[9 January 2009]
PopMatters Interviews Editor
There is one thing that prevents Tina! from being the definitive Tina Turner retrospective, and, sadly, it’s something that was easily preventable.
Plain and simple: this album does not include all of Tina Turner’s hits. Some may quaff at the fact that there are only two hits from her days with Ike Turner (the 1966 Phil Spector-helmed cut “River Deep—Mountain High” and the bizarre 1973 track “Nutbrush City Limits”), but, really, this compilation isn’t billed as an Ike & Tina hits package, so that’s forgivable. What is not forgivable is that some of Turner’s most endearing tracks are either A) not here, or B) presented in less desirable, alternate versions. Though Turner is no stranger to the compilation game (since the turn of the millennium, we’ve been treated to Simply the Best , All the Best , and The Essential Collection ), we’ve at least come to expect better quality than what we’re treated to with Tina!.
First off, it should be noted that all of Turner’s ‘80s mega-hits are present: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”, “The Best”, “Private Dancer”, and her respective themes for the movies Goldeneye and Mad Max III (the gloriously overblown “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, complete with children’s choir) are all here. Though this certainly appears to be a sizable sampling of her hits (along with lesser-known cuts like “Steamy Windows” and “What You Get Is What You See”), the list of what’s not here is actually longer than what is. Say goodbye to “One of the Living”, “Show Some Respect”, “Typical Male” (which hit #2 in 1986), “Break Every Rule”, “Why Must We Wait Until Tonight?”, “When the Heartache Is Over”, and even 2005’s “new to this compilation” bonus track “Open Arms”—a surprise late-era chart entry for the famed diva. Though her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” appears on Tina!, it’s unfortunately not the studio cut that appeared on 1984’s Private Dancer album. Instead, it’s a tepid 1999 live recording that sucks virtually all of the fun out of her original, faithful rendition.
Yet the awkward moments don’t stop there. The most befuddling moment on the album is how the 1993 cut of “Proud Mary”—Tina’s signature song—is used over the original, fiery Ike & Tina version (especially strange considering that other Ike & Tina tunes appear on this compilation). There’s nothing inherently wrong with the ‘93 version, it’s just polished with so much studio sheen that the reckless energy from the original is completely absent, here coming across as a faint shadow of its own self. The same could be said for the two “previously unreleased” (see: new) tracks, songwriting collaborations between Train frontman Pat Monahan and former Robbie Williams hit-writer Guy Chambers. Much like the ‘93 “Proud Mary”, there’s nothing wrong with these songs (“It Would Be a Crime” and “I’m Ready”)—they are just breezy, toothless, mid-tempo pop affairs that sadly go in one ear and out the other.
With all of that said, however, there is still some great material here. Some of it is expectedly grandiose (“Private Dancer” still retains its sexy edge), some of it surprisingly potent (a 1986 live rendition of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” proves to be one of the discs highlights). Some songs are beginning to show their age (the wheezy ‘80s synths in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and the canned horn sections of “Goldeneye” have not gotten better with time), but timeless classics like “The Best” and the surprisingly-solid romp “I Don’t Wanna Fight” still retain their punch decades after their commercial prime.
In the end, Tina! is a worthy overview of one of one of the greatest pop divas to ever walk this earth—but it’s certainly not the overview, as its many lapses and slights keep it from being truly definitive. There’s nothing terribly wrong with Tina!—it’s just that the Acid Queen deserves better than this.