Monday, November 29, 2010

An Interesting Historical Document, Tina Live In Europe Is Hardly An Essential Album Set.

The Good: Some great songs, Some interesting interpretations of them, The few tracks unique to this collection.
The Bad: Nothing overwhelmingly different, Some of the "live" conceits are annoying.
The Basics: An interesting set, Tina Turner's Live In Europe gets a soft recommend based more on the astonishing number of cool covers than from the new renditions of previously-released songs.

For those who do not follow my music reviews, the albums that tend to have the hardest time standing up to my scrutiny (outside of holiday albums) are live albums. Nine times out of ten*, the listener is likely to get more out of being at a concert than they are out of a live album and because almost every live album or live album set seeks to "prove" the album is live by including sounds from the crowd the performance was recorded at, the replayability usually suffers. So, it speaks well to both Tina Turner and Tina Live In Europe that I ultimately recommend the two-disc set.

Riding high on the success of her first two big solo albums, Tina Turner took herself and her bandmates on the road (and air) throughout Europe and Israel to perform. In 1988, after the wildly successful tour came to a conclusion, Turner released the two-disc set Tina Live In Europe. The mix is a surprisingly good one, saved mostly by the second disc which features rare duets and cover songs which Turner did not perform studio versions of on any other albums. So, while the first disc is largely Turner's recognizable '80s hits like "Private Dancer," "What's Love Got To Do With It," "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)," and "What You Get Is What You See," the second disc has some real jewels. After a month of reviewing the works of Wilson Pickett, it was a huge treat for me to hear Turner cover songs by and made famous by Pickett, like "Land Of 1,000 Dances" and "In The Midnight Hour." The truth is, she presents "Land Of 1,000 Dances" with an almost surprising lack of soul and the song comes out as a silly pop number instead of anything truly funky.

With twenty-eight songs (fourteen per disc) occupying 66:44 (disc 1) and 60:24 (disc 2) on two c.d.s,
Tina Live In Europe is basically Tina Turner without overbearing production elements. For those who might have doubted, Tina Turner can still sing and perform just fine without the massive 1980s production values! Tina Turner does what she does on so many of her albums, she performs the lead vocals. That is all. She does not play any musical instruments and she was not involved with the production of the album. Even so, it is Tina Turner clearly dominates the album with her voice.

The thing is, like most "live" albums, Tina Live In Europe suffers on audio for the same things that probably make going to one of Turner's concerts so amazing in person. Take, for example, her rendition of "What's Love Got To Do With It." After thanking her audience for making it a #1 hit, she performs it, then goads the girls, women and then men in the audience to repeat the refrain in various ways. It sounds cool the first time, but the more one replays the album, the more tedious it is to listen to. As per my usual, I've listened to Tina Live In Europe eight times now and I dread the back half of "What's Love Got To Do With It" because of that. Similarly, on "Better Be Good To Me," Turner's accompanying vocalist goes around the amphitheater the recording was made at trying to get more participation from various corners and it becomes subsequently more tedious with each listen.

For those who may not have heard much from Tina Turner, Tina Turner's music is very traditional pop-rock music and for Tina Live In Europe, her music is guitar and keyboard dominated with pretty heavy percussion. Songs like "Let's Stay Together" on this album lack the more brazen brass section the studio versions of the songs are known for. As a result, Tina Live In Europe may not be the best example for some listeners of what Tina Turner's music actually sounds like, as it is more stark and stripped down. Despite being less produced, Turner still rocks on songs like "Show Some Respect" and "River Deep, Mountain High." Much of the album still manages to sound big and brazen and energetic in ways that many musical artists are not able to pull off effectively.

Vocally, Tina Turner has an impressive voice which illustrates its phenomenal range exceptionally well on this set. She is soulful and slow on songs like "A Change Is Gonna Come" and energetic and vocally raunchy on "Addicted To Love." She has an impressive range and on "Tina Live In Europe," Turner illustrates that. "A Change Is Gonna Come" illustrates Turner's exceptional lung capacity and how with her voice she has the power to melt hearts and diamonds. Her voice is liquid soul when she wants it to be and on this album, she clearly wanted it to at points.

Ultimately, what made me recommend this album - because her rendition of "In The Midnight Hour" was heartbreakingly bad - was the duets on the second disc. Tina Turner performed with Robert Gray ("634-5789"), Eric Clapton ("Tearing Us Apart"), David Bowie ("Tonight," "Let's Dance"), and Bryan Adams ("It's Only Love"). Hearing these duets is a treat for anyone who likes the works of Tina Turner or any of those individual performers/artists. My partner, who loves Bowie, was thrilled to hear alternate renditions of "Let's Dance" and "Tonight" and the give and take between Turner and her guest vocalists is exceptional. Turner proves herself a classy lady by being able to give each guest vocalist their space to perform and she makes the songs work quite well as a result.

But the rest of the album truly does become problematic due to the usual conceits associated with "live" albums. The crowd noises are annoying and while the vocals are wonderful, Turner's accompaniment ranges from intrusive (the drums and backing vocals on "River Deep, Mountain High") to unpleasantly different from the original ("I Can't Stand The Rain"). That said, the quality of the rest is enough to enthusiastically recommend it.

The best songs are "Typical Male" (Disc 1) and "Tonight" (Disc 2), the low points are the unmemorable "Back Where You Started" (Disc 1) and the troublingly amelodic "In The Midnight Hour" (Disc 2, and you can bet I never thought I would write that!).

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

* The tenth time I reserve for performances where the concert is so loud or poorly engineered that the listener can hardly hear and/or cannot even pick out the recognizable songs because of how the levels are being mixed, like that Matchbox Twenty concert I once went to . . .


For other album reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here for an organized listing!

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

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment