Give It Up
Warner Bros. BS 2643
Released: October 1972
Chart Peak: #138
Weeks Charted: 15
Certified Gold: 12/3/85
The best thing about Bonnie Raitt is her singing, and the best thing about Give It Up is that she sings great from beginning to end; in doing so, she successfully handles a far greater range of styles and material than on her first album and has produced a more interesting and satisfying record in the process.
On Bonnie Raitt, she was aiming for a more self-conscious, old-fashioned, technically limited approach to recording. The album had its moments, most notably her reworking of "Bluebird," but the imposed context finally seemed unnatural, obscuring our ability to respond to her real talents rather than helping to illuminate them.
The production on Give It Up, is much broader, including the use of a good number of Woodstock-based musicians, and the recording style, while undistinguished, is also uninhibiting. There was apparently plenty of overdubbing and more room for the musicians to develop their own points of view towards the material -- and yet Bonnie comes out right on top of the whole thing, her precise, erotic, thoroughly disciplined voice providing a perfect center for this gutsy enterprise.
I have mixed feelings about her versions of two early Sixties hits, Barbara George's "I Know" and Freddie Scott's "If You Got to Make a Fool of Someone." Bonnie loosens them up a bit, the musicians shine, (Mark Jordan's piano on the former, Marty Grebb's sax on the latter) but they somehow seem unnecessary. "Love Me like a Man," a song by an excellent Boston writer and performer, Chris Smither, here comes off as a conventional while blues and somewhat ordinary at that.
That leaves seven other cuts and Bonnie makes every one of them count. Her version of Jackson Browne's "Under the Falling Sky" is a simmering piece of rock & roll that stays hard on the line between raunch and unnecessary stylization. A new song by Joel Zoss, "Stayed Too Long at the Fair," is not only sung but played to perfection, as Eric Kaz's piano weaves in and out of the arrangement at just the right moments. "You Got to Know How" has got a Twenties jazz-blues feel, with some nice double-entendre lyrics.
The album's best cut, "Love Has No Pride," was written by Eric Kaz and Libby Titus and closes the album on a note that will convince anyone that Bonnie Raitt can sing anything right. It is a beautiful ballad performed only with fretless bass, piano, and guitar accompaniment, and despite the fact she didn't write it, it seems to sum up the perspective of all her music concerning the necessity for love, on any terms you can handle it:
- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 10-26-72.
"My little girl, pink and white as peaches and cream is she..." as John Raitt sang to an entire generation of theatergoers as Billy Begelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel." Raitt's "Soliloquy" always was, and still is, a guaranteed show-stopper. Now it seems that he has produced another one, and that in the person of his daughter Bonnie, whose second album shows her as one of the most delightful additions to the pop scene in a long time. She may indeed have grown up pink and white and soft and sweet, but her singing is more like a mixture of vinegar and honey. It is by turns tangy and sweet, salty and smooth.
Bonnie Raitt's looseness and high spirits pervade everything she does. To hear her toy with something like the ancient Sippie Wallace blues "You Got to Know How," with that sly, cajoling gait to her voice, is a refreshing reminder that not everyone under thirty sees the world in terms of gloom and doom. "Too Long at the Fair" is a prime example of how to transmit a poignant story idea to an audience without blubbering. Two of her own songs, "Give it Up or Let Me Go" and "Nothing Seems to Matter," are admittedly dark but never depressing -- and they have a tough-mindedness about them that expresses quite well the sort of realistic New Positivism that seems to be creeping, all to slowly, into pop these days.
Her backup musicians and arrangements are all superior, especially the playing of Freebo (that's it -- "Freebo") on a variety of instruments. Michael Cuscuna contributes a minutely sensitive and evocative production. Overall, the best description of the album would be to borrow another line from "Carousel. "This was a real nice clam bake." I'm awfully glad I came.
- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review, 2/73.
Bonnie Raitt is presented here in her second album for the label and it should be a big one. Her unique vocal treatments and guitar style on "Stayed Too Long at the Fair" and the title song should do a lot to sell the album. Barbara George's "I Know" and Rudy Clark's "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" are also highlights.
- Billboard, 1972.
Raitt's laid-back style (shades of John Hurt and John Hammond, touches of Aretha Franklin and Bessie Smith) is unique in its active maturity, intelligence and warmth. With Chris Smither's "Love Me Like a Man" ("lyrics adapted by Bonnie Raitt") and Sippie Wallace's "You Got to Know How" she dares any crotch-rocker to match her sexual expertise. On Joel Zoss's "Stayed Too Long at the Fair" and Jackson Browne's "Under the Falling Sky" she dares any sensitive type to wax lyrical without a drum kit. And on her own "You Told Me Baby" and "Nothing Seems to Matter" she invites Lenny Welch to return the favor. A
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Raitt has now released ten albums, including 1989's Nick of Time, which won her the audience and awards she deserves, but this one's the best of the bunch. Her second release, it retains the root blues textures and attitudes of her fine debut, tempered with a more pop approach. It works. This time around she recorded at Bearsville, near Woodstock, N.Y., with locally based musicians plus some assistance from Paul Butterfield and Merl Saunders. She also has chosen some fine, diverse material, "Love Me Like a Man," "Too Long at the Fair," and the definitive version of "Love Has No Pride." The whole undertaking has an easy rocking energy, devoid of pretentious production. Sadly, the sound is another matter -- thin, compressed, edgy, and with apparent tape hiss -- it mars an otherwise excellent recording. A-
- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.
Raitt's sophomore release is a classic. Of all the albums from her days with Warner, this is the one that put together her folky singer/songwriter sensitivities with her love for country-blues. Give It Up, which took thirteen years to go gold, showcased an intelligent song selection, with tracks by Jackson Browne ("Under the Falling Sky"), Eric Kaz ("Love Has No Pride"), and Joel Zoss ("Been Too Long at the Fair"). Her self-penned "Love Me like a Man" highlighted her impressive guitar technique. * * * *
Give It Up is the best of Raitt's Warners albums, a corker that blasts open with her own "Give It Up or Let Me Go" and continues through an inspired collection of originals and covers. * * * 1/2
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
All the qualities that made Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time (1989) a multi-Grammy-winning smash hit -- the sneaky guitar slides, the confiding relationship odes, the stoic, slightly troubled vocals -- are present, in more concentrated form, on her second album, Give It Up (1972).
Both offer joyful, effortless-sounding pop songs and uncommonly touching ballads -- the last song on Give It Up, the plaintive "Love Has No Pride," has been a cornerstone of Raitt's live shows ever since. And both depend on Raitt's deeply felt yet pretension-free vocals -- she's part wise blues belter and part '70s earth mama, with a pinch of Ma Rainey and a dash of Janis Joplin.
But there's a key difference between the works, and it has to do with recording methodology: Nick of Time was made in the Age of Overdubs, when record makers with substantial budgets hunkered down for months in the studio, assembling songs by layering instruments one atop another. It's unassailably polished, if a tad numb-sounding when compared with Give It Up, which was made with a small group of musicians huddled together in pursuit of a groove, in real time.
Here's Bonnie Raitt before stardom came calling, when she could cut loose with a mean and greasy rhythm section, adding little quips of tasty guitar to the proceedings. Her spare, barbed-wire lines sit perfectly inside the beat, coaxing out greatness from all around her. Beneath Raitt's words, there's a rich parallel musical dialogue under way, lively exchanges of little ideas and happy accidents that demonstrate what can happen when everyone locks into the same musical frequency in the same moment. It's not an exotic approach -- thousands of records share the Give It Up give-and-take -- but in the age of music assembled on computers, it sure can feel that way.
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
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