There are so many people in the music business who never ever get the attention they deserve (and too many who get a lot more attention than they should, but that is another story). Bonnie Raitt is at the top of the list of those who should be more highly regarded than they are. Bonnie has won 13 Grammies, and been nominated 30 times, so it’s not like she’s gone completely ignored. Still, if you ask people to name one of her songs most would be hard pressed to come up with a title, or they would default to one of her most radio friendly successes, her cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” (which is indeed awesome to be sure). Or, if they have some savvy on her career “Angel from Montgomery” might be their very appropriate response. Or they might even mention the song that won her a Grammy in 2023 — “Just Like That,” which she wrote as well as performed.
But before all of this, 50 years ago, Bonnie released her third studio album “Takin’ My Time” in the fall of 1973. The 10-song effort was well received by fans and critics, reaching No. 87 on the Billboard Top LP chart that year. As gifted a songwriter as Bonnie is, the choice of material for “Takin’ My Time” was all covers. It turned out to be quite an eclectic mix of songs, influences and styles, ranging from Calypso, to blues, to ballads, to a jaunty version of “Let Me In” a tune recorded in 1961 by The Sensations.
All the songs work, but by the time you get to track 10, you’re not really sure where you’ve been, or where Bonnie was going with all this. Being eclectic is double edged — it shows a wealth of influences, but can leave the listener a bit windblown some 40 minutes later. But, don’t worry about that — this record lasts! If there were one thing that I would change, it’s that we don’t get to hear nearly enough of Bonnie playing guitar, she’s there, but rarely do these particular songs lend the space needed for her to demonstrate her chops. It was a choice she made, so be it. Bonnie has always insisted on complete create control over her work, another reason she garners so much admiration and respect from her fellow musicians.
See, that’s the thing about Bonnie — being honest and true in what you do, it lasts. She could put this record out now (or redo the songs with more contemporary structure) and it would sound perfectly in place.
The first track “You’ve Been in Love Too Long” is an up-tempo funky start to the set, and it’s a genre Bonnie handles just fine. That’s followed by the sweet ballad “I Gave My Love a Candle,” which she presents with equal expertise (Bonnie knows ballads!). The aforementioned “Let Me In” comes next, and it’s sprinkled with Creole seasoning giving it a fun Nola flavor. The rest of the tracks are all equally fine, mixing in some blues, some mid-tempo pop, and even a calypso-flavored song. Mose Allison, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne all get writing credits on these songs, so you know the material is good.
Speaking of Jackson Browne, he has done many many benefit concerts for schools throughout the years. I happened to attend one in 1995, benefiting a special needs school in Arizona. The location for the concert was in the middle of the desert in a natural amphitheater. The lineup featured Jackson of course, Shawn Colvin, and Bonnie Raitt, among many. It was so great to see her live, she was just as real and honest as her music, and I’m happy to have been there (even though it was Arizona, and the desert, and summertime).
There really aren’t any bad Bonnie Raitt records. If you’re around for 50 years, some of your work is bound to be better, some not so much. “Takin’ My Time” definitely stands the test of time, and it’s one of the better, even half a century later.