Ten Great by Bonnie Raitt

by Michael Jefferson

Dr. Mike's recent Bonnie Raitt post got me thinking... I hadn't listened to her music in years. So I immersed myself in Bonnie's catalogue, revisiting a lot of great tunes that didn't necessarily get a lot of airplay, which I now pass on to you:

1) "I Feel the Same" (from "Takin' My Time"). An uneasy song about deceit and infidelity that gets its eerie atmosphere from Lowell George's slippery slide guitar, Freebo's fretless, and Milt Holland tapping the tablas.

2) "Feeling of Falling" (from "Longing in Their Hearts"). Bonnie on Hammond organ. Yes, she skids across the keys like she's driving a car at 90 over a cliff, and Hutch Hutcherson slaps his bass as if he's popping a big wad of Juicy Fruit. When Bonnie sings, "I miss that feelin' of fallin'... Of fallin' on over the edge," you know she's seen what's on the other side of that precipice and survived.

3) "Two Lives" (from "Sweet Forgiveness"). As weepy a ballad as Bonnie's ever committed to tape. She displays incredible vocal range and control, hanging on notes and raising her voice in waves for emotional emphasis. As an added bonus you get heartbreaking back up vocals by Doobie Brother Michael MacDonald and Rosemary Butler.

4) "Crime of Passion" (from "Nine Lives"). Don't let one of the ugliest CD covers ever created turn you off, or the fact this passionate piece comes from an album made up of leftover tracks. Bonnie's career was at a low -- when "Nine Lives" was released it died a quick death. This was the album before "Nick of Time" and it only made it to #138 on the charts, but then again, so did the critically acclaimed "Give it Up." "Crime of Passion" takes physical attraction to task: "My body is the only place where we meet anymore. Thought I could handle the heartache, like I did before. I remember your warning, to never mention love. A little crime of passion is what I'm guilty of."  Gotta admit I also love this one because of Carlo Vega's aggressive, non-stop drumming and Dean Parks' fervent solo.

5) "True Love is Hard to Find" (from "Nine Lives"). Reggae that rocks. Bonnie gets a huge boost on back up vox from Blondie Chaplin, best known as the lead singer of the Beach Boys' "Sail on Sailor."

6) "River of Tears" (from "Green Light"). Bonnie and drinking buddy Richard Manuel (The Band) capture their broken lives in song. Even this late in his career anything Manuel sang he owned, but he and Bonnie harmonize wearily and wonderfully.

7) "Let's Keep it Between Us" (from "Green Light"). Bonnie gets laid back and languid with this little known Dylan tune. Two albums away from astronomical success with "Nick of Time," Bonnie's voice sounds lived in, and William "Smitty" Smith's organ playing is as sweet and thick as freshly tapped Vermont syrup.

8) "Steal Your Heart Away" (from "Longing in Their Hearts"). Bonnie spits out desire and hurt with each syllable in this richly produced effort. Another Beach Boy alumni, Rikki Fataar, regulates the beat and Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowes, the back up singers you see cutting up in Bonnie's videos, earn their keep with back ups that would make the Temptations jealous.

9) "Walk Out the Front Door" (from "Home Plate"). Bonnie turns into a one woman soul review. A toss up between "Good Enough," and "Fool Yourself" (with Terry Reid and Jackson Browne singing backs ups) from the same album. This one gets the nod for now because of Bonnie's attack dog attitude and the Stax-like horn section.

10) "Too Long at the Fair" (from "Give it Up"). A stand out composition from a time when Bonnie was more of a blues/folkie purist, with mind-bending bass by Freebo,  Gene Stashuk's calming cello and -gasp - an expressive solo by Congressman John Hall.

Give it up for Bonnie Raitt, kids.



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