Happy 40th: Bonnie Raitt, SWEET FORGIVENESS

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Happy 40th: Bonnie Raitt, SWEET FORGIVENESS

40 years ago this month, Bonnie Raitt released the album which would remain her highest-charting studio LP until her 1989 comeback album, NICK OF TIME. But can you really call it a comeback? In truth, it’s better described as her highly belated full-fledged breakthrough album.

Ah, but that’s a topic of discussion better several for another label’s website, whereas we’re here today to talk about a sweet little album called SWEET FORGIVENESS.

Produced by Paul Rothchild, who’d already aptly proven his ability to bring out Bonnie’s best on her previous album, 1975’s HOME PLATE, SWEET FORGIVENESS found Raitt working with a murderer’s row of some of the best musicians and vocalists in the business, including David Grisman, J.D. Souther, Bill Payne and Fred Tackett of Little Feat, and, Michael McDonald, then still of The Doobie Brothers. The songs Raitt had at her disposal weren’t too shabby, either: the album’s most recognizable track – both then and now, due to its having climbed to #57 on the Billboard Hot 100 – was its first single, a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” but she also had material from Paul Siebel (“Louise”), Eric Kaz (“Gamblin’ Man”), Jackson Browne (“My Opening Farewell”), the aforementioned Mr. Payne (“Takin’ My Time”), and Karla Bonoff (“Home”).

If critical opinions were mixed at the time – Robert Christgau loved it, Rolling Stone did not – then time had clearly dulled some of the slings and arrows by the time NICK OF TIME hit record store shelves, at which point it was reappraised and viewed more favorably. Not that the critics’ opinions matter much when the sales figures were considered: by hitting #25 on the Billboard 200, Raitt may not have made it made it, but she found herself far more on the radar than she had been prior to that point in her career, and that certainly seems like a win to us.