Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Tina Turner - Private Dancer (1984)


Released May 1984

This was a most unexpected "comeback" album, from then forty-five year-old Tina Turner, who had been off the scene for many years, despite always retaining a credible reputation. Members of the funk/pop group Heaven 17 were among several producers who helped create what was a contemporary sound for Turner, as opposed to the bluesy r'n'b she made her name with. The sound on here was a slick, polished very eighties sound, mixing current keyboard sounds with a rock sound but also a sort of clubby vibe that made it popular across the board. It was rock, it was pop, it was soul, it was dance. Many of the album's tracks were hits and all of a sudden, Tina Turner became a household name. This was one of the year's biggest-selling albums.


1. I Might Have Been Queen
2. What's Love Got To Do With It
3. Show Some Respect
4. I Can't Stand The Rain
5. Private Dancer
6. Let's Stay Together
7. Better Be Good To Me
8. Steel Claw
9. Help!
10. 1984                                                        

The biggest hits from the album were the slightly reggae-influenced, rhythmic but powerful and undoubtedly very catchy "What's Love Got To Do With It"; a suitably soulful cover of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand The Rain" (despite the superfluous synth interjections); a cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" which took the seventies Memphis soul classic and turned it into an eighties club anthem. I was still young enough to go to nightclubs back then (as they were then called), and this was played all the time; The Beatles' "Help!", which was slowed down and given a wonderfully dramatic gospelly soul makeover and an atmospheric rendition of David Bowie's "1984". The latter was possibly an unusual choice but it surprisingly works. To be honest, I prefer the originals of "I Can't Stand The Rain" and "Let's Stay Together", but feel that both "1984" and "Help!" both offer something markedly different from their originals.

Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler wrote the title track for his own group, but then felt that it would suit a female vocal better, so gave it to Turner. It is a marvellously evocative, atmospheric song, telling of the soulless existence of a private stripper and the faceless men she performs for. A sultry late-night saxophone and gently melodic bass line underpin an impressive vocal.

"I Might Have Been Queen" is the opener, but a strangely overlooked number, which is a shame as it is a pounding, rocking number. It is full of good backing guitar, a solid beat and with a strong vocal. While it displays some unfortunate mid-eighties flaws such as the synthesiser riffs, it is pretty good for an eighties track. "Show Some Respect" slightly re-works the old "Nutbush City Limits" intro before the synthesisers kick in. It is pretty standard eighties rock, pleasant enough, but nothing outstanding. "Better Be Good To Me" is more impressive, a soulful, mid-pace rocker and is followed by the frantic rock of "Steel Claw". Tina's vocal handles this powerful number superbly and the track is a little gem, to be honest.

So there you have it, Tina Turner was back and would put out two more respectable albums before the quality would drop just a bit. During the mid-eighties, she became a huge artist, bigger than she had ever been. It came as a surprise to everyone, including her, I should imagine.


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