Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Funky, Punky, Rock, Tina Turner's "Break Every Rule" Is Decent '80s Pop-Rock (Still)!

The Good: Decent production, Good vocals, Musically interesting (in a retro-80s way).
The Bad: Short, A bit overproduced.
The Basics: Another strong album by Tina Turner, Break Every Rule is blessed with having songs that are wonderful that were never hits for the performer.

As my musical exploration of the works of Tina Turner concluded, I found myself not feeling the disappointment I anticipated when I chose Turner as my March Artist Of The Month. That anticipated disappointment sprouted up because I knew Turner was more of a performer than a musical artist. When I first learned that, I was tremendously disappointed. Now, I just listen to her music for what it is. And I have come to appreciate some of her albums more than I anticipated I would.

The reason for this comes down to what makes Tina Turner unique. Unlike other musical performers, like Celine Dion or Barbra Streisand, Turner is not limited much by vocal range. So, while Celine Dion stays almost exclusively in her soprano register, Tina Turner roams the scales and she does it quite effectively and with a fluency I would argue had been unheard since Ella Fitzgerald leapt onto the music scene. Turner is in pretty exclusive company with her ability to traverse the scales and registers almost effortlessly and that skill is evident rather frequently on Tina Turner's 1986 album Break Every Rule.

With only eleven songs, occupying 50:42 on c.d., Break Every Rule exemplifies the bulk of Turner's career as a performer. Turner did not write or co-write any of the songs on the album, nor was she involved in the production of Break Every Rule in any way. Turner does provide her awesome vocals, which became exemplified by the hit singles “Typical Male” and “What You Get Is What You See,” but she did nothing else for the album. As well, because Turner was not involved in the creation of the music, it is hard to argue that this was necessarily her musical vision as opposed to what the studio wanted from her. Fortunately for music buyers, Break Every Rule is worth the buy because the best tracks are not the ones found on the numerous Tina Turner compilation albums on the market.

Musically, Break Every Rule is almost the archetypal 1980s pop-rock album. The songs are driven by keyboards and guitars with noticeable percussion and a strong sense of production. There is not a missed note or scratched guitar string on this album, instead, it sounds heavily polished, danceable and generally there are recognizable tunes to the songs. The guitar and keyboard combination makes many of the songs good “crankers,” the type of song fans insist have to be blared to get the full effect of the musical force, but the truth is the guitars do the work just fine at any volume. Songs like “”What You Get Is What You See” and “Overnight Sensation” work quite well because the songs are melodic and clearly have a musical sense to them, even if they do have a polished sound that sounds much more like the music was created by a mixing team than a collection of performers on instruments.

Vocally, Tina Turner does an exceptional job of presenting all of her lyrics clearly. She is smooth and soulful on “Two People” and energetic and ironic on “Till The Right Man Comes Along.” As mentioned before, she has incredible range which she brings to bear on “Break Every Rule.” She can go high and melodic, as she does on “Break Every Rule” (the single), or throaty and deeper, as she does on the single “Break Every Rule.” She even does such a good vocal interpretation of David Bowie on “Girls” that I instantly knew she was performing a Bowie song when I first heard the album!

Lyrically, Break Every Rule is largely about relationships, both finding love and keeping it. I found the superlative song to be the virtually unknown “I’ll Be Thunder.” Turner presents a compelling love song with lines like “There’ll be a storm one night / By you will find my place of hiding / We’ll watch the lights like children / Leave the fortress hand in hand / I’ll be thunder / You’ll be lightning / And we’ll collide on dry land“ (“I’ll Be Thunder”). Turner might not have written the lines, but she presents lyrics with an awesome sense of imagery that the listener may both relate to the visuals her voice evokes as well as the emotions she conjures up.

As well, she sings about the absence of love extraordinarily well. When she sings “When the beat of the drum has faded / The show comes to an and / The stage is clear and loaded / And the highway calls again / I stand and watch the lights go down / In the afterglow of your love / Dreamings all I'm guilty of / Everyday I'm playing tough / But read my mind” (“Afterglow”), anyone who has lost love will be able to relate. Turner makes everything sound personal, so it’s almost a surprise that she did not write any of the lines.

While most of the songs are universal expressions of emotions virtually every listener can understand, she sings about being in the music industry on “Overnight Sensation.” On that song, she makes music of the promises she was made as she got into music. Hearing “And all through the badlands / Rocking on the bandstands / It's so hard in the barbands / When there's no one there who understands / And Lady Luck will pass you by and she will never say yes / You're gonna be an overnight sensation / Gonna be an overnight success” (“Overnight Sensation”), one can almost hear every young ingénue being swindled. Still, the song sounds good and Turner makes it rock.

Ultimately, Tina Turner makes everything sound good on Break Every Rule and this is a wonderful, if obvious pop-rock album. Those who like pop-rock from a strong female vocalist will likely find something to like on this one!

The best song is “I’ll Be Thunder,” the low point is the unmemorable “Paradise Is Here.”

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
Tina Live In Europe
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


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

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

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