Twenty-four years after her first album, record buyers will finally learn what Bonnie Raitt’s concertgoing fans have always known — live performance is her real forte. Road Tested (Capitol), a new two-CD concert album, traces nearly the full scope of the rock and blues chanteuse’s career and pays homage to her friends and musical influences; Jackson Browne, Bruce Hornsby, Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bryan Adams, and R&B vets Charles and Ruth Brown are all called on stage for various duets.
As expected, Raitt is confident and engaged, bringing a new freedom and jaunty looseness to such favorites as ”Come to Me,” ”Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” and ”Feeling of Falling,” and unfolding a slower, more heartbreaking version of ”I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Throughout, her soulful slide-guitar solos glisten and blister, sometimes in elongated form. But Road Tested — compiled from six West Coast shows last summer — is a patchwork quilt; at times there’s a disjointed feel, as guests appear and depart suddenly, and the pacing drags on such pre-Nick of Time material as Paul Siebel’s ”Louise” and Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ”The Kokomo Medley.” Some tracks, including three weak new songs, seem like questionable choices, especially since a signature tune like ”Nick of Time” is nowhere to be found. Raitt defends these selections, saying she wanted to make sure she included the ”really important cornerstones.” She should have been more concerned with crafting the best record possible. B