For the first time, I had the bucket-list pleasure of seeing Tina Turner perform live this past Sunday at San Jose's HP Pavilion. For a woman approaching her 69th birthday and celebrating her fiftieth anniversary as a performer, she is a genuine force of nature - still as striking as ever and showing even more passion with her familiar repertoire. In conjunction with Turner's all-stops-pulled tour, Capitol has released yet another greatest hits compilation but this time following the order of the concert set list. Your appetite for this release will depend on how many of the other collections you own. There are several on the market already - 1991's Simply the Best, 1993's What's Love Got To Do With It (the soundtrack to her biopic), 2005's All the Best: The Hits - not including all the live recordings on CD and DVD and her legendary work with her ex-husband Ike. However, if you have not been a fervent follower since her 1984 breakout, Private Dancer, this is an especially worthwhile purchase.
There are eighteen tracks in all that cover the broad scope of Turner's career. Her years as the distaff half of Ike & Tina Turner are book-ended by the Phil Spector-produced "River Deep, Mountain High" from 1966 with his signature Wall of Sound in full force, and the autobiographical "Nutbush City Limits" replete with Memphis-style horns from 1971. Forget the covers by Celine Dion and Bob Seger, as both are indisputably her classics. However, Turner's signature song, as we all know, is "Proud Mary". Although for me, it always loses something without Turner's familiar choreography in view, she transforms the original by Creedence Clearwater Revival with the slow ("nice and easy") opening, the spoken-word intro, and the high-kicking, horn-blasting choruses. The comparatively polished version presented here is the one she recorded for the soundtrack of her 1993 biopic.
1989's Foreign Affair is well represented with the twangy power rocker "Steamy Windows" (the opening song of the concert) and her synth-heavy anthem, "(Simply) the Best". The percolating "What You Get is What You See" comes from 1986's Break Every Rule. But it's no surprise that "Private Dancer" gets the lion's share of the tracks here - the seductive title track, the underrated rocker "Better Be Good to Me", and of course, her Euro-infused comeback, "What's Love Got to Do With It?". There are four movie songs, two of which Turner played roles onscreen - as the drug-dealing Acid Queen announcing her arrival with Pete Townshend's eponymous rocker from the Who's groundbreaking rock opera, 1975's Tommy, and as Aunt Entity, the foreboding ruler of Bartertown, in 1985's post-apocalyptic Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, from which she uncharacteristically sings the poignant anti-war ballad, "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)".
The other two movie songs are the gently loping "I Don't Wanna Fight", the theme from her 1993 biopic, and the disappointing U2-penned GoldenEye, a typical James Bond theme from 1995 that sounds like it was written in the 1960's for Shirley Bassey. Three live performances are gratefully included here as well, the first two from her 1999 Amsterdam concert. Al Green's "Let's Get Together" gets a surprisingly churchy treatment with an organ-dominated opening, but Turner eventually sidles the song into its familiar clubby groove. With the Billy Preston-like keyboard pounding, Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain" takes on a roof-raising gospel flavor. Taken from a 1986 concert at London's Camden Palace, her version of "Addicted to Love" doesn't have the curled irony of Robert Palmer's original version, but it captures the beat-heavy bombast and Turner wails mightily on the chorus.
The new tracks, both penned by Pat Monahan of the rock band Train and Robbie Williams' longtime producer Guy Chambers, show her voice undiminished in 2008. "It Would Be a Crime" scoots by with an inescapably catchy techno-beat, while "I'm Ready" is a more programmatic rocker hamstrung somewhat by the overly repetitive chorus. I truly hope these tracks indicate the release of a long-rumored album of new material. For those who are lucky enough to attend her current concert tour, you will find the following songs missing from this compilation: "Typical Male", her bluesy version of the Beatles' "Help!", "Undercover Agent for the Blues", the Rolling Stones medley of "Jumping Jack Flash" and "It's Only Rock `n' Roll", and her final encore, "Be Tender with Me Baby". So consider this album not a definitive collection but more of a nice sampler for those of us in awe of her. I believe that would be the majority of us.