Nina Simone, Baltimore: Still Speechless

Some artists you can’t figure out. These artists are often the ones I skip over when I’m choosing someone to write about. If I can’t emotionally get my mind and heart wrapped around their music and voice, how could I put words to it?

One of these artists is Nina Simone. Her voice is as sharp as a razor blade, as extravagant as a fur coat, yet as innocent and simple as a little girl. It penetrates your being and goes straight for the soul. Listening to her can be a spiritual experience.

From my personal collection

I have many of Simone’s albums and with each album, I find a new gem. Sometimes it could just be the way she stylizes a song differently, other’s it’s her own compositions. On one of my recent vinyl hauls, I found her 1978 album, Baltimore.

This album immediately took me by surprise. Nina Simone was singing reggae? I wasn’t complaining. I liked it. Songs like the title track “Baltimore” and her cover of Hall and Oates “Rich Girl” really show a different tone to her voice. It is different than every one of her previous studio albums and I think it was innovative.

Although, this change was not welcomed by Simone. We all know Simone was a complex lady, but I truly believe she had a beautiful soul. In 1977 famed jazz producer, Creed Taylor, signed Simone to his label CTI. Simone was not one to do what she didn’t want to, yet her comment’s made about this album proves she did just that. The sessions were tense and she eventually recorded the album’s vocals in an hour and a half.

Yet, a master piece was still born.

First, I was immediately hooked to the second song “Everything Must Change.” Simone’s vocals glide over the words of this song like second nature. At this point in her life, both personally and professionally, she had experienced change, while also not experiencing enough change. On this recording, Simone’s melancholy vocals continue to take on different shapes to each listener’s situation years later.

Then there is Simone’s second ballad of the album, “My Father.” The song’s lyrics make a complete circle, but Simone’s vocals fill in all the space between the words. It’s brilliance.

From last.fm

On side B I found Simone’s “melody” of traditional Christian songs intriguing. Through my experience with Simone, she doesn’t often give a higher power credit, but in “Balm of Gilead” and “If You Pray Right,” she does just that. Her voice sounds completely content and joyful in “Balm of Gilead,” which is taken straight from the Holy Bible. “If You Pray Right” takes on a complete gospel spin that really isn’t Simone, but it’s a vocal style that many African-American singers get type cast into. She is the High Priestess of Soul though, so she can preach like no other! It’s nice to hear Simone in these less heavy songs as she brings a new identity to both of them.

When I first heard the album I thought it was an interesting avenue Simone traveled down musically. Then I did the research and found that she was in essence, disgusted with the album, but the listener can’t hear that. She gives 110% to a project she distastes. Why?

Nina Simone both, self-perceived and in reality, lived on the back burner. People knew she was always going to give her all and they took advantage of that. Even this could not mask her genius interpretation of emotion.

I’m just going to have to end here because I simply can’t think of anything else to say. Again, Nina Simone has left me speechless.

I Was There…Sort Of– Bobby Darin: Darin At The Copa

rSometimes you find an album that makes you ponder 3 ideas:

  1. I wish this album would never end.
  2. If only time machines were real….
  3. Why the hell wasn’t I born decades ago?

These were my exact thoughts this week as I listened to Bobby Darin’s Darin at The Copa. Unfortunately, I am just now getting into the world of Darin, but he has quickly become one of my new favorites and this album solidified his distinct spot on my shelves.

I have been doing research on Darin and I think it is only fitting for my first post about him to be about this album for both his history and my sake. First, there is the matter that Darin performed this album at the Copacabana (Yes, the one with Lola). After doing some research on Darin, I found that this was his dream venue. He always wanted to play the Copa just like Frank Sinatra, except he wanted to sell more seats. Second, since moving to the New York City area, I am finding the historical music scene that surrounds this town fascinating and I can’t help but tear up when I wonder across these pieces of history.

This album is a collection of songs from Darin’s first appearance at the Copa. By the time his first stint at the Copa concluded, he had shattered their attendance records and performed to rave reviews in nearly every New York publication. He must have been the envy of every performer who regularly frequented the dinner club scene in New York and I think he is still the envy of many young performers today.

Darin At The Copa opens with a medley of an African-American spiritual, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and a song written in the same tone and style, “Lonesome Road.” “Chariot” is a traditional spiritual that has been around since the early 1900’s, whereas “Lonesome Road was written by Nathaniel Shilkret and Gene Austin in 1927 in the style of an African-American spiritual to wide commercial success. Darin pulled these off effortlessly and arranged the medley himself. It was a daring move for the young performer. This album was recorded in 1960 and he was promoting African-American song stylings. Proving, as I have discovered he often does, that he was always a few moments before his time. Change was already long overdue.

Next, Darin goes into the standard “Some of These Days,” followed by his smash hit “Mack The Knife.” He then dives into the music of Cole Porter with “Love for Sale” and “You’d Be Nice to Come Home To.” “Love For Sale” is one of the biggest highlights of the entire album. He sings this song with a finesse of deception and loneliness. He took advantage of his vocals here and went rogue compared to many singers of the day. He then closes side A with another one of his hits, “Dream Lover.”

Side B opens with another song arranged by Darin, “Bill Bailey.” Oddly, this song also has roots in “Dixieland” and African-American tradition. This underlying tone shows that Darin was trying to be a change agent of the time not only with his vocals, but with his social conscience.  He then goes into the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “I Have Dreamed” showing he had the vocal ability as a classic singer and superb song interpreter.

Darin then goes deeper into his jazz stylings with “Alright, O.K., You Win.” This optimistic tune admits the spell a woman has over a man and is then coupled with a medley of “By Myself” and “When Your Lover is Gone.” “By Myself” is one of my favorite compositions and Darin sings this song with the heartbreak tone this song deserves. Next, he mixes the jazz scene up by throwing in his interpretation of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” on which he also played the piano. Lastly, he closes out the album with a song he claims helped start this direction of his career, “That’s All.”

Then, against my wishes, the album concludes.

This record had me sitting at the center table of the Copa watching Darin’s electric performance in

American singer and film actor Bobby Darin (1936 - 1973) rehearsing in London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

American singer and film actor Bobby Darin (1936 – 1973) rehearsing in London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

person. I literally looked at my needle a few times to see if it could contain the music. Darin’s pure energy resonates with the listener 56 years later, as if the listener was there. Listening to this album is being in the presence of Darin. His vocals, energy, character, and personality shone as bright as it did in 1960.

I’m afraid if I was at the performance, I might have needed shades.

This album proves that a singer never truly passes and that their impact can touch countless generations through black gold (and if you like that digital stuff). The mastering of this album is done to perfection. I am amazed how Darin was able to jump from Cole Porter to Ray Charles, while mixing in his own compositions and arrangements. This vinyl caught a performer in their natural habitat and captured a brilliant moment in both Darin’s catalog and music history.

With this album, I was able to catch a glimpse of Darin’s high-octane performance style that every performer should strive for. This album also shows the true art of performance and it sadly proves it’s demise in our overly commercial, mechanical, music industry.

Which makes me ask the profound question…..why the hell was I born in 1990?

 

 

Yesterday is Not Over: The Sound of Melinda Doolittle

As I have dived deeper into the music listening world of vinyl albums, I have found a culture emerge, especially in the realm of vintage vinyl. I have vinyl records ranging from the 1940’s to today, but there is a different quality to some of my more dated albums and artists.

Back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s performers had a real task on their hands. Their career could not simply evolve around annual albums and recordings. These performers had to prove themselves time and time again in front of audiences. They had one shot to prove who they were, if it was an audience of 5 or broadcast to millions of people across the world. Their performance and raw talent defined their success.

FOX+American+Idol+Finale+Farewell+Season+Arrivals+1CsQg0FYyxRlThese performances did not have rewind, pause, or “do over” opportunities. It was a one shot game. If they missed, the audience in front may walk away, but if they made it, they had audiences for a lifetime.

That is exactly why I am a fan of Melinda Doolittle. Many of you will remember her from American Idol season six where she came in 3rd, yet I remember her for her timeless performances and how she encompasses the vinyl culture.

I recently sat down with Doolittle via Skype for a one on one conversation about her career, performance style, and what the music world means to her. After speaking with her one on one, I can tell you she is an artist of sincerity, skill, and raw talent.

To know Doolittle’s career and to understand her character and ambition, one must first start at American Idol. Ironically, this was a competition based solely on performance. We quickly began discussing different aspects of her season on American Idol, like what was it like to have Diana Ross as a mentor and the audition process. Doolittle told the story of how she went to try out for American Idol with a group of friends, frankly not expecting to get anywhere.

“When my friend talked me into auditioning for Idol, I thought of it like a joke. First of all, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Secondly, that I would make it as far as I did.”

This wasn’t a lack of confidence on Doolittle’s part though, she was simply content in her line of work. She had become a “first call” back up singer in Nashville. Often producers would wait for Doolittle to come into the studio and lay down background vocals for different artists, including Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Michael McDonald.

“I loved singing background and I had the delusion that when the show was over that I would go back to that…It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to have to do the artist thing.”

Many of Doolittle’s performances dominated season six of American Idol. She got rave reviews for many of her performances from the judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Her first big breakthrough was her rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” after which Jackson said she was the one to beat. Cowell began to call Doolittle his personal favorite. When she was eliminated in the top three Cowell has remarked that she should have won.

Although, Doolittle was actually at ease when she didn’t win the American Idol crown. She said she was content and “not upset at all” when Ryan Seacrest called her name to be eliminated.

a98cdbaa5e964c4c82ab029d7d201700“The fact I made it to 3rd doesn’t sound right in my head and I never expected it, but it forced me to learn I really did have a voice as an artist. It taught me what my voice was.”

American Idol may have taught Doolittle what her voice was, but what she channels in her talents today is remarkable.

After season six, American Idol went on to set up meetings for Doolittle with various labels, most of tem being Christian labels. Doolittle, who is an avid Christian, didn’t want to sign with a Christian label.  Although she is a woman of strong faith and her concerts today are not complete with out a few gospel numbers, she wanted to make a different kind of record.

In the end, Doolittle was happy with the path her career initially took. She was free of a contract and in charge of her own musical fate. Doolittle began to shop around labels and eventually signed with Hi-Fi Records and recorded her debut album Coming Back To You. This was Doolittle’s coming out record for she took 10 steps up to the front mic for a full record. Now she needed backup singers.

“Idol forced me into being an artist, which is great. I feel like God tricked me into actually being an artist.”

Although this gave Doolittle freedom, she was also sceptical. When Doolittle began looking for labels she didn’t know what kind of music she wanted to do. She had already ruled out a Christian record at the moment and she was now ruling out pop, for a very observant reason.

“I feel when I try to sing pop it’s like an elephant stomping on a track. The track is all nice, light, and airy, and then I sing. I have a heavy voice.”

18888-coming-back-to-youSo Coming Back to You resulted in a pure soul album that was reminiscent of Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, and Al Green. Doolittle said that she is just an old school girl and she didn’t know anything different. She made an album that was her style and by her own rules.

Doolittle has gone on to release various recordings that have received praise. Her most recent set of recordings is an extended play titled You’re The Reason in 2013. These tracks find Doolittle experimenting with modern R&B with a dash of pop while keeping in touch with her old-school, soulful roots. With this EP Doolittle co-wrote 3 of the 7 tracks. Writing was some what new for Doolittle and this process became therapeutic.

“When I went into the studio we were supposed to write a fun, up-beat, really great song. They asked me ‘What has been going on in your life?’ These people on Twitter had just reamed me. I posted a picture and they were saying ‘you’re so ugly.’ They were saying the worst things and I was so hurt by it, but I was trying to be strong about it…I needed to find out what my reaction to that is.”

Rolling with the punches was not an option for her and it was time to take a stand in her professional and personal life. Doolittle said she really didn’t find out who she was till about two years ago when this EP was released. This is obvious in the song content and the history behind these recordings.

melindadoolittle-epAlthough Doolittle had recorded with success, she stated that making records was not her favorite aspect of being an artist. So instead of delving deeper into her recordings we began to discuss her favorite way of delivering music: live performance. She was quick to say why she loved singing live.

“If there is not an audience I am bored out of my mind.”

Since American Idol Doolittle has performed around the world. She has performed at such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall and The White House, amoungst many others. These experiences led Doolittle to look at making music differently then the industry’s generic formula. She decided to define herself through performing, not an album.

“From now on I’m going to let the shows determine the record. A lot of people let the record determine the show.”

Today, Doolittle decides what works with her voice by watching an audience’s reaction. It’s all about what the crowd brings out in her at that moment. The song has to work for both her and the people she is singing for. Then, I was curious what the determining factors assisted Doolittle in making musical choices.

“It’s the give and take with the audience. It doesn’t have to be because of applause. Sometimes I see it in somebody’s eyes, somebody cries when I’m singing or just like, I see joy on people’s faces in the audience….If their joy matches the joy I have singing it, then I found the song that works for both of us.”

Melinda_Doolittle_performs_in_the_East_Room_of_the_White_House

Singing at The White House.

For Doolittle it is completely about the performance of the music in the here and now. Sure, she makes brilliant recordings, but that’s not the only aspect she is focused on when it comes to music. She stated how she didn’t care about the production or how grand the show was, the most important thing to Doolittle is how her music connects with an audience. She likes to see this first-hand, when she has her one chance to prove to the people immediately in front of her that she is a true artist with real talent.

This is a little reminiscent of days past.

“I need people to have an experience when they come to a show. I need it to be an escape, because the world we live in is not fun.”

Number one songs and awards don’t determine Doolittle’s status as a musician, nor does she particularly care about accolades. An artist’s true mission should be the music, the message, and the performance. If the music doesn’t resonate what does it mean? If the performance isn’t an experience, why would you go?

Doolittle isn’t of the old school, she’s of the real school. She can really sing and she can really perform.

She doesn’t take music lightly and she is a master of her song in its rawest environment, a live performance. This is what the singers of yesterday possessed, but that doesn’t mean it is an antiquated idea. This is what I believe is the vinyl culture. The reason I collect vinyl is for its genuine, warm, and pure vocals. Basically, the over all performance.

Vintage vinyl has within its groves some of the best, unaltered voices and performances of some of the greatest artists. It took a certain caliber to make a record and perform when these albums were made. Doolittle is of the vinyl caliber.

Doolittle does not take this feat lightly and she is aware of the torch she is carrying. She explained how it meant the world to her when people compliment her and tell her how she channels the great soul and classic artists.

Cnb2kwmUkAANGVi.jpg-large“I met Percy Sledge before he died. He stopped me backstage at an event we did together. He said ‘You carry our mantle and there aren’t many who will. Please don’t loose that. Please continue to do this. Promise me that you will.’ I was like ‘Oh yes sir'”

As I talked with Doolittle and as I have listened to her music, I have fumed over so many names in my head of who’s mantle she is carrying. I’ve thought Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, and many more. The true question is now, how does Doolittle want to be remembered? Who does she look up too.

“I want to be Barbra [Streisand] with a side of Gladys [Knight].”

That, my fellow vinyl collectors, is the essence of a true performer, one that belongs on vinyl. Doolittle reminds me of the legends and performers that have come and gone, but the most important thing Doolittle reminds me is that….

Yesterday is not over.

Check out Doolittle’s latest performance with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox and hear Toxic like you’ve never heard it….

What I Learned at Rydell High

Before there was tween boy bands, glee clubs, and Justin Bieber there was Bobby Rydell.  To be honest there really isn’t much of a comparison, but that puts him in modern language.

I stumbled upon Rydell on YouTube. I was searching the song “My Coloring Book” and he was the only male version of the song I could find. This is one of my favorite songs and Rydell’s version is often overlooked, but it is one of the best. After this encounter I immediately began searching for his records at all my vinyl stops.

FullSizeRender 7One of my first finds was Bobby Rydell…Salutes The “Great Ones.” Rydell was only 19  years old when he released this album. As the liner notes state, he was already a staple on such TV shows as the Perry Como TV shows and Red Skeleton shows as well as a sought after act at The Copa and The Sahara. Not to mention he had already garnered 4 top ten hits.

This album by Rydell takes an interesting turn in his small yet accomplished catalog. Saluting the greats that came before you is not just honorable, but it is quite daring. He was setting himself up for failure. He was singing songs that only the greats, like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland sang with Broadway standards sprinkled in. How could he compare?

Rydell decided to play by his own rules, translating these songs into a “1961” vibe.

He opens the album with Al Jolson’s “Mammy.” A song that has been adapted in many different compositions. This is essentially a melted down version of “Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody.” He gives this song a boyish charm with a more modest aura.

He then goes into Sinatra’s “That Old Black Magic.” There is never another Sinatra, but Rydell again accomplishes this song with ease accompanied by a more rhythmic backing. He concludes side A with the Gypsy anthem “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Taking on Ethel Merman is like teetering off a cliff, but he did it with debonair and classic charm instead of Merman’s usually brashness.

FullSizeRender 6Side B contains some real gems starting with the Steve Allen penned “This Could Be The Start of Something New.” Again, Rydell’s arrangers placed the song at a speeder tempo. Instead of the gentler and special aura that only Ella Fitzgerald could give this song, Rydell gives this tune a remix worthy of American Bandstand or Shindig. The same concept can be found in his renditions of “So Rare” and “There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder.”

By the end of the album, Rydell easily wrapped all the ladies around his finger with “The Birth of The Blues.” This song demands answers with its perfectly timed pauses and the way Rydell places the lyrics in a “questionable” phrase. I think there were a few girls fainting at the foot of the stage.

This album is a perfect reflection of what was happening in music culture in 1961. Rockabilly was starting to hit and all the churches were worried about this new “rhythmic” music. The classic pop style of the greats was being placed on the back burner for this new rock and roll experiment.

Rydell attempts to touch both these audiences with this album. His crooning singing style fit in perfectly with the Dean Martins and Jack Jones’ of the time, yet he knew there was something else on the horizon. Although this album may not have been a huge success it is reflection of the development of music and the confusion that both artists and record companies were going through in this transitional time.

This album proposes an idea. It was experimental at the time when experiments were shunned. Rydell’s album not only serves as listening pleasure, but as an artifact of the evolution of modern music. Basically he gave the Great American Songbook and a light, but daring, Rockabilly twist.

Until Then We Have Steve and Eydie

Before there was Kim and Kanye or Beyonce and Jay-z, there was Stevie and Eydie.

FullSizeRenderI discovered Eydie Gorme a few years ago when my mom stumbled upon her solo album, Don’t Go to Strangers. I was immediately hooked to Gormé’s vocals. Her vocals go every where, moving from high to low and then side to side. I’m pretty sure they reach uncharted terriotory. She can equally convey humor as easy as she can strike you with a ballad. Gormé is easily one of the greatest vocalist of the 21st century.

Next, I first learned of Steve Lawrence through a few Steve and Eydie albums, until the day I found his 1962 solo album, Winners! I became a fan almost instantly when I heard his renditions of “Who’s Sorry Now?” and “Moon River.” It was a different side of Lawrence that I had not picked up on in his duets with Gormé.

Together they were an anomoly. When listening to Steve and Eydie it is easy to tell that they are the pinnacle of celebrity, musical duos. Gormé and Lawrence remained married until Gormé’s death in 2013. One can sense the love they had for each other when listening to their recordings. The songs they sing don’t even need words. They could simply speak gibberish and still convey the love they had for each other.

FullSizeRender 2This love is evident on a compilation album I found at a thrift store on Sunday. This album, The Longines Symphonette Society Proudly Presents Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé Together, gives the listener the tip of their heart-shaped iceberg. The album begins with the budding love song, “This Could Be The Start of Something” and quickly turns to their humorous sides with “I Remember it Well” (my personnel favorite) and “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.”

Side B keeps the love alive with their Grammy award-winning song, “We Got Us.” The duo then shows off their acting chops with the semi-breakup, 50’s do wop inspired “You Can’t Be True, Dear.” This showed their talent of delivering a song regardless of content. The album concludes with the Christmas staple “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which is easily one of the best renditions of this song recorded.

Looking through my collection I realized that I have many of Steve and Eydie’s duet albums, but this one gives the best summary of their performances. Hopefully one day we can all experience a love like theirs. Until then, we have their recordings to give us a glimpse of what’s to come.

 

A Journey, The Brush and The Canvas

Life is full of journeys through family and friends, through your career, and through different life experiences. Everyday we wake up to embark on a new excursion, yet we are losing a subtle and contributive art form that has long been a companion through these journeys…the album.

imagesThe music album is being lost in-between gigabytes and a microwave society. In today’s time we want things quick and perfect. We don’t have time to sit and wait. We need it now and if it’s not supplied, we move on. This is clearly seen in the evolution of music and how it is now being produced. No longer do we buy full albums of artists, but instead we purchase the individually well-produced singles. The rest of the album has turned into perceivable waste.

Oddly, this evolution finds its root in the once archaic distribution of music. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, music began to be widely distributed by 10” vinyl records often called 78’s. These 78 RPMs (rounds per minute) often contained one song on each side of the vinyl disc. Although due to movie soundtracks and artists who recorded more than two songs at a time, these discs began to be provided in a book with individual sleeves for each vinyl.They would range from 10-20 pages, essentially creating an “album” of vinyl records.

$_1Artists began to embrace this concept and the 33 RPMs, 12” record was born. It could
now contain anywhere from 8-13 songs or more depending on the manufacturing of the disc. Artists were now given a larger canvas to paint their recordings on. One or two songs per release was not any longer a restriction. As time kept rolling and thousands of albums were being made, a new art form started to appear on these 12” discs, the concept album.

Concept albums began with the great American songbook musicians, including Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. They would record an album with one general theme. Each song was a new stroke of the paintbrush and by the end you had a full picture.

Towards the mid 1960’s into the 1970’s, concept albums took another turn. Instead of creating an over all theme, they began to create a story. Picture a pure audio movie. This is seen distinctively in The Beach Boys Pet Sounds and The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band and later in albums such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall and David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane.

Similarly, this trend then carried on to the idea of recording concerts live and releasing them on vinyl discs. In this regard, people who were unable to attend a concert of a particular artist were able to experience the sensation and aura of a live performance. Each recording was “one of a kind”, providing listeners with a more candor approach to artists. Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive and Aretha Franklin’s Aretha in Paris are perfect examples of this impression.

digital-music-converter-1Today, this art form is being lost in the array of music distribution and format. This began with the creation of file sharing sites Napster and Limewire. Once those were deemed illegal, the creation of the iTunes store and the purchase of individual tracks on sites like Amazon now provided this service. No longer did you have to buy an album for a particular song. One was not automatically forced to listen to the rest of the artist’s picture, but one could now create their own image of artists by downloading songs fitting their prerogative. This movement has forced record companies and artists to focus all their energies in a select few tracks of an album. These tracks are the singles and the others just become mediocre fillers that barely see the light of day.

Incidentally, this has resulted in the degradation of the album, which has also resulted in the simplification of individual artists. It is not often we find the overall performer who can sing and touch on every kind of song to create any concept.

Now there are still artists and albums that champion this idea, such as Adele’s 21 and Eminem’s Relapse, but these are few and far between. Yet, the music industry is going to continue to follow down the path of dumbed down albums at the price of genius singles.

$T2eC16V,!zEFIfKbzlz-BSYQl55-MQ~~60_12Although artists are beginning to take back this art form with the resurgence of the 12 “,
33 RPM, vinyl record. Nevertheless, the sales of these records are not enough to save the album. In the larger picture, these are appreciated by a few, while the majority are simply satisfied with the iTunes top songs chart or Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” play list.

In the end, the concept album evolved to take listeners on journeys essential to life. Music is the one intangible object that occupies nearly every part of your brain. This gives music the power to channel emotion like no other medium, providing every set of feelings imaginable. This is the essence of what is being lost through an ever-evolving negligent and impatient society. We want quick music to give us a quick high, yet we are robbing artists of their full potential and our own solace in the art of the full, concept album.

Most importantly, we are erasing creativity for the sake of time. We now lose ourselves in data and work, while neglecting how we can take part in art and its many forms. The album and its concepts provide the escape, relaxation, and comfort desperately needed in today’s society. Albums and their concepts provide journeys and escapes that everyone needs, but we just simply don’t have the time. Society no longer gives the artist the brush to paint the full picture. We barely get finger paintings.

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.”