Tina Turner, Private Dancer: Don’t Judge a Dancer by Her Past

This may be a vinyl collector sin, but I generally don’t look through the dollar record bins. I often get tired of how unorganized they are and I figure there is a reason those records are there.

As I was walking by the dollar bin the other day I decided to give it a quick flip through. I found a few albums I thought were worth a dollar. I was not expecting much, but instead of buying a few scratched records, I found my new obsession.

Tina Turner.

Tina_Turner_Private_Dancer_original_vinyl_cover_artNow I already had a few Ike and Tina Turner albums. I think every lover of soul and rock is beholden to “Proud Mary” and “Nutbush City Limits,” but I had never researched her career post Ike. I only knew a few songs. The album I picked up in that dusty dollar bin was Private Dancer. Many critics claim this album to be the comeback of the 1980’s. I was immediately hooked on not only this records hits, but every song on the album.

Here is my track by track breakdown of the album Private Dancer:

“I Might Have Been Queen:” This album starts out with a bang, showcasing Turner’s sultry, yet raspy vocals. It’s a song you find yourself quickly wanting to get up and shake your hair to. This song is reflective of what Turner’s life was previously. From what I’ve read, this song was given to Turner to review with that exact pretense in mind. She even shed a tear reading the lyrics. Although those previous years had been rough, she was ready to move forward. She declares she is a soul survivor, and that it is time to start where she is now.

1366917244_tina-turner-560“What’s Love Got To Do With It:” Here we have the smash number one hit that propelled Turner’s name back into everyone’s household. It’s a soft rock tune, but with a distinct message. This song could have easily been forgotten, but Turner’s vocals add depth that I am still trying to understand. This song clearly shows her then disdain for love and what she had experienced. Her vocals show a vulnerable and struggling woman, yet she sings the song with confidence in who she is. A perfect companion to her life and sequel to “I Might Have Been Queen,” this song clearly paid off in topping the charts and garnering a few Grammys.

“Show Some Respect:” This is another song you just can’t help but move to. It’s a jammer and Turner declares respect for a love she has to protect.

“I Can’t Stand The Rain:” This is the ballad of the whole album by an 80’s definition. Her vocals sound effortless on this track. They are both a gravel road and a velvet lining. She sings of love lost with a slight yearning for it to return, yet her vocals show a strength that she would also be just fine without it.

“Better Be Good To Me:” This song is a plain statement of how any man was to treat Turner after what she had been through. Some of her “calmest” vocals, without her typical growls, are heard on this piece. She wanted to make sure she got her emotions across, while proving she doesn’t always have to be a vocal acrobat to make her point. She was ready to start from where she was. She didn’t want to forget the past, but she is clearly done dwelling.

“Let’s Stay Together:” We can’t expect Tina to leave all the soul behind. Although she is known as a rocker, Tina has never denied the soul that resonates in her voice.  Her vocals bring something completely new to the song. I think she is both wanting to stay together with her man, but she gives off the persona of a very independent woman. He better be good to Turner if he wants to stay together.

“1984:” This is a quick ode to David Bowie who helped Tina secure a contract with Capitol Records. This is another great dance tune that you can see her immaculate legs moving to.

“Steel Claw:” This song is clearly where Turner’s vocals return to their roots. It is easily the most rock orientated song on the album. Her stylings channel those of “Proud Mary” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” Her vocals are suburb on this track, reminding all listeners that although it was time for a new Tina, it was still the same Tina.

“Private Dancer:” On the surface this song seems to be about a stripper or a call girl, but for Turner it is much more. The subdue tone of the song sets the stage for one of Turner’s most memorable performances. She takes us inside the empty eyes she had lived with for many years, both as a performer and partner. For the longest time Turner was used for her vocal agility and magnetic stage performance, while she was also being used in relationships for pure business benefits. She shows how it is absurd to be a performer if you can’t be true to yourself. She loves her audience, but she is more. It was time for Turner to take Tina by the reigns and declare her own prerogative.

Any old music for Turner would not do anymore.

013Since listening to this album, I have scoured every record store in the vicinity for anything by Turner. I want to know where she has been and I want to know where she went and is still going. Her career is a metamorphosis. She transformed from a young lady with every move being directed to an independent songstress that didn’t need supervision. She was the same Tina Turner everyone knew with this album, yet in name only, for now she was a new creature.

It doesn’t surprise anyone how powerful Turner’s vocals are. In this album, she proves again and again that a singer’s vocal interpretation can make the slightest and most extreme difference in the finesse of a song. Every emotion was expressed to its furthest extreme in this album. The genius of this record is that it can easily be listened to during a relaxing jam session, or it can be heard as a thoroughly articulated journey.

Nevertheless, Turner clearly made a comeback with this album. She was performing in Vegas without a record deal prior to this release. Some might have said she was washed up, while others may have thought she had hit her plateau, but she proved that not all of her struggles were in vain.

With this album, she cemented herself as a legend, firmly replacing the “Ike and” before her name with a “The.”

Peak-A-Bryson

The soundtrack of my childhood is that of the great R&B legends. My mom’s car was consistently filled with cassette tapes of Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, Peabo Bryson, and Diana Ross. I became in tune with my soul early in life.

Peabo_Bryson_-_CrosswindsAwhile back, I bought Peabo Bryson’s, Crosswinds. This album is his Capitol records debut from 1978. I don’t even remember where I picked it up or how long I have had it. I remembered that was one of my mom’s favorites and I grabbed it. Since I am now going through my entire collection to see what I haven’t listened to, I decided to give this album the time it deserves.

Yet, that time is still being determined considering that it has been on the turntable for part of the week, through the weekend, and is still playing at the time of this writing.

The album starts out with the title track “Crosswinds,” which I easily get caught up in. This tune set up the album pefectly on what is to become. It contains the smooth stylings and rhythmic patterns of any great R&B song, with a dash of funk, and a pinch of disco.

6c7aeff8db9766f79f22bf6d45872002Next comes “I’m so Into You.” A pure ballad that could easily fit into the Copa in 1956 as well as Studio 54 in 1978. Then comes a pure disco track that had me strapping on my roller skates, “Smile.” Needless to say, my leisure suit was at the cleaners.

The B side of the album keeps the same consistent feel throughout. I especially enjoyed “Spread Your Wings.” This is an up beat song about achieving your dreams, but sang as if whispered into your little darling’s ear. Bryson follows that with “Don’t Touch Me.” This song reminds me of Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait a While,” waiting for that right time where it will mean the most.

He concludes this album with “Love is Watching You.” The only “break-up” song of the album if you will, yet it still doesn’t totally encompass the end. It is an R&B power ballad stating how love can walk in and out of her life, but that heaven is watching her, eluding to future blessings.

What I find extraordinary about this album is that Bryson, at a mere age of 27, wrote and composed all the songs on this album. Each song is very different, yet they distinctly stay in sync. The lyrics barely repeat themselves and you find a new favorite with each listen. Bryson has smooth tenor vocals relative to Marvin Gaye’s, the writings of Lionel Richie, and the spunk of Smokey Robinson.

Tumblr_m55vo1WrRK1qmxcx7No wonder all the articles I read over Bryson have named him the “Kind of Balladers,” with countless praises to his writing ability. This album is his major debut. He was entrusted with a lot for a young man, yet delivered ten fold.

I don’t understand how this album has been hiding so well in my collection. I sure am glad I finally took a peek.

Cher: Cher and Tell

It all began in 2001. My mother rented a VHS at Blockbuster for my entertainment. Knowing how interested I am in music, she decided to rent a concert. That VHS was Cher: Live in Concert (The 1999-2000 Do you Believe tour).MV5BMTkzNTc1MTY0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDU5MDg4._V1_SX214_AL_

Furthermore, I immediately demanded Cher CDs and my mother regretted her decision.

This was a big tour for Cher. It was the first after her smash number one hit “Believe.” I was mesmerized into the evening as each of her elaborate sets unfolded and was confused how one could dye their hair so quickly.

Over the next few years, I collected almost every album on CD (hence, my mother’s financial regret) that I could find of this impeccable performer.  I was completely enamored  by her originality and resilience. I loved her new dance tunes from the albums “Believe” and “Living Proof,” but I equally loved her 80’s, 70’s, and 60’s equivalents.

Throughout these albums, one always stood out to me, and 15 years later I find myself still listening to it. Cher’s self-titled LP in 1987 has always kept my attention differently then her other efforts. She sounds renewed with a new energy in these songs after what was a tumultuous decade and a half in her life. She was a new Cher while distinctly being nostalgic of where she came from.

ChercherThe album opens with the anthem “I Found Someone.” This song is very empowering and Cher’s distinct vocals roll over the beginning notes with a gothic arrangement, taking the listener straight into the guitar and piano wrung “screw you” attitude.

Next is one of my all time favorite Cher songs, “We All Sleep Alone.” This song speaks a truth that many don’t necessarily think about. It’s not a ballad, it’s not an anthem, and it’s not pure rock. It’s raw emotion coming from the lonelieness in all of our souls, something Cher knew all to well. The song just glides over you, like wind rippling through sheets with Cher’s voice setting the climate.

Then there is her “remix” of sorts of the Sonny Bono penned “Bang Bang.” This new arrangement gives this song a new, rougher sentiment. Cher’s vocals are stronger than ever, yet within the song’s lyrics she is still the unlikely victim. These are brilliant, ironic vocals that only Cher can achieve.

Flipping the record to the last song, “Hard Enough Getting Over You” sends yet another message. This song conveys an optimistic message that there is always another chance, even though it’s hard to rid yourself of your past. It is a low amped power ballad sprinkled with ache with a durable spirit. She belts that she can’t say good-bye again, yet the future is in full view. This song signifies Cher closing the door, with no regrets, of her past.

6a00e54ecca8b9883301901c3000fa970bThen there is the rest of the album that I equally love. She serenades us with her tender
power ballad “Main Man,” while we have the pure rock tunes like “Give Our Love a Fighting Chance” and “Dangerous Times” and pure pop tunes like “Perfection” and “Working Girl.” Then there’s this random one that reminds me of a 1980’s aerobic class with high cut leotards, “Skin Deep.” Was Cher thinking about a future video?

Today I have nearly every album she has made, seen her twice in concert, and I might have a poster on my wall. This is always my go to Cher album. This u proves Cher’s vocal ability. It was made before the time that auto tune and various measures took over pop music. Although Cher employs these today, underneath it all, she is a pure vocal acrobat.

This album is a cumulation of bad relationships, being a single mother, and rampant lies from the press attempting to destroy her character. When you look into her history, these emotions are heard clearly in this album. This is an album of strife, tears, and success.

It’s just too good to keep to myself. If you haven’t found someone, tend to sleep alone, have a fondness for vocals that go skin deep, and yet ring in your ear like a bang from a gun, just give me a ring, I’ll Cher this one with you.