Nick of Time (album)

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Nick of Time
BonnieRaittNickofTime.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 21, 1989
Recorded1988
StudioOcean Way Recording, Capitol Studios, Hollywood Sound and The Record Plant.
GenreAmericana, Rock, Blues Rock
Length42:31
LabelCapitol
ProducerDon Was
Bonnie Raitt chronology
Nine Lives
(1986)
Nick of Time
(1989)
Luck of the Draw
(1991)

Nick of Time is the 10th album by the American singer Bonnie Raitt, released on March 21, 1989.

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 230 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background and recording[edit]

In 1983, Bonnie Raitt was dropped from Warner Bros. Records 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 rerecording her upcoming album, titled Tongue in Groove.[2] Two years later, Raitt's affair with producer Rob Fraboni came to an end, and she was forced to dissolve her backing band as she could no longer afford to pay them.[3] In addition to these personal problems, Warner Bros. announced they would release Tongue in Groove in 1986, now titled Nine Lives. This upset Raitt, as she now had to promote an album that she no longer had full control over.[4] Raitt began to suffer from depression, and tried to distract herself with excessive eating, drinking, and partying.[4] 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."[5]

After the release of Nine Lives, Raitt went on a concert tour. Pop star Prince was a fan of Raitt, and attended her performance at the Beverly Theater in Los Angeles. He was impressed with the music, and offered her a recording contract on his own label Paisley Park Records.[6] Raitt agreed, and traveled to Minneapolis. Before she recorded any material however, she suffered a skiing accident and was hospitalized for two months.[7] The injury gave her time to reflect on her 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 an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, which she credits with giving her a new outlook on life.[8]

Despite her newfound sobriety, Raitt was still in financial trouble. She left Paisley Park Records after the planned collaboration between her and Prince fell through. Without enough money to afford a backing band, Raitt had to play a series of acoustic gigs to simply keep afloat.[9] It was during this period that Raitt met musician Don Was of the band Was (Not Was). They collaborated on two children's albums in 1988. Despite the simplistic material Raitt recorded for these albums, she enjoyed working with Was, and he agreed to produce her upcoming album.[10] The search for a record label proved more difficult, as many labels felt Raitt no longer had commercial viability. Co-manager Danny Golberg said at least fourteen executives passed on Raitt before Tim Devine of Capitol Records took an interest. In 1988, Raitt signed a recording contract with Capitol Records for $150,000.[11]

Before Raitt signed with Capitol Records, she and Was recorded some early demos at Was' 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. The preparation Raitt and Was had done beforehand meant the recording sessions were quick. About two tracks were recorded a day, and nearly every track was recorded in only two or three takes.[11]

Composition[edit]

Nick of Time features a smooth and understated blues 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] Although the music is predominantly blues rock, there are a wide array of genres, including 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 however decided to 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] 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 liked playing off of the 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 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] Although Raitt only wrote two original songs for the album, the nine cover songs she chose also covey the overarching themes of adulthood and wisdom.[17]

Release[edit]

Nick of Time was released on March 21, 1989. Tim Devine of Capitol Records was unable to convince the label's marketing team to promote Raitt, and instead had to ask the president of the company to put full page ads in music magazines.[11] Despite the limiting promotion, Nick of Time sold very well for the first few months, and quickly became the best selling album of Raitt's career.[18] When asked why the album sold as well as it did, 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]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[12]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[19]
Entertainment WeeklyA[20]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[21]
Robert ChristgauB[13]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[22]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[23]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 230 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[24] It was voted number 615 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[25]

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
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

Personnel[edit]