YOU DON'T have to tell Bonnie Raitt that nothing succeeds like success. This year's fourtime Grammy winner has recently become the subject of a 20-song career retrospective called "The Bonnie Raitt Collection," released by her former record label.
Fortunately, Raitt oversaw the project and not only helped select the tunes but contributed some revealing liner notes as well. For example, about "Love Has No Pride," arguably her best-known ballad, she writes, "I remember being devastated at the time by a lover who'd chosen to just take off. Seems like I spent a year of gigs trying to sing him back."
A duet with John Prine on his "Angel From Montgomery," recorded live at a tribute to the late Steve Goodman, evokes this memory: "Over the years, John and I have sung this song so many times -- but to sing it together that night for Stevie, surrounded by many other musicians and friends who got together to celebrate not just his life, but the power and timelessness of a good song sung with just an acoustic guitar. It makes me so proud and grateful to be part of that tradition."
Raitt also has kind words for, or brief anecdotes about, numerous other songs and musicians that have played a key role in her career. The recordings, drawn from nine albums recorded between 1971 and 1986, plus a previously unreleased duet of "Women Be Wise" with the late blues belter Sippie Wallace, not only reveal Raitt's strength as a singer and blues guitarist, but her unerring ear for choosing quality songs by Randy Newman ("Guilty"), Jackson Browne ("Under the Falling Sky"), Chris Smither ("Love Me Like a Man"), Paul Siebel ("Louise"), Allen Toussaint ("What is Success") and others.
Canadian guitar ace Jeff Healey, on the other hand, comes up short songwise on his second album, "Hell To Pay," a problem that not even guest appearances by George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and David Letterman-sidekick Paul Shaffer can conceal. Harrison's involvement seems almost obligatory on Healey's largely faithful but less elegant version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and though Knopfler adds his customarily languid, J. J. Cale-like guitar tones to "I Think I Love You Too Much," the results aren't all that memorable. The rest of the album ranges from power trio sessions a` la Cream to more modern and flashy guitar tracks geared mostly to show off Healey's considerable chops and versatility.