Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Razor Decision On A Talented Performer All The Best By Tina Turner (2-disc Version!)

The Good: Some decent lyrics and songs, One or two knockout tracks
The Bad: Some predictable rhymes, Canned duets.
The Basics: With 33 tracks, All The Best should be a knockout set, but instead delivers a hit-or-miss collection of a performer's work through the decades.

I've often enjoyed listening to the music of Tina Turner. Indeed, I recall a time several years ago that I was on vacation with several friends and Turner was on one of the late night programs and we all fell silent to watch her perform "I Don't Wanna Fight." We were impressed by how much a woman of her age could rock. She was cool. So, this year, I devoted March to Tina Turner as she became my Artist Of The Month!

When the opportunity came for me to pick up the 2-disc All The Best by Tina (she does not use Tina Turner here for some reason) I did so gladly. Honestly, though, as a relative newcomer to Turner's music, this was probably the Greatest Hits album I've purchased with knowing the fewest songs on it. Consisting of thirty-three tracks, All The Best spans Tina Turner's career from her days with Ike to now.

Let me educate those who might be in the same boat as I was before purchasing this album: Tina Turner is a performer. She's a wonderful performer, but she is a performer, not an artist. I've never owned a Greatest Hits disc that has so few songs written by the artist/performer, which makes sense because most of my favorites are singer-songwriters. Out of the thirty-three tracks, Tina Turner wrote one. Turner wrote "Nutbush City Limits" which is performed on disc one with Ike and it's not one of the better tracks. It's not terribly well written and the music is rather chaotic.

So, Tina Turner is a performer, not an artist. That means most every song on All The Best is, from a matter of perspective, a cover song. There are obvious cover songs, like Tina's amazing presentation of John Waite's "Missing You" or her fun live version of Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love." On the second disc she does not use obvious (at least, not to me) covers and instead goes with duets. She has a decent duet with David Bowie ("Tonight") and a less-than-inspired-duet with Bryan Adams ("It's Only Love"). Personally, the covers work better than the duets.

Tina Turner is a talented pop-rock performer who has the ability to sing provocatively and emotively. What she seems to run into difficulty with is when she is plugged into something that is overproduced and obvious, something that somehow does not fit her performance range and sounds somehow off. So, while Turner was an excellent choice for the Bond-song "Goldeneye" (which is surprisingly listenable outside its context and a decent song in its own right), within two lines on my first listen, I knew the song "Great Spirits" was a song for a Disney movie. It simply didn't fit. There's something disturbing about a woman who can sing about the inhumanity of being a stripper ("Private Dancer") trying to sell a song that seems obviously to go to a sugar-coated animated project.

Tina Turner makes some excellent artistic choices on the album in terms of how produced some of the songs are. "I Don't Wanna Fight" remains an amazing track and by the time we get to "What's Love Got To Do With It" on disc two, we've almost forgotten about that classic song. Some of the tracks, though, have an overproduced quality. "I Can't Stand The Rain" stands out as a track that could have used less production and gone with more of an acoustic, haunting sound.

Ultimately, this two-disc set is hard for me to recommend and it was a razor decision. If I were to listen to this album and pick and choose tracks, I could come up with one solid album and one dud, but I know that the one-disc version of All The Best did not include all the tracks I would have picked. When Turner is on, she's on. When the songs are duds, they simply do not work. And listening to the two discs back to back, we're captured by Turner's range and left feeling like there isn't much that challenges her range. Simply put, Turner knows her vocal range and she stays in it on every track. There's nothing that pushes her envelope.

Maybe that's what her career has been, ultimately, a collection of music written to fit within her range that she sings. Tina Turner becomes a musical storyteller for the ideas and tales of others. What results is, ultimately, thoroughly average. Who will like this album? People who have an appreciation for Tina Turner's music they've heard and want to hear a little more while getting their favorite singles. It's hard to recommend to anyone who was not already a fan and that's probably why I had such a difficult time with it.

The best tracks are "I Don't Wanna Fight" (disc 1) and "On Silent Wings" (disc 2). The worst duds are "Great Spirits" (disc 1) and "It's Only Love" (disc 2).

For other former Artist Of The Month artists I've delved into, please check out my reviews of:
Any Day Now - Joan Baez
Actually With Further Listening - Pet Shop Boys
@#%&*! Smilers - Aimee Mann


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

© 2006, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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