Nick of Time (album)

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Nick of Time
Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time.png
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 21, 1989
StudioOcean Way Recording, Capitol Studios, Hollywood Sound and The Record Plant.
GenreAmericana, Rock, Blues Rock
ProducerDon Was
Bonnie Raitt chronology
Nine Lives
Nick of Time
Luck of the Draw

Nick of Time is the tenth studio album by the American singer Bonnie Raitt, released on March 21, 1989. It was Raitt's first album to be released by Capitol Records. A commercial breakthrough after years of personal and professional struggles, Nick of Time topped the Billboard 200 chart, selling five million copies, and won three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, which was presented to Raitt and producer Don Was. In 2003, the album was ranked number 229 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[1] then was re-ranked at number 230 on the 2012 list. [2] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background and recording[edit]

In 1983, Raitt was dropped from the Warner Bros. Records roster for not selling enough copies of her two previous albums, The Glow (1979) and Green Light (1982). This decision came just one day after she had finished production on what would be her upcoming album for Warner Brothers, entitled Tongue in Groove.[3] Two years later, Raitt's affair with producer Rob Fraboni came to an end, and she was also forced to dissolve her backing band as she could no longer afford to pay them.[4] In addition to this, Raitt was also dealing with alcohol and drug abuse issues. In 1986, Warner Bros., who still had rights to the Tongue in Groove album, announced to Raitt that it would be releasing the album. Raitt thought this was unfair as she would have an album released on a label that had dropped her and that she and her management no longer had ties to. Warner Brothers allowed Raitt to go back to the studio to make some changes to the album and Raitt also changed the name of the album to Nine Lives.[5] The album, however, was a commercial disappointment. Raitt began to suffer from depression, and tried to distract herself with excessive eating, drinking, and partying.[5] When asked about this period in her life, Raitt said: "I wasn't kicking and screaming into dementia, but I did have a complete emotional, physical, and spiritual breakdown."[6]

After the release of Nine Lives, Raitt went on a concert tour. Recording artist Prince was a fan of Raitt, and attended her performance at the Beverly Theater in Los Angeles. He later offered Raitt a recording contract on his own label Paisley Park Records.[7] Raitt initially agreed, but she suffered a skiing accident and was hospitalized for two months.[8] The injury gave her time to reflect on recent life choices. "It seemed that some changes needed to be made. I looked at myself and just felt I wasn't being the best version of me as I could. I wasn't going to blame anyone other than myself." Raitt attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which she credits with giving her a new outlook on life, and ended her drug abuse.[9]

Raitt now had newfound sobriety, but she still was in financial trouble. She and Paisley Park Records could not come to an agreement. Raitt was also concerned that Paisley Park releases were distributed and partly promoted by Warner Bros. Records, the label that had dropped her from its roster. Negotiations with Paisley Park fell apart. Without enough money to afford a backing band, Raitt played a series of acoustic gigs to simply keep afloat.[10] It was during this period that Raitt met musician Don Was of the band Was (Not Was). They had earlier collaborated on a children's album in 1988. Despite the simplistic material Raitt recorded for the album, she very much enjoyed working with Was, and wanted to work with him again.[8] The search for a new record contract proved difficult, however, as many labels felt Raitt was not commercially viable. Raitt's co-manager Danny Golberg said at least fourteen executives passed on her before Tim Devine of Capitol Records took an interest. In 1988, Capitol signed Raitt to the label with an advance of $150,000, with Raitt requesting that Don Was produce the album.[11]


Music and lyrics[edit]

Nick of Time features a smooth and understated rock sound.[11] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote: "[Raitt] never rocks too hard, but there is grit to her singing and playing, even when the surfaces are clean and inviting."[12] There are many genres explored in Nick of Time, including blues rock, country, R&B, and pop.[11] When Was was announced as the producer, some listeners wondered if he would instill a funk rock sound into the album, given his reputation with Was (Not Was).[13] Was decided to instead maintain the laid-back blues sound Raitt had developed earlier in her career. According to Raitt: "There's less production, less slickness. Basically, it's a return to my roots."[14]

Before Raitt signed with Capitol Records, she and Was had recorded some early demos at Was's home studio. These early demos focused on music that was stripped down, similar to Raitt's acoustic gigs. Was wanted to showcase her musical talents by choosing songs that worked without a backing band.[11] These demos were then properly recorded over the course of a week at Ocean Way Recording in Los Angeles on preparation for the album's release. Because they had already worked on the songs, recording sessions were fairly quick. About two tracks were recorded a day.[11] Engineer Ed Cherney noted how most of the music was recorded live in studio as opposed to recording each instrument individually. This was because Raitt was comfortable jamming with other musicians.[15]

Many of the songs deal with personal issues Raitt was struggling with at the time.[16] For example, Raitt was almost forty years old when Nick of Time was released, and the album's title track is about coming to terms with middle age.[11] According to biographer Mark Bego, Raitt sought to make an album for the baby boomer generation. "Unlike her past releases, there were no 'you've done me wrong' songs or tearful laments about love lost. The songs were much more personal" said Bego.[14] Raitt wrote two original songs for the album, and nine cover songs conveyed the overarching themes of adulthood and wisdom.[17]


Nick of Time opens with the title track, a soft ballad inspired by Philadelphia soul.[11] Raitt plays the electric piano, and sings about the fears of growing old. "Nick of Time" was inspired by a close friend of Raitt, who was struggling to make a life changing decision. "Making those decisions and life changes in the nick of time, but also just the nick of time - the fact that my friend had to decide if she would split up with her long time mate, or if she wanted to have a child. Those costs you pay of getting older." Raitt also wrote about her parents, in particular their fear of running out of time in life.[11]

"Thing Called Love" is a cover of the 1987 song by John Hiatt. It features a lively shuffle beat, accompanied by Raitt's slide guitar.[18] Was said "Thing Called Love" was the most difficult song to record for the album, as he did not know how to replicate Jim Keltner's drumming. "We just kept listening to it over and over -- in the end we just did our version of it, you couldn't recreate what happened there."[11] On the next song, "Love Letter", Raitt plays slide guitar atop the piano-driven groove, reminiscent of the music of Al Green.[11] "Love Letter" was written by singer-songwriter Bonnie Hayes, and is about the anticipation of new sexual experience.[18]


Nick of Time was released on March 21, 1989. Capitol Records marketing department did not provide heavy promotion on the album initially, so label exec Tim Devine asked the president of the label for permission to have full page ads taken out in music magazines.[11] Nick of Time was very successful, eventually selling over 5 million copies in the US, and quickly became the best selling album of Raitt's career up to that point.[19] Her follow-up album Luck of the Draw, released in 1991, would become an even bigger seller at 7 million copies in the US. When asked why Nick of Time was so successful, publicist Joan Myers said, "Bonnie's personality and sincerity just won people's hearts, in addition to her music. There was nothing ever pretentious about her."[11]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[12]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[20]
Entertainment WeeklyA[21]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[22]
Robert ChristgauB[13]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[23]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[24]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 229 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[1] then was re-ranked at number 230 on the 2012 list. [25] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[26] It was voted number 615 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[27]

Track listing[edit]

1."Nick of Time"Bonnie Raitt3:52
2."Thing Called Love"John Hiatt3:52
3."Love Letter"Bonnie Hayes4:04
4."Cry on My Shoulder"Michael Ruff3:44
5."Real Man"Jerry Lynn Williams4:27
6."Nobody's Girl"Larry John McNally3:14
7."Have a Heart"Bonnie Hayes4:50
8."Too Soon to Tell"Rory Michael Bourke, Mike Reid3:45
9."I Will Not Be Denied"Jerry Lynn Williams4:55
10."I Ain't Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again"David Lasley, Julie Lasley2:38
11."The Road's My Middle Name"Bonnie Raitt3:31
Total length:42:31