Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tina Turner's People Jump The Gun With Simply The Best.

The Good: Generally good music
The Bad: Shorter, There's a vastly better mix of Tina Turner's songs!
The Basics: A disappointing compilation which was later recut with most of these tracks and more, Simply The Best simply isn't the best of Tina Turner's works.

Sometimes, I find myself wrestling to muster up the enthusiasm to write a review and today, I find myself at that place with the latest Tina Turner release I have to review. Simply The Best was released in 1991 and I have absolutely no idea why. In 2004, Tina Turner would release All The Best which was arguably the definitive collection in its two-disc form. How much changed in those intervening thirteen years? Surprisingly little, which is probably why All The Best has all but the five tracks unique to Simply The Best.

Where All The Best utilizes the standard releases of most of Tina Turner's most famous and recognizable songs, Simply The Best uses some alternate cuts and mixes and, frankly, the result is less creative and more cringeworthy. As a result, despite the fact that this one-disc set has many good Tina Turner songs, the tracks unique to it - the final five on the disc - are generic pop-rock which is hardly as distinctive as her usual fare. This makes it exceptionally easy to pass by this particular compilation.

Simply The Best takes up 68 minutes and it contains all of Tina Turner's solo hits through 1991 with five additional tracks, most notably a duet with Rod Stewart, "It Takes Two." Turner's classic song "Nutbush City Limits" appears as a popped up version which is absolutely terrible. Otherwise, Tina Turner is the lead vocalist on every song. She does not play any of the instruments on any of the songs and she was not involved in the production of any of the tracks.

Simply The Best includes well-known Tina Turner hits like "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)," "What's Love Got To Do With It," and "Typical Male." For those who might not have heard those songs in the 1980s and 1990s, Turner's sound is a fairly produced pop-rock sound which is guitar and keyboard dominated, with fairly heavy percussion. The songs are usually dancable and they have a musical force which Turner uses to accent the message she is singing about. So, songs like "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" has an anthemic sound and feel to it, while "I Can't Stand The Rain" has a lonelier, quieter instrumental accompaniment when Turner is singing. Even "The Best" has a brassy quality to it as Turner transforms singsong lyrics into a more forceful song of praise to a lover.

Tina Turner has an impressive vocal range, which she uses on Simply The Best, even the newer songs. Ironically, there are moments in "It Takes Two" where Turner's voice goes lower than Stewart's. Tina Turner shows great range, going both high and low on her new track "Love Thing" and throughout the album, Tina Turner's multi-octave range is skillfully displayed with clear vocals. The only song where Turner's real voice is not terribly clear is "Nutbush City Limits (The 90's Mix)," which has her original vocals sped up and remixed in order to make the classic song sound new.

Lyrically, Tina Turner offers very little new on Simply The Best, which makes sense because it is largely a compilation. Most of the songs are love songs or songs about the loss of love. While there are no new, wonderful songs one hears and feels they absolutely must have, the new content is not all bad. In fact, Turner does a good job of soulfully presenting lines like "Last night we tried to touch but we never got close / Last night we tried to talk, the words got caught in our throats / When we finally fell asleep / We couldn't have been further apart / Look me in the heart / If you think that love is blind / Baby look me in the heart / And you'll see that I'm so crazy about you baby" (“Look Me In The Heart”) that one feels like they must have heard them from Turner before, they are so universal and archetypally Turner. The song resonates well with anyone who has ever felt distanced from a loved one.

Unfortunately, some of the new songs display cracks that listeners of Turner's might have suspected were coming. While many of Turner's earlier works use somewhat predictable rhymes, it is forgivable because Tina Turner was pioneering the way. But on songs like "Love Thing," the rhymes are just unfortunately bad and obvious at times. When Turner sings "Get on board, get on my love thing / Gonna drive you wild / I wanna show you, I wanna hear you sing" ("Love Thing") the listener almost cringes. That same feeling comes with the rhymes of "right" to "tight" and "do" to "you" in “Way Of The World." The new material is not the best work written for Turner.

If it seems like this is a simple review, it is. There's a vastly better compilation with all of the songs, but the new five on here, plus quite a bit more. And the remixes on this disc, like the one of "Nutbush City Limits" is just awful, almost enough to make one wish for any prior recording from when Tina and Ike were still together. This may safely be passed by, despite the presence of some amazing, timeless hit songs.

The best song is "Look Me In The Heart" (it's not, but it's the best of the new tracks and I'm getting real tired of writing that the best track is "Better Be Good To Me," which is on this album), the low point is "Nutbush City Limits (The 90s Mix)."

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
Wildest Dreams
Twenty Four Seven
All The Best (2-disc version)
Tina! Her Greatest Hits


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

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

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