Nick of Time   Flawlessly Reissued By Capitol Records

Back in 1949 Guy Lombardo and then Doris Day had hits with a song called “Enjoy Yourself (it’s later than you think)”. The chipper tune composed by Carl Sigman with lyrics by Herb Magidson advised down in the dumpers to get busy enjoying themselves:
Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” views in a darker, more melancholic light time’s passage. Its release in 1989 struck a morbid, resonating chord with baby boomers then approaching or having hit 40.

To say the song took a generation by surprise and made them contemplate their own mortality would not be overstating its impact. Our time as the “young generation” was over though most of us were too busy having fun to have noticed (and some still are!).

Before the song’s release “Nick of Time” meant “just in time”. Afterwards, the darker double meaning held sway. Despite the downer opener (a gutsy call in my opinion), Raitt’s 10th album was her best seller, topping the Billboard 200 chart and that year winning three GRAMMY® Awards including Album of the Year. Raitt won for both “Best Rock Vocalist” and “Best Pop Vocalist”. With this album Raitt achieved the commercial success that had so long eluded her, though those of us who became fans with 1972’s Give It Up produced by Michael Cuscuna have been with Bonnie all the way through some thin thin and thick thick.

Twenty-five years later the title tune—one of only two songs she wrote for the album— is even weightier. Raitt sings of a friend whose biological clock is running out and she still can’t make up her mind—about choosing a mate or having a baby is left ambiguous. By now that friend could be a grandmother.

Raitt sings of seeing her folks aging and their seeing the same in her. Her father, the Broadway actor/singer John Raitt (“Carousel”, “Oklahoma”, “The Pajama Game”) was 72 at the time. He passed away in 2005 at age 88. Today Bonnie Raitt is 64.

This album, produced by Don Was, who is now president of Blue Note Records, holds up as well today as does Bonnie Raitt. Did you see and hear her at the Linda Ronstadt Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction?

So yes the opener “Nick of Time” is a “heavy” but it’s followed by a raucous cover of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love” and from there, thanks to outstanding A&R work the album flows hitch-free between rockers and worthy ballads. Another terrific musical juxtaposition is the jump from the rocker “I Will Not Be Denied” to the ballad “I Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again” with Raitt backed by Herbie Hancock on piano. It’s one of Raitt’s finest recorded vocals and it comes midway on the second side. The album end with Raitt’s hard, bluesy bye bye (gotta go ‘cause) “The Road’s My Middle Name.”

Not to be missed. I could blather on about the great rhythm section but I’ll stop. Either you know the record or you’re now moved to get it. If not, I’ve not done my job.

As for the sonics, it was recorded to analog tape by Ed Cherney at Ocean Way, Capitol, Hollywood Sound and The Record Plant. The sound is honest, full-bodied and for a studio production, satisfyingly three-dimensional and dynamic. It’s minimally processed and is sufficiently post the early 80’s Aural Exciter era to have avoided all of that period’s sonic traps, though there are a few of what sound like Yamaha DX7 tinkles. Just a few.

I compared an original Capitol issue mastered at Artisan Sound by Greg Fulginiti, the 90’s era DCC Compact Classics edition mastered by Steve Hoffman and cut by Kevin Gray and this new edition produced and overseen by original producer Don Was and engineer Ed Cherney and cut at Capitol by Ron McMaster.

This one is the best sounding, the original Artisan cut second best and the “audiophile” pressing third. The DCC is overly bright and hard and surprisingly opaque. It’s “hi-fi” in the worst sense of the word. Steve and Kevin have their hits and misses. This is one of their misses.

This reissue is weightier on bottom compared to the original but it doesn’t scream “bass”. It just adds weight lacking in the original. Better yet, the very top end is far cleaner and airier than the original without sounding as if the EQ was grossly pushed. The amount of inner detail revealed—listen to how clearly and easily you can hear the background singers as individual entities—something neither of the previous releases managed as well.

This is the definitive reissue and it was done by a major label, but considering that the original producer and engineer oversaw it, and considering who they are, I’m not surprised.

Pressed by Quality Record Pressings (QRP). The copy I got was flat and quiet—flawless in every way. Highly recommended.

Music Direct Buy It Now

AnalogJ's picture

I'm going to have to check my DCC copy. I don't remember it at all that way. I recall it being less bright, richer and silkier than my 1st press US original. I haven't played it in years. Time to revisit it.

GREAT record, in any event.

Bigrasshopper's picture

I may check this out. I am really not a fan, but then again as I grow older I find I appreciate things that I never expected to like. Even when the tune or the style isn't your thing, if it plays like it was recorded and was recorded with care, it's kind of amazing how one can be lead deep into unfamiliar territory and feel better for it.
So this was mastered by no other than Ron McMaster. Despite the apparent synergy there, I have, oddly, enough, sometimes questioned his mastery of his craft. ( who am I ) I don't think he is regarded, at least in audiophile circles as a purist. I got the impression that not unlike many, he is a proponent of digital tools. But, even though I generally steer clear of digital vinyl, there are signs of improvement. T. Rex electric Warrior was mastered by RM at capital even though it's Rhino Vinyl, and it sounded decent to me. I might try the anniversary edition. It's harder these days to know what version to get. Since my Dac was upgraded, I'm
liking digits more. Go figure, whatever works for ya. I like it both ways. I'm almost done listening through my backlog and ready to compare the latest Yellow Brick Road with good digital credentials to the Speakers Corner version. It should be interesting.
So was Nick of Time definitely mastered from the original tapes as advertised ?

Michael Fremer's picture
Has cut well and cut poorly. Well as in the two Pure Pleasure Cassandra Wilson albums he cut. They are stunning, proving both that he can do it and that Capitol's cutting chain is up to the task too.
Paul Boudreau's picture

"The Bon's" best, to be sure.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Now that I think of it, I have an original pressing and a DCC. If I get the new RI, I could compare them all and see if my system and my ears can discern what you did. The idea of listening to three different pressings of the same music in quick succession in their entirety doesn't sound like much fun, though. Is that how you do it, or do you spot check or listen to the same selection of songs?

Devil Doc's picture

I bought this the day it was released without Fremer's say so. Sometimes you just gotta be a fan and take a chance.

Michael Fremer's picture
How does it sound to you?
Devil Doc's picture

And like you wrote, "It's flawless in every way".

doak's picture

This review prompted me to pull my original issue off shelf, clean it up and give it a spin. Not a huge BR fan though I do like her stuff. While not a sonic wonder this IS one fine album.

my new username's picture

I think I recall reading that regarding the Blue Note reissues / Don Was interview. What are some other examples of this new mastering chain?

I also see that Raitt's reissue benefits from QRP, something the Blue Notes do not.

Tullman's picture

MF didn't come out and say it but I'm thinking this is a digital mastering.

BillK's picture

So is there a definitive way to tell which plant pressed an album (e.g. QRP vs URP vs Rainbo vs …)

Michael Fremer's picture
URPs almost always have a U with a circle. QRP usually has a QRP stamp. Not sure about Rainbo. RTI has its own stamper code #s but I've yet to identify a pattern.
BillK's picture


Superfuzz's picture

Rainbo pressings always have a scribed S-xxxxx matrix (an S followed by 5 digits).
I've yet to see any type of QRP matrix/code info.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I really appreciate the reviews which Michael puts on this website. It gives one a fairly good idea on whether an album is worth buying be that the music or the mastering, pressing etc.

James, Dublin, Ireland

madfloyd's picture

Thanks for the review, Michael!

john.tracy's picture

The DCC reissue of Court and Spark has the same issues. Sounds like kind of grungy tubes to me. The recent Warner reissue is far more transparent and satisfying. This is coming from someone who uses tube gear and who paid $120 for the DCC Joni.