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Class ?

Main Category: Dance Pop
Also applicable: Funk/R'n'B, Soul Music
Starting Period: The Interim Years
Also active in: The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day



Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Tina Turner fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Tina Turner fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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A proper introduction will follow, as usual... for now, I just have to express a certain feeling of surprise that no web reviewer has reviewed Tina as of yet, not even Wilson & Alroy, who offer their take on most major soul/R'n'B outfits. Is Tina considered too "mainstream" for them? (More 'mainstream' than Whitney Houston??) Too primitive? Too cheap? Whatever. I'm not that much into soul and R'n'B, but I dig Tina Turner a lot anyway, and she's certainly important enough to deserve a place on this (or any similar) site.

Unfortunately, my collection is currently only limited to pure T.T. solo records - apart from a meagre hit collection which doesn't even include "Proud Mary", I have nothing by Ike & Tina Turner Review, which is often supposed to be her most interesting period. Well... we'll see about it eventually.



Year Of Release: 1975
Overall rating =

Dated mid-Seventies R'n'B... still way, WAY cooler than dated Eighties R'n'B, doncha think?

Best song: BABY GET IT ON

Track listing: 1) Under My Thumb; 2) Let's Spend The Night Together; 3) The Acid Queen; 4) I Can See For Miles; 5) Whole Lotta Love; 6) Baby Get It On; 7) Bootsey Whitelaw; 8) Pick Me Tonight; 9) Rockin' And Rollin'.

As everybody who's the tiniest bit concerned about that hideous festering marsh called MAINSTREAM knows, Tina Turner didn't have her big commercial breakthrough until Private Dancer in 1984, with the hits and the videos and the dollar trucks and everything that constitutes the basis of a fuckin' comeback. However, not even mainstream-oriented guys truly know that Mrs Turner has, er, "turnered" out several solo albums in the late Seventies as well. All of them flopped; yet even so, some of her best solo work can actually be found on these rare chunks o' collectible plastic - and for some people, these records might even be more treasurable, since they yield us a Tina Turner that's neither burdened with a glossy superstar image nor with generic, lifeless Eighties' production values.

Right, so predictably instead of generic Eighties' production values, here we have to deal with generic Seventies' production values. But I do assume it's obvious to everybody concerned that if we're talking generic production values, the Seventies can at least boast real musicians playing real instruments, not just hastily programmed drum machines and equally hastily programmed synthesizer rhythms. The arrangements on Acid Queen cannot boast a lot of creativity, and Tina's backing band is professional, but not particularly inspired or technically awesome; yet despite this, the music still manages to come alive, and the synthesizers - of which there's plenty - naturally fit in with the rhythm section, the funky guitars, and the traditional orchestration.

In terms of material, Acid Queen is a hodge-podge. The first side features Tina performing several covers - interestingly enough, all songs by snotty white boys who started out covering "black" material themselves; two Who songs, two Stones songs, one Zepster epic. It is possible that this was an attempt to capitalize on previous successes like 'Proud Mary', supported by some sort of weird idea that such "tributes to tributors" might actually be in popular demand. (They weren't). The second side, on the other hand, most probably just consists of several rusty Ike era leftovers (I don't really know much about this recording - it's supposed to be Tina's solo debut, but somehow 'Baby Get It On' manages to find her dueting with Ike. Was this supposed to be some sort of nostalgic thing or what?). But despite the confusion - or maybe owing to the confusion - both sides turn out to be a whole lotta fun.

I'll be the first to admit all of the five covers bring in a whiff of cheese. So what? Isn't that rather usual for the R'n'B business? The important question is: are the melodies left intact? Well, no, they aren't. Not if you try to really remember how they go - the power chords of 'I Can See For Miles', the piano line in 'Let's Spend The Night Together', etc. There's been some changes made. But they do not concern the main points of the songs. They all have a unifying theme, if you follow, except for maybe 'Let's Spend The Night Together': they're sung from a position of strength, with the protagonist basically trying to get across the complex message of "shut up and do what you're told". Of course, apart from 'Acid Queen' itself, these songs used to be sung from a male perspective, but now that Tina Turner is free from the shackles of the male, there goes sweet revenge on the ungentle sex! It's the guy that's under the proverbial thumb now, the guy's activities that can be seen for miles and miles, the guy who needs coolin', baby I ain't foolin' - and Tina delivers the message with glee that is anything but artificial.

You know what? You can shoot me on the spot if you like, but I almost end up preferring Tina's steamy version of 'Whole Lotta Love' to the original. Yes, Jimmy Page's fiery guitar workouts are sorely lacked (but I must say that the guitarists on here do a pretty good job of 'funking up' the basic track), BUT the song is ideally suited - of course! - for Tina's sizzling vocal style; she rips those verses out of her throat like the wimpy Robbie Plant could only have dreamed of. Sadly, the mid-section is underdeveloped: I can only imagine the way Tina could have performed the 'orgasm' section (remember that more than suggestive bit of performing in Gimmie Shelter?), but they skip over it quickly. Hmph. I suspect censorship here.

'Let's Spend The Night Together' doesn't come across nearly as convincingly (and I think that this delicate little Britpop number isn't all that suitable for a rough R'n'B treatment anyway), but the other Stones cover and the Who covers are swell, particularly 'Acid Queen', of course. Here let it be brought to mind that Tina actually played the Acid Queen part in the Tommy movie that year - it's a bit funny, of course, that such a ridiculously dated, clumsy, typically-Seventies movie like Tommy gave at least three rock stars an extra boost in 1975 (besides Tina, there was Eric Clapton with the revamped 'Eyesight To The Blind' and, of course, Elton John with 'Pinball Wizard' as a big hit). Note, however, that, as far as I understand, the song here is done in an arrangement quite different from Tommy: The Movie; it's actually a bit more restrained here.

That said, I still prefer the second side - four excellent Ike originals on there (unless the 'Turner' credits actually refer to Tina herself, but somehow I doubt it), and all of them kick serious rock'n'roll ass. Like I said, 'Baby Get It On' is a leftover Ike/Tina duet, and it's amazing, supposed to be played at maximum loudness and featuring all the vocals, saxes, drum beats and basslines merge together in one big energy-filled fireball; a great showcase for displaying this understated duo's chemistry. 'Bootsey Whitelaw' is slow and a bit "talking blues-y" in essence, not unlike Rod Stewart's 'Blind Prayer', but blending a slow bluesy pattern with an almost disco-ish arrangement - weird effect, really. 'Pick Me Tonight' is pure disco, with disco basslines and everything, but what's wrong with disco if it's done so great, with cool vocal hooks and that trademark ear-destructive "Tina wheeze" on the chorus - 'baby pick me toni-i-i-ight"? And no Donna Summer yet. Finally, 'Rockin' And Rollin' is simply 'Baby Get It On Vol. 2', only without Ike this time.

All in all, there's nothing revolutionary on here, but when was Tina ever revolutionary, apart from her social stance? Just looks like an excellent, highly underrated R'n'B record to me... and if by any chance you feel put down by Tina's monster Eighties hits, you're well recommended to revert to this minor gem and see that it's not just the dynamics that used to make her so great (although this album sure is dynamic), but a fine combination of all kinds of ideas, diversity, fair production and real talent. Yeah, you got that right.


ROUGH **1/2

Year Of Release: 1978

This and the following album are very hit-and-miss, but that's to be expected: if Acid Queen was saved by a wise choice of covers, good taste in arrangements and a shadow of Mr Ike still pervading the sessions, Rough is the real start of Tina totally on her own, and not a particularly inspired one. True to the trends of the day, Rough is more or less equally divided between flashy, pompous disco numbers and equally flashy glam-pop that immediately dates the album to the epoch it came out of. Producer Bob Monaco gives the record more or less the same feel as contemporary Rod Stewart albums - that is, a very even, unmoving and eventually just a plain dull one. All the players are professional and slick, but from now on it's only Tina's vocal deliveries that matter.

Which isn't that much of a problem - after all, this is generic R'n'B we're speaking of. But are these vocal deliveries any good? Well... sometimes. I would single out 'Fire Down Below' as one of those inflaming mini-classics that tend to be forgotten; on this, rather common, blues-rock number Tina gives out a great performance. You could almost smell and visualise that actual fire burning down below as she spits out the lyrics. Woof. Great drivin' power on there.

Unfortunately, nothing else even comes close. Well, I suppose we could also go ahead and try to appraise Tina doing Elton John's 'The Bitch Is Back', since it really should have taken a lot of gall for a woman to perform a song of that title, at the time at least. (Not that 'The Bitch Is Back' is actually misogynistic - Bernie Taupin had written far more straightforward songs than that one). But on the other hand, I'd still take the original over the cover - the only thing Tina has to offer is her lungs, and last time I listened, Elton's lungs were quite strong and not any less expressive as well. I mean, what the heck, it's just a nearly note-for-note rendition. At least on 'Let's Spend The Night Together' and 'Whole Lotta Love' we didn't have Tina overdub her vocals karaoke-style onto the instrumental tracks of the Stones or Led Zeppelin! Here, I wouldn't be surprised if... well, you get me...

Anyway, the rest of the tracks are nothing special - I can only judge them by the fun quotient, nothing else. And fortunately, the faster, more aggressive numbers do have that fun quotient, for the most part. 'Roots Toots Undisputable Rock And Roller' rolls along groovily, a fine tune to wiggle your ass to. 'The Night Time Is The Right Time' is at least better than the CCR version (which is, by the way, one of the very very very few CCR tunes I don't like at all), because Tina bothers to sing the entire lyrics instead of repeating the same verse over and over again. Funny, but guitarist Lenny Macaluso delivers a very Fogerty-like solo and keeps adding minimalistic, pretty guitar licks very much in John's style. Alert! Creedence fans in the audience!

The disco stomp of 'Fruits Of The Night' and 'Viva La Money' is far less effective, though, unless it's really of no importance to you if you wiggle the aforementioned ass to the sounds of good ol' rock and roll or brand new formulaic disco (which has long since been transferred to the status of "good old" as well, or "bad old" depending on your sense of mercy and generosity). And what really makes me go to sleep are the ballads, scattered here and there - not a single one dares to even approach memorable. The cover of 'Funny How Time Slips Away' is at least a cover of a well-known song, but I still prefer the far more expressive and humane version of Bryan Ferry, or at least the sincere, humble version of Al Green. And the rest just goes nowhere - generic 'soulful' atmosphere that doesn't move me an inch. Stomp my foot, that's another matter; but jerk out tears? No thanks!

Not that I'm tremendously disappointed or anything - Rough is just a typical product of its epoch, nothing else. There's been better and there's been worse, and in fact, even when compared with some of Tina's 'classic' Eighties' albums, it's not that bad at all. It's just that with a little more self-control and refinement, I think that Tina could have delivered far more than just a 'half-decent' record like this. Then again, it should be remembered that it was a hard time for her - she was more than lucky to get a record contract, so she simply had to take what they offered her. Oh, and, for the record, the album has the best sleeve on a Tina Turner solo album ever. She looks mah-velous in that white outfit. Now the only thing we need is a couple of Gibb brothers standing around flashing their medallions, and the picture is set. Cheers!



Year Of Release: 1979

A little better, but the public was not convinced anyway; despite a weak attempt at promotion and a whole bunch of singles from the album, it crashed into the dust and left Tina without a recording contract for five years, during which she had basically to start from scratch. One can't wonder at all the accidents and small irrational misfortunes of life - Love Explosion, in general, is hardly much worse than Tina's Eighties stuff, yet it took the Eighties to make her a big star on her own anyway. Ah well, I just guess that in 1979, the "disco quota" was already overfilled, with Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor and other stars filling all the top spots - as opposed to the mid-Eighties, when Tina's emergence coincided with a sudden commercial lust for "modernized R'n'B" (which also spawned Whitney Houston and the like, well you probably know better than me).

Anyway, Love Explosion is, of course, just a typical product of its era, and as it was, the record alternates between really high energy danceable tunes and lame sappy balladeering stuff (okay, so from a certain perspective they're equally lame, but at least the danceable stuff has hooks). The slightly Latin-tinged 'Music Keep Me Dancin', with its prominent brass section and excellently mixed basslines and memorable chorus is probably the best of the lot, and actually doesn't sound as slick as you probably think it is. The bad news is I can't tell you anything about the players... I have the record in MP3 and it's dang near impossible to find any information on it over the Web, as it's been out of print for years and has very slim chances of ever returning back to that blessed state. But whoever it is blowing that sax, he does it damn good.

Likewise, the title track has some excellent funky guitar on there - generic by all means, but hey, the Bee Gees didn't have even that on Saturday Night Fever. The playful instrumental middle section, with call-and-response battles between guitars, synths and brass, extends the song to the required length (almost seven minutes) but hardly seems out of place. The two tracks should, I think, rank up there with all the 'quality disco' material of the Seventies; I couldn't say that for the shorter, single-oriented material, though, like 'Sunset On Sunset' and 'On The Radio' - essentially sounds like abbreviated and :de-instrumentalized versions of the former two, and I have no interest in them after sitting through the long grooves.

There are also a couple 'serious' numbers on here, intended as 'soulful rockers' rather than mindless dance numbers, and they aren't all that bad, not 'You Got What I'm Gonna Get', at least. That one has got a good drive to it, with heavy guitars contrasting with 'heavy' orchestration, and it could probably qualify for a solid late period Elton John number or something like that. It's got that Elton Johnish mood to it, you know. The ballads, once again, don't move me one single bit, though. 'Just a little lovin' early in the morning beats a cup of coffee?' Hmm, well, that one is debatable, Tina. (I do have to admit though, that the orchestral sweep of 'Just A Little Lovin' is very professionally and cleverly constructed).

In any case, at least she's honestly trying on all of these songs. There's some really excellent singing on about every track, and really, Love Explosion does a good job at extolling her performing talents from every angle - the sexy disco dancer, the sensitive gal, the... er, well, that's all, actually. But whoever wants more than that? Ah well, one could actually say that Love Explosion suffers from being too rooted in disco, at a time - the tail tail end of the Seventies - when disco was just about to nosedive like a crashing plane, and had the producers bothered to have Tina experiment in a couple more styles, the record would have been more appreciated. But essentially, it's just a severely dated example of good clean fun, no more, no less.


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