Mark Cooper – Q Magazine – September 1990
THE RELEASE OF this 20-track retrospective of her nine Warners albums must be sweet revenge for Bonnie Raitt.
An original member of the quality school of writers and performers who were nourished by the label in the early ’70s, Raitt was twice dropped by Warners in the ’80s. When she and the label parted company in 1986, Raitt was alcoholic, overweight and seemingly on the scrapheap. But, as one of the great white blues interpreters, Raitt knows a bit about fighting back. Last year’s Capitol debut, Nick Of Time, earned her Grammys galore and the first million-seller of her career.
This personally selected compilation is a testament to Raitt’s ability to make songs her own and further evidence that she isn’t always the best judge of her own material. The set seems to concentrate too heavily on Raitt in blues mode at the expense of her folksy/interpretative side, with the peculiar result that the 20 tracks add up to something of an overload. Raitt’s skills as an emotive blues mama are well represented by ‘Give It Up Or Let Me Go’ and both ‘Love Has No Pride’ and ‘Guilty’ remain superb examples of her confessional style at its most undefended. Yet the fact remains that her first five albums were far superior to the increasingly desperate production experiments that succeeded 1975’s superb Home Plate. The true depth and variety of Raitt’s talents are best found on the albums of the early ’70s and this retrospective’s well-meaning decision to choose two tracks from each of her albums offers evidence of this later decline without quite doing justice to the artistic triumphs of her beginnings.
As Nick Of Time proved, balance is everything on a Bonnie Raitt record. Balance isn’t quite achieved here but there are more than enough reminders that she remains one of the finest singers of her generation, with a gift for going straight to the emotional heart of a song with a lack of self-consciousness that proves her a true child of the blues.
© Mark Cooper, 1990