Friday, November 19, 2010

Astonishingly Good Mix Of Works By Tina Turner: What's Love Got To Do With It?

The Good: Good vocals, Decent instrumental accompaniment, stands remarkably well outside the film.
The Bad: Dreadfully short!
The Basics: A great mix that showcases both Tina Turner's vocal and stylistic range she performed with over different eras, What's Love Got To Do With It is more than a soundtrack.

Back in March, when Tina Turner was my Artist Of The Month, I thought to see if my library could get in the film What's Love Got To Do With It. I've seen the film before, years ago, when it was in theaters. I remember because it was part of one of the oddest double features I have ever seen. First, there was Disney's Aladdin, then What's Love Got To Do With It a stark look at the life of Tina Turner, with emphasis on the years she spent with Ike. I'm sure there's a joke to be made in here about Gilbert Gottfried's voice assaulting the audience's ears shortly before Ike Turner assaults Tina (and, by extension, the eyes and minds of the audience), but it's just not coming to me. It was a weird night in the cinematic history of W.L. Swarts. So, it makes sense at the very least that my library would get in the soundtrack to What's Love Got To Do With It in order for me to get a nice, thorough understanding of Tina Turner's works.

What's Love Got To Do With It, even in soundtrack form, serves as both a musical history and a biography of the life of Tina Turner. I remember the profound sense of disappointment I felt when I learned that "I Don't Wanna Fight" - which I'll argue is the best Tina Turner song - was not written by Turner. While I applaud the ability to fit a great song to the appropriate artist, there was something truly disappointing about finding out that the song she makes sound autobiographical with the passion in her voice was not. C'est la vie. Still, the soundtrack to What's Love Got To Do With It stands solidly on its own as a history of popular music from the sixties through 1990s.

With a dozen tracks occupying 52:10, arguably the biggest strike against Whats Love Got To Do With It is that it is short. Turner only wrote "Nutbush City Limits" on this disc, though she provides all of the lead vocals for the album. Turner does not play any musical instruments on the album, though she did co-executive produce the album. Even so, her liner notes make it quite clear that she was pleased with the end result of this album, both as a soundtrack and as a musical biography of the milestones in her life.

Listeners are likely to enjoy the mix of pop music which starts with the end, with the song "I Don't Wanna Fight" and then goes back to the blues-soul origins of Tina Turner which she makes smolder. From there, she works up through disco ("Disco Inferno") and funk ("Nutbush City Limits") to power '80s pop ("What's Love Got To Do With It"). In between, there are some cool moments of r&b ("Why Must We Wait Until Tonight?") and smooth soul ("It's Gonna Work Out Fine"). The songs flow organically and this is a pleasantly complete album, as opposed to feeling fractured by so many different musical styles.

Instrumentally, Tina Turner is most frequently accompanied on What's Love Got To Do With It by guitars and keyboards. In fact, on this recording of "Nutbush City Limits," the usual percussion is more muted than on many other recordings I've heard. As a result, the entire album has a more mild flavor to it. The percussion never breaks out in such a way as to be as pounding as it could be. In fact, on "Nutbush City Limits" and "A Fool In Love" the bass is used to help keep time and it helps the songs sound both more funky and less aggressive. But for those looking for funky and brassy, the latter half of "Proud Mary" is appropriately energetic and it stands out well as a result. Similarly, "A Fool In Love" - despite the context in the film which was so memorable, even years later I recall it - has an energy and fun sound to it that makes it stand out well beside the more obvious pop-rock numbers.

Vocally, Tina Turner is in great form on What's Love Got To Do With It. The songs illustrate Turner's multi-octave range and her song "I Don't Wanna Fight" illustrates both her lung capacity and her ability to traverse the ranges from her lowest to a clear, beautiful soprano. She goes low and primal on "Rock Me Baby" and she goes higher and energetic on "I Might Have Been Queen." And, for those looking for melodic and just plain beautiful, it is hard to argue with the vocals to the song "What's Love Got To Do With It." In other words, there is nothing out of Turner's range and she illustrates that well on this compilation.

Usually, I do a lyrical analysis, but What's Love Got To Do With It is a compilation and almost all of the songs are recognizable either from Turner or other artists who performed the songs. The songs range from musical storysongs about hardship ("Proud Mary") to unhealthy love songs ("Fool In Love") to true love songs ("Stay Awhile") to the anthem of overcoming abuse ("I Don't Wanna Fight"). And, the truth is, they're all good, even "Nutbush City Limits," which is traditionally a song that does not wow me. This album has a decent thematic selection, though most of the songs are about relationships and getting out of bad situations.

Those who like pop and r&b and who want to hear a diverse selection of works from a powerful feminine voice will find something to love on What's Love Got To Do With It. While "I Don't Wanna Fight" stands out as the best track, there are no truly weak links; in fact, this compilation only makes us with there were more to it.

For other works by Tina Turner, please check out my reviews of:
What You Hear Is What You Get: Live At Carnegie Hall - Ike & Tina Turner
The Best Of Ike And Tina Turner – Ike & Tina Turner
The Very Best Of Ike & Tina Turner - Ike and Tina Turner
Private Dancer
Twenty Four Seven
All The Best (2-disc version)
Tina! Her Greatest Hits


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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