#495 – Bonnie Raitt, “Give It Up”

Here we go again.

Much like Boz Scags’ self-titled album, Give it Up is not Bonnie Raits’ most popular album, nor is it her most commercially or critically successful album (not to say that it was not successful or popular–it certainly was). Unlike Boz Scaggs, this is not the only album of hers that we see on the list (Spoiler alert, I’m referencing #230, Nick of TIme). So it must be a pretty great album for it to be on this list over some of her more successful albums,  in addition to her “Greater” album (forget math. 230 > 495), and despite Bonnie Raitt’s real commercial success not coming until over 15 years later, right?

495-Cover

Wrong.

With not feeling like this album was particularly earth-shattering, I turned to the List itself for guidance. And what did Rolling Stone have to say? That the weather was bad while she recorded it. With that, I am left to draw my own conclusions*.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. This album does not suck. Not at all! It’s actually pretty good, but this list is not the 500 Good-est Albums of All Time. It is the Greatest Albums of All Time. That’s not to say that this album is not worth a listen, but it doesn’t seem to have the real lasting power, influence, or general Greatness to say it is one of the Greatest of all time. Especially in light of many of her later works being critically and commercially more successful.

Let’s take a look at Bonnie Raitt’s albums on the Billboard charts. Where does Give It Up rank in comparison to some of Raitt’s other works?

495-Comparison

See the one in red at the very bottom? Yeah, that’s Give It Up. From looking just at commercial success, I can understand why Nick of Time makes it onto the Greatest Albums of All Time list. Simply put, it sold more copies. But it also had something that Give It Up didn’t have:

Backup vocals.

Track with me for a second.

This album was given the cursory three listens that, as I have already established, each listen deserves. I did not make the same mistake as the last album and listen to it far more than necessary, ultimately leading to my resentment of the artist**. It should be noted that you should be sure to not listen to this album (or any album that isn’t downright awful) just once. The first listen is typically the most skeptical, but the second and third are when you really get to digest it.

It was on the second and third albums that I let my skepticism down a bit and was able to enjoy some of the better elements of this album. Some of the tracks really do shine, but something really was missing. It doesn’t have the same full, developed sound that her later works have. There are no backup vocals. Okay, so maybe it isn’t just backup vocals, but those certainly help to fill out the music. And my biggest problem with Give It Up is that it has a lot of potential, but feels just a little hollow, like it could stand to use just a little more filling out. And if you put a little bit of backup vocals in on some of those tracks- BOOM! You would add just that little bit of depth it needs to really fill it out. 

Now, I get it. This album was released in 1972. Music production wasn’t what it is now or even what it was 10 years ago, and layering music has really become easy with the advent of digital recording (note that “easy to do” is not the same as “easy to do well”). But it is not as if backup vocals were a completely foreign concept. People had been doing it for years (the Beatles and the Beach Boys had been doing it for a decade. Granted, they were groups and Raitt was an individual, but it’s not like this album was just her and a guitar).

Bonnie Raitt has had a ton of success over the years, and with good reason. She has a great voice and is obviously a quality entertainer. My petition would be that the second Raitt album on this list would pull from some of her other works. Sure, this album did help lay the foundation to her future success, but like the foundation of any quality home, it’s just a little flat. #seewhatIdidthere?

As I’ve already mentioned, you should give this album a listen. But if you don’t give it a full listen, at least check out my picks for Give It Up:

  1. “Give It Up or Let Me Go” – A fun, twangy song that you can really bob your head to, with some of her more pronounced vocal work on this album.
  2. “Too Long At The Fair” – A good slow jam.
  3. “I Know” – Another fun, twangy one.
  4. “Love Me Like A Man” – Idk, I liked it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I plan on ranking all of the albums on this list using a pairwise comparison, as well as ranking all of the albums on this list alongside my suggestions. I think it will be interesting after listening to and writing about another 500+ (with my suggestions) albums to see where this album actually ends up. It is still so early in the list that I may end up finding a lot of the albums that are on here are rubbish in comparison to this album. Or the albums that I am more critical of in early posts (This album, The Stone Roses, etc.) may sink to the bottom of the bucket. The only way to find out is to keep going so… Stay tuned, peeps!

*Note that at this point I went on a small rant about the writers of the list, but ultimately decided that it was far too lengthy and indignant to include. The abbreviated version is this: I assume that the writers were getting paid, and as such I would expect better quality and far more quantity in their wordsmithery.
**My last post may have seemed too harsh, but this was another situation where I didn’t think the album really had the “Greatness” to be on the list. I would have been less surprised by one of Scaggs’ later works making its way on, even if I still argued its Greatness. Regardless, I listened to that album waaayyyyyy too many times.
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