Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Average At Best, Tina Turner's Wildest Dreams Leaves Me Feeling Remarkably Neutral.

The Good: Good vocals
The Bad: Short, All the best songs are on compilations, Overproduced
The Basics: A very average c.d., Wildest Dreams is a flop for Tina Turner which is more mediocre than actually terrible.

One of the reasons I listen to an album at least eight times before I review it is that replayability is a big factor in whether an album hold up over the years. If I can't stand an album after the third listen, it is hard to call it timeless. Conversely, while one's appreciation for the depth of an album may increase over multiple listens, the initial impact of an album only happens on the first listen. But impact can be the flash that blinds a novice reviewer to a lack of substance behind the sparkle. With Wildest Dreams, the latest c.d. I'm reviewing by Tina Turner, there was no initial sparkle or impact. This was a remarkably mellow work which further replays of the album only made the initial impression less distinct.

Wildest Dreams has the impact of mood music or background music in a restaurant. After a few minutes, the ambiance it helped establish fades and you're left with the conversation you're having with your dinner companion; you stop noticing the music and it leaves little in the way of a distinct impression. Wildest Dreams is hardly wild, it is sedate, fairly indistinct and when it is forceful in any noticeable way, it is overproduced, as evidenced by the opening drums of the hidden song on track 13 (the reprise of "Something Beautiful Remains"). And the best songs on this album are on Turner's superior compilation, which makes it easy to not recommend this album.

With fourteen songs on thirteen tracks, occupying 69:26, Wildest Dreams feels shorter than it actually is, largely because the songs start to blend together after "Something Beautiful Remains." The album is very much a typical Tina Turner album in that she appears on it as a performer only, not as an artist. As such, she provides the lead vocals on each and every song. However, Tina Turner did not write any of the songs, play any of the instruments, nor did she produce any of the songs. She is, however, credited as a co-executive producer on the album. Given how popular and influential Turner was by this point, it is hard to imagine the ultimate sound is anything but what she wanted it to be.

Sadly, though, Wildest Dreams is a collection of songs which fails to distinguish itself on its own. While Turner opens strong with her cover of "Missing You" (made popular by John Waite), and does a decent duet with Barry White for "In Your Wildest Dreams," the album sinks after that into a collection of murky tunes which fail to distinguish themselves well from one another. So, while I was thrilled to hear the Pet Shop Boys influence on "Confidential," the novelty of that faded by the fourth listen and it became part of the long, gray latter half of this overproduced pop/soul album. One would think "Goldeneye" would ratchet the enthusiasm back up, but it sounds like just what it is, a James Bond theme and in this case, it wakes the listener up just long enough to be lulled back to sleep by "Dancing In My Dreams."

Wildest Dreams is a heavily-produced, keyboard-dominated album which has less in the way of powerful or recognizable melodies than most of Turner's preceding works. In fact, "Whatever You Want" opens with a similar sound and resonance to "Goldeneye" and the songs do begin to blend together after one listens to the album twice in a row. Keyboard with some percussion is all that truly defines the instrumental accompaniment on Wildest Dreams. This is by no means Turner's most instrumentally diverse album and as a result, it blends together. This is a quieter album and most of the songs are pop ballads with a smattering of r&b influence. Even "Confidential" is more muted than most works by the Pet Shop Boys.

Vocally, Tina Turner is flawless as ever. Her vocals are emotive and melodic. Turner has an exceptional range and on songs like "Whatever You Want," she is able to go high and clear, whereas on "Do What You Do," she goes lower and more soulful. By this point, listeners ought to expect the clarity and lung capacity she illustrates on "On Silent Wings." As a result, Turner performs up to expectations, but has nothing truly new to offer listeners in order to wow them with something different.

Wildest Dreams is made up, mostly, of ballads that are slow, soulful and primarily about love and relationships. She mixes it up some by presenting musical storysongs, like “Thief Of Hearts.” That song has more of a narrative where Turner sings “Yeah, I met you on a starry night, full moon in your eyes / Did something strange to me / I was all prepared to spin my web, take you for a ride / There was a fork in the street / Well I didn't mean to fall in love, /Didn't practice the rules that I've been taught / You never get involved, never drop your defenses / But this time I got caught / I'm a thief of hearts, a burglar in the night / Before they knew what hit them I was out of sight / Been a thief of hearts, now I'm paying for my crimes” (“Thief Of Hearts”). There, Turner successfully mixes the literal with the metaphorical and the song reads well as a poem, even if it sounds generic on the album.

Turner and her producers, though, have a generally decent ability to pick winners as far as the poetics go. One of the more memorable songs on the album, “On Silent Wings” has wonderful imagery with lines like “I can see us in our dreams and we're dancing / I can almost hear the song / But the prayers, they go unanswered / But we both know, we're just hanging on / Oooh, I feel the shame / But I'll never know the reason why / The rug was pulled so gently from under my feet / I only know that something good has died / Between you and me, oh it's just a memory / You never see it coming / You just go separate ways / Silent wings.” Turner makes simple lines soulful and the song resonates well.

But not all of the lyrics are poetic winners even on the page. To wit, “All Kinds Of People” has a decent message, but terrible rhymes. Turner tries to present a song about the healing power of love and the importance of love in these fractious times. But, the song flounders with unfortunate rhymes like “Kiss of life and the hand of fate / Boy grow's up into his father's son / And he loves to love, been taught to hate / To carry on the way it had been done” (“All Kinds Of People”). Even Tina Turner cannot overcome such stale rhymes.

Ultimately, Wildest Dreams is an average album, but one that is neither Tina Turner's best work, nor one that one need add to their permanent collection. The best songs are available elsewhere and fans are likely to find after a few listens that this album becomes auditory mush instead of remaining vibrant or even interesting.

The best track is "Missing You," the entire latter half after "Confidential" is weak.

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
Foreign Affair
What's Love Got To Do With It? Soundtrack
Twenty Four Seven
All The Best (2-disc version)
Tina! Her Greatest Hits


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

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

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