Private Dancer by Tina Turner

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Private Dancer by Tina TurnerThe story surrounding Tina Turner and her remarkable comeback with Private Dancer is the stuff of Hollywood movies. In fact, it was a Hollywood movie, and this remarkable vocalist who got her start nearly three decades earlier made the biggest commercial splash of her career in 1984. The fifth overall solo album from Turner since leaving her ex-husband Ike’s band in 1976, this was Turner’s debut for Capitol Records after she had absurdly been left without a recording contract during several previous years. When the album that so many record executives were hesitant to make was finally released to the public, it was a tremendous smash world wide.

Just a few years earlier, no one could have imagined that this longtime star of the soul genre would become the top performer on the pop charts, and do so without compromising her musical repertoire. In the late 1970s, Turner made her living through various television appearances and Las Vegas-style gigs and her initial solo albums reflected this strategy musically. In 1982, Turner met A&R man, John Carter, who promised her a new record deal.

Carter also set about finding the right songs for Turner, which she recorded at several different studios and with several different producers. However, while recording was in process a new regime of executives at Capitol and initially planned to drop Turner. The new label president called Roger Davies and summarily dropped Tina Turner from the roster. Carter fought hard to keep her on and the label was more than rewarded when Private Dancer spawned seven singles.


Private Dancer by Tina Turner
Released: May 29, 1984 (Capital)
Produced by: Terry Britten, John Carter, Leon Chancler, Wilton Felder, Rupert Hine, Joe Sample, Greg Walsh & Martyn Ware
Recorded: England, 1983-1984
Side One Side Two
I Might Have Been Queen
What’s Love Got to Do With It
Show Some Love
I Can’t Stand the Rain
Private Dancer
Let’s Stay Together
Better Be Good to Me
Steel Claw
Help!
1984
Primary Musicians
Tina Turner – Lead Vocals  |  Terry Britten – Guitars, Vocals
Rupert Hine – Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals  |  Jack Bruno – Drums

Bassist and producer Rupert Hine was enlisted to work on several tracks on Private Dancer, starting with the opener “I Might Have Been Queen”. The song was co-written by Jamie West-Oram, lead guitarist of The Fixx, a band which Hine had recently produced with great success. The song was written specifically for Turner and its lyrics reflect Turner’s belief in reincarnation. “What’s Love Got to Do with It” is the most popularly sustained song from the album, due in part to the later movie of the same name. Turner’s vocal and melodic delivery are masterful in both their ascent and constraint. Written by guitarist Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, the song topped the charts in the Summer of 1984 and marked the undeniable moment of Turner’s comeback success.

“Show Some Respect” is another song written by Britten with a decidedly eighties synth and funk approach. One of the later songs released as a single, this track became a Top 40 hit in 1985. Britten also produced the next track, “I Can’t Stand the Rain”, a remake of of the 1974 hit for Ann Peebles. The album’s title song was written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, who wrote the song for his band’s Love Over Gold album, but ultimately decided he didn’t want to sing a song from a female perspective. Ironically, Knopler is the only member of Dire Straits not to appear on Turner’s version of the song, which also features a guitar solo by the legendary Jeff Beck.

Private Dancer‘s second side begins with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, which turner released in late 1983, well ahead of the album. While Turner remains faithful to the original, she also adds some unique delivery to this track which topped the Billboard Dance chart. “Better Be Good to Me” is the most pop/rock oriented song on the album, originally intended for Pat Benatar. Produced by Hine and composed by the team of Holly Knight, Mike Chapman, and Nicky Chinn, the song reached #5 on the pop charts.

The album winds down with three lesser known recordings. “Steel Claw” was written by Paul Brady and features a lineup similar to “Private Dancer”, with members of Dire Straits (sans Knopfler) and Beck adding a solo. The Beatles’ “Help!” is delivered in a gospel-tinged by Turner, in a rendition she had been working on since the early eighties. David Bowie’s “1984” concludes the album as an electronic track that pays homage during the actual year it was written about.

Private Dancer reached the Top 10 in over a dozen countries, sold over eight million copies, and won four Grammy’s for Turner. Capitalizing on this immense popularity, Turner went on a World tour through 1985, which included over 170 dates on three continents.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

 

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
by Traveling Wilburys

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1988 Album of the Year

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1“Super Groups” were commonplace during the seventies and eighties, often causing much hype which was rarely surpassed by the music itself. But in the case of the Traveling Wilburys, by far the most “super” of any super group, the resulting music was downright brilliant. Their debut Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 displays an incredible array of three decades of pop and rock elements wrapped in concise tunes penned and performed by some of the biggest legends in the business. The group and album were not initially planned and came together through a serendipitous series of coincidences and the fantastic music they produced together easily makes Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1988.

It all started in Los Angeles in Spring 1988 when George Harrison was looking to record B-side material for a vinyl 12-inch European single. Jeff Lynne, who co-produced Harrison’s most recent album Cloud Nine was also in Los Angeles at the time. Lynne was producing some music for Roy Orbison as well as the debut solo album, Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty. Lynne was able to enlist both artists to help out Harrison, who was in a huge hurry to record his material. The final piece of the Traveling Wilbury puzzle was Bob Dylan, who had built a home studio in nearby Malibu and agreed to let the makeshift group record the very next day. On that day, the legendary musicians wrote and recorded the song “Handle with Care” in about five hours. The experience was so positive that all five agreed to form a group and reconvened a month later to record the other nine tracks on what would become Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Here the magic continued as the group wrote and recorded on acoustic guitars. With a limited amount of time before Dylan headed out on a scheduled tour, the five singers in the group often took turns at songs until Harrison (as group arbiter) selected the best “lead” voice for each part. The final phase was Harrison and Lynne returning to England for final overdubs and production. Here Harrison added some electric and lead guitars, Lynne added keyboards and bass, Jim Keltner was brought in on drums.

Although it is generally agreed that Harrison was the group’s leader, they did work hard to maintain a collective image and even set up fictional names for each member masquerading as the “Wilbury” brothers – Nelson (Harrison), Otis (Lynne), Lucky (Dylan), Lefty (Orbison), and Charlie T. Jr. (Petty) with Keltner given the humorous “outsider” name “Buster Sidebury”. All group members also got songwriting credits on the album, although the publishing credits were disbursed according to the actual songwriter. The Wilbury name originated from Harrison and Lynne previously working together as a pseudonym for slight recording errors (“we’ll bury ’em in the mix”).


Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 by Traveling Wilburys
Released: October 18, 1988 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Jeff Lynne and George Harrison
Recorded: Lucky Studios and Dave Stewart Studios, Los Angeles and FPSHOT, London, April–May 1988
Side One Side Two
Handle with Care
Dirty World
Rattled
Last Night
Not Alone Anymore
Congratulations
Heading for the Light
Margarita
Tweeter and the Monkey Man
End of the Line
Band Musicians
George Harrison – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Dylan – Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Jeff Lynne – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Roy Orbison – Guitars, Vocals
Tom Petty – Guitars, Vocals
Jim Keltner – Drums

 

The ringing guitars of “Handle with Care”, the original Wilbury song, starts things off. Harrison, the primary composer, delivers deliberate vocalizing during the verses which gives way to Orbison’s smooth crooning during the choruses. Dylan and Petty deliver a chanting post-chorus and two instances of Harrison’s classic guitar along with a short Dylan harmonica lead make the song a true classic in just about every way. Within its brief three and a half minutes the song is dotted with decades of rock history, making this the perfect track to introduce the album. While not every song on the album wraps itself so well as “Handle with Care”, there is not a truly weak moment on the album.
 

 
On “Dirty World” Dylan’s rough lead vocals are complimented by smooth backing vocals and a bright acoustic arrangement. The song also contains some horns and an interesting arrangement all around. This song was a particularly enjoyable one for the band to record as each member took a turn singing in the “round” during the extended outro. Jeff Lynne’s “Rattled” is pure rockabilly led by Orbinson on vocals, almost like a lost early Elvis song. Lynne’s bass and Harrison’s lead guitar shine musically and the actual “rattle” in the song is drummer Keltner tapping the refrigerator grill with his drum sticks.

“Last Night” contains Caribbean elements with some percussion and horns and Petty singing during verse and Orbinson during the bridges. The whimsical, storytelling song has a great aura and feel throughout. Petty did the core composing with each group member contributing to the songwriting approach. The verses has an upbeat folk/Latin feel with the bridge being a bit more dramatic. The first side completes with “Not Alone Any More”, a vocal centerpiece for Orbison. His vocals smoothly lead a modern version of early sixties rock and Lynne’s keyboards add more decoration than any other song on the first side. If “Not Alone Anymore” is in the clouds, the second side opener “Congratulations” is right down at ground level. This tavern style ballad with Dylan on lead vocals sounds much like his late 70s / early 80s era material, with blues-like reverences to broken relationships, and includes a very short but great lead guitar by Harrison right at the end.

The up-tempo “Heading for the Light” is a quintessential Harrison/Lynne production, with the former Beatle composing and singing and the former ELO front man providing the lush production and orchestration. The song contains great picked guitar fills as well as a saxophone solo by Jim Horn. “Margarita” may be the oddest song on the album but is still a great sonic pleasure. It begins with a programmed eighties synth line then the long intro slowly works its way into a Latin acoustic section topped by horns, lead guitar, and rich vocal harmonies. It is not until a minute and a half in that Petty’s lead vocals come in for a single verse then the song works its ways through various short sections towards an encapsulated synth ending. This spontaneous composition with free-association lyrics showed with a group of this talent could do on the spot.

“Tweeter and the Monkey Man” is Bob Dylan channeling Bruce Springsteen and coming out with what may have been one of the best Springsteen songs ever (even though he had nothing to do with it). This extended song with the traditional Dylan style of oodles of verses and a theatrical chorus includes several references to Springsteen songs throughout and is in Springsteen’s home state of New Jersey. It may have been Dylan’s delayed response to the press repeatedly coining Bruce “the next Dylan”. No matter what the case, the result is an excellent tune with lyrics rich enough to base a book or movie.
 

 
The most perfect album closer to any album – ever, “End of the Line” contains a Johnny Cash-like train rhythm beneathe deeply philosophical lyrics, delivered in a light and upbeat fashion. Harrison, Lynne, Orbinson, and Harrison again provide the lead vocals during the chorus hooks while Petty does the intervening verses. The song revisits the classic music themes of survival and return with the universal message that, in the big picture, it all ends someday. The feeling of band unity is also strongest here with the folksy pop/rock chords and great harmonies. The music video for “End of the Line” was filmed after Roy Orbison’s death in December 1988, mere weeks after the album’s release, and paid tasteful respect with a shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair during the verse which Orbison sang.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 sold over two million copies within its first six months, a figure which made this album a higher seller than any of Bob Dylan’s albums to that date. The album was critically favored and won a Grammy award in 1990. The surviving members of the group reconvened for a second album, which fell far short of capturing the magic of this debut and a long-planned tour by the group never materialized, although members continued to collaborate on each other’s albums for years to come. The incredible magic that came together in 1988 is yet to repeated anywhere in the rock universe.

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1988 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums and our album of the year for 1988.