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RECORD RACK

November 05, 1995|Elysa Gardner

BONNIE RAITT, "Road Tested"; Capitol (*** 1/2)

The only complaint you could make about this two-CD live set, recorded during Raitt's 1995 summer tour, is that it's no substitute for actually seeing her perform in the flesh. Even so, the virtuosity and warmth that make Raitt one of rock's most compelling concert acts is palpable on "Road Tested."

The 22 tracks range from hits such as "Something to Talk About" and "Love Sneakin' Up on You" to obscure gems from her blues-saturated repertoire. There's also a robust, jazzy version of the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" and a scruffily endearing duet with Bryan Adams.

Like all great musicians, Raitt and her supporting players never let you hear them sweat, veering effortlessly from muscular boogie workouts to tender, shimmering ballads. Raitt's singing could teach other rock and R&B icons volumes about true soulfulness and the power of restraint. On "Feeling of Falling," her relaxed, husky playfulness generates more heat than an entire anthology of Melissa Etheridge vamps could. And Raitt's delivery of the wistful "I Can't Make You Love Me" is devastatingly pure and sincere--not a heartbroken note is overstated. Which is precisely why Raitt always makes us love her.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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