time. The previous three albums had their moments, but this is consistently high quality. It was also one of the first albums to be recorded digitally, and you can tell, the sound is superb. The lengthy roster of musicians involved contains some of the finest US players around at the time - Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, David Sanborn, Steve Madaio, Bill Payne, Rick Marotta among many others.
I Thank You is a huge pounding thumper of an opener, which is a bluesy, rocking cover of Sam & Dave's Stax soul track from the late sixties. Bonnie does it marvellously, full of sass and sexy power. Your Good Thing (Is About To End) is a smoky, torch-song-ish cracker of a track. Bonnie has traces of Janis Joplin in her voice on this, for me. It has some killer Young Americans-style saxophone in the middle too. Instantly recognisable as David Sanborn, who played sax on Bowie's iconic album in 1975. It is also a Stax cover, from Mable John in 1966. Both these songs were written by Issac Hayes and David Porter.
Now it is time for some guitar-totin' bar-room rock in the form of the rousing Standin' By The Same Old Love. Great drums on this one as well. Sleep's Dark And Silent Gate is a wonderful, muscular soulful rock ballad. Bonnie's voice is superb here. As soon as you hear it, you think "that's a Jackson Browne song". It is, of course, from 1976's The Pretender. The Glow is a late-night jazzy slow brush-drum ballad. Once again, the vocal delivery is top notch and the musicianship outstanding.
Bonnie knew her soul, and Bye Bye Baby is a catchy, infectious cover of a Mary Wells song from 1963. Bonnie gives it new life. Great track. The Boy Can't Help It is a slowed down, slide guitar-driven bluesy cover of a Little Richard song that echoes Bonnie's first three downhome bluesier albums. (I Could Have Been Your) Best Old Friend is a solid blues rock chugger that is instantly recognisable as Bonnie Raitt. Robert Palmer's You're Gonna Get What's Coming is the rockiest, most upbeat cut on the album and is just palpably enjoyable and uplifting. Great riffy guitar on it. The album ends on a slow note with the beautiful country soul of (Goin') Wild For You. It has a lovely guitar solo in the middle and the vocals are evocative and moving. It also hits some serious power notes half way through as well.
This is definitely one of Bonnie Raitt's best albums. It is a pleasure from beginning to end. Highly recommended. I love it.
Green Lights (1982)
Keep This Heart In Mind/River Of Tears/Can't Get Enough/Willya Wontcha/Let's Keep It Between Us/Me And The Boys/I Can't Help Myself/Baby Come Back/Talk To Me/Green Lights
Bonnie Raitt wanted to get even more rocking on this album , three years on from the excellent The Glow. She had been listening to new wave and wanted to produce an upbeat album. She did just that, probably confounding her early acoustic blues fans, but that was ten years or more in the past.
Keep This Heart In Mind is a solid, riffs and saxophone rocker to open with. River Of Tears has a Honky Tonk Women riff and a copper-bottomed bluesy, gravelly rock vocal from Bonnie. Can't Get Enough has a sort of rock/reggae beat and rocks pretty solidly despite a bit of eighties-style synth-funk backing. Willya Wontcha is a real piano-driven, slide guitar bar-room rocker. Let's Keep It Between Us is a typical Bonnie Raitt mid-tempo, driving bluesy rocker. It was actually written by Bob Dylan but it has never appeared on any of his albums.
Me And The Boys is a lively throwaway rocker but perfectly enjoyable at that. It is a bit similar to some of The Rolling Stones' material from the same period. I Can't Help Myself is a sublime, slow riffy, evocative rock number. Bonnie's voice is excellent here, as indeed it is on all the album. The Equals' thumping Baby Come Back is covered energetically, although Bonnie struggles to match the backing, vocally, just a little bit. It is quirkily and catchily appealing, however. Talk To Me is an ebullient, slightly funky track with some searing saxophone near the end.
Green Lights is another Stonesy rocker, very similar to some of the material on Emotional Rescue. All this material is very straight ahead rock, and not really new wave, despite Raitt's listening habits. It was obviously far more popular an album in the US than it ever was in the UK, where it wouldn't fit in very well in 1982's post punk/new romantic zeitgeist. Mind you, The Stones put stuff like this out in 1980 and 1983.
This album, for me, although most enjoyable, is not quite as good as The Glow, where there were some excellent covers of soul songs turned into rock songs. I really liked them. This is more of a straight ahead rock album. A good one though, nevertheless.
Nick Of Time (1989)
Nick Of Time/Thing Called Love/Love Letter/Cry On My Shoulder/Real Man/Nobody's Girl/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
This was supposedly a big "comeback" album for Bonnie Raitt, as if the previous ones hadn't been up to much. That wasn't the case, they were all pretty good, they just didn't sell many and, for whatever reason, this one did. Maybe it was just her moment to be fashionable again, as she approached "grand old lady of the blues" status. Thankfully, it was the end of the eighties and synthesisers were being placed by "proper" instrumentation once more. This is a solid rock album.
Nick Of Time is a very Fleetwood Mac-ish opener, with a captivating rhythmic beat and Bonnie doing her best Stevie Nicks on her vocal. Thing Called Love is a bluesy piece of solid country rock. In 1989, "new country" was on its way, so it was "cool" to be into this sort of thing whereas a few years before it wouldn't have been. Shania Twain would do lots of stuff like this a few years later. Love Letter is a bluesy, smoky rock ballad of the sort Tina Turner was doing around this time. You could see why this was popular. Cry On My Shoulder, while an ok song, is a bit eighties for my taste.
Mary Chapin Carpenter surely listened to the stomping, strong, ballsy lady thing of Real Man before writing Shut Up And Kiss Me and I Feel Lucky, the influences are that clear. Nobody's Girl is a lovely slow country blues with echoes of Raitt's early seventies material. Her vocal on this is excellent, clear and moving. Bonnie has always liked a bit of reggae, surprisingly for a country blues artist, and she explores the style once more n the very appealing Have A Heart, which features a convincing dubby bass/drum sound.
Too Soon To Tell is a late-night, jazzy ballad. I Will Not Be Denied returns to the gritty blues rock sound of Love Letter. It is a slow grinding, atmospheric song. I Ain't Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again is a plaintive piano and vocal ballad, while the bluesy thump of The Road's My Middle Name ends this pleasant mix of blues, rock, pop and slow country ballads.
Longing In Their Hearts (1994)
Love Sneakin' Up On You/Longing In Their Hearts/You/Cool, Clear Water/Circle Dance/I Sho Do/Dimming Of The Day/Feeling Of Falling/Steal Your Heart Away/Storm Warning/Hell To Pay/Shadow Of Doubt
This is a solid bluesy rock album from an artist from who, by now, you knew what you were going to get. There are more self-penned songs and less covers and the feeling is one of confident rock music as opposed to soul or country influenced material. Some of that is on here, but overall, it is a rock album. She was by now an artist with well over twenty years' recording experience and it shows in an accomplished, confident album. It does, however, lack some of the vitality of the late seventies/ early eighties material.
Love Sneakin' Up On You is a muscular rock number to open the album, with some good guitar, while Longing In Their Hearts is an appealing, bar-room rocker full of killer riffs and roadhouse vocals. You is a Tex-Mex sounding country ballad. Cool, Clear Water is upbeat and lively with a staccato, reggae-style beat. Circle Dance is a typical, slow pace rock ballad with an impressive, moving vocal performance. It features some subtle violin backing and a nice keyboard and organ interplay. I Sho Do is a bluesy, growly rocker of the type you would expect from Bonnie Raitt in this period. It is nothing special but it is comfortingly solid if you know what mean. Good, honest, straightforward fare.
At The Dimming Of The Day is a beautiful, plaintive love song. Feeling Of Falling is another bluesy, slow but powerful rock number with bags of atmosphere. Steal Your Heart Away is a keyboard and drums-driven Fleetwood Mac-ish track. Storm Warning is in the same vein, while Hell To Pay is more of a chugging rocker. The closer, Shadow Of Doubt harks back to the first couple of albums with its bluesy, acoustic mournful sound. Overall, though, although this is a competent enough album, there are others I return to before this one.
Dig In Deep (2016)
Unintended Consequence Of Love/Need You Tonight/I Knew/All Alone With Something To Say/What You're Doin' To Me/Shakin' Shakin' Shakes/Undone/If You Need Somebody/Gypsy In Me/The Comin' Round Is Going Through/You've Changed My Mind/The Ones We Couldn't Be
I have a load of Bonnie Raitt albums, but they stop at 1989's Nick Of Time, but I returned for this one in 2016. It is a fine rock album with a full, deep sound and clear proof that Bonnie can still do it, even at 66. Her voice sounds as good as ever, as does her guitar. You know what you're going to get here, so the album certainly doesn't disappoint.
Unintended Consequences Of Love is a mid-pace rocking blues burner to start with, with a gritty vocal and deep bass rhythm. It has a great organ solo at the end. Need You Tonight is an INXS cover. It doesn't concentrate on that recognisable riff as much as the original does. It is more Stonesy and Bonnie's delivery makes it more sexy, for me, anyway. I Knew is an excellent, soulful country rock number. The vocal and guitar are just great on this, particularly the guitar/organ interplay near the end.
All Alone With Something To Say is a slow burning ballad in typical Bonnie Raitt style. Nothing much more can be said about ones like this, they do the business. What You're Doin' To Me is an upbeat piece of bluesy bar-room rock. The type Bonnie does with her eyes shut. Shakin' Shakin' Shakes is a Los Lobos cover with a lively, rocking vibe to it. Undone is a nice, slow, romantic ballad.
If You Need Somebody is a chunky, riff-driven mid-pace rocker. Gypsy In Me is also upbeat in that typical, grinding bluesy way. The Comin' Round Is Going Through continues in similar style, another full on, guitar-driven rocker. The final two tracks, You've Changed My Mind and the beautiful, Jackson Browne-esque Raitt-penned The Ones We Couldn't Be are both immaculately delivered emotive ballads.
The album, as I said at the beginning, is one of consistency and one that met the expectations you may have had of it.