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quarta-feira, 7 de abril de 2010

Private Dancer 1984/85 Era: Tina Turner turns a page in the evolution of pop-soul (NY Times Album Review)



Published: August 26, 1984

''Private Dancer'' (Capitol ST 12330), Tina Turner's first solo album in many years, is a landmark not only in the career of the 45-year-old singer who has been recording since the late 1950's, but in the evolution of pop-soul music itself. An innovative fusion of old-fashioned soul singing and new wave synth-pop, ''Private Dancer'' caps several years of struggle to find a recording contract by a singer who was considered by many to be an over-the-hill oldies entertainer.

In a year that has seen black music dominated by flashy young androgynes like Michael Jackson and Prince and by electronic ''hip-hop'' records prodding teen-age breakdancers to turn themselves into spinning tops, Miss Turner has made an album that proudly exploits the ravages of time on a voice that was never smooth to begin with. Like Billie Holiday in her later years, she conveys a wounded but indomitable sensuality as she interprets current songs about the darker and more desperate aspects of love, money, and emotional and physical need. And the fact that the album has reached the top 10 on the pop album charts and number 1 on the black album chart shows that there's still a large record-buying public for mature pop-soul. ''Private Dancer,'' which Miss Turner recorded in England with several different producers, is the first time that the singer has seriously probed beneath her familiar caricature of a sexually voracious rock giantess. That image, which she and her ex-husband, Ike, popularized in smuttily explicit introductions to ''Proud Mary,'' culminated in Miss Turner's memorable portrayal of the Acid Queen in the movie ''Tommy.''

From then on, Miss Turner was stuck in the role of a devouring rock superwoman, using the gospel-based Southern soul music she'd grown up with as the basis for performances that mixed steamy caterwauling vocals with burlesque show humor. Strutting about the stage like an exhibitionistic streetwalker, flaunting a campy sexual challenge and singing with a raucous abandon, Miss Turner seemed to have settled into a comfortable niche as the Mae West of rock and roll.

But with her English producers, Miss Turner has discarded many of those Southern soul trappings - blaring horns, frenzied percussion and gospel calls and responses - in favor of cool synthesized arrangements that silhouette the singer's physical and emotional heat against a chilly orchestral backdrop. At the same time she has softened her cartoonlike sex goddess pose. While the new album's haunting title song, written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, is about a prostitute, Miss Turner doesn't turn it into a typical erotic boast. The narrator is a ''private dancer'' so alienated from her work that the customers she services no longer seem human. Murmuring the first verse and chorus in a deep, dreamy tenor, then taking the song up an octave and abruptly switching to a tone of defiant declamation, Miss Turner creates a whole character - a scheming businesswoman whose hard shell protects a surprisingly conventional inner life. It is a beautifully realized dramatic performance.

In the album's biggest hit, ''What's Love Got to Do With It,'' written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, Miss Turner portrays a similar character - a wounded romantic who denies much too strenuously that a budding relationship is based on anything but sexual attraction. As on the album's title song, this performance begins on a note of cool composure and builds in passion and in defensiveness, as the singer scoffs at love as ''a sweet old fashioned notion.''

Miss Turner's frayed timbre and raw directness also help her to turn two early 70's soul hits - Al Green's ''Let's Stay Together'' and Ann Peebles's ''I Can't Stand the Rain'' - into chilling cries of emotional need. ''Let's Stay Together'' is a particularly compelling performance, because the kind of woman Miss Turner's big, rough voice suggests is a tower of strength, yet she sings the song close to tears, pleading for a security that she already has.

The ambivalent psychological portraits Miss Turner creates in these ballads help to give her tougher uptempo vocals on ''Show Some Respect'' and ''Better Be Good to Me'' an extra resonance. And in her hard, growling rendition of ''Steel Claw,'' a rock and roll raveup narrated by another prostitute - one who can't afford the luxury of a protected inner life - the singer serves up a cold hard slice of inner city realism.

''Private Dancer'' is the first pop record to show that English synthesizer pop - the medium of Culture Club, Eurythmics, Spandau Ballet and other groups that use electronic keyboards in an orchestral way - can be adaptable for more grown-up pop styles. Especially on the title song and ''What's Love Got to Do With It,'' the production has a cinematically descriptive quality that recalls the bleaker film music of Bernard Herrmann. At the same time, ''Private Dancer'' acknowledges the singer's heritage and mystique. ''I Might Have Been Queen,'' a fascinating pop-funk song about reincarnation, pointedly evokes Miss Turner's lustier days, with its references to a river that won't stop, and in ''Show Some Respect,'' Miss Turner offers a spunky vocal tribute to Otis Redding.

The album's sophisticated aural ambiance presents an alternative and a challenge to the high-gloss Los Angeles studio pop made by producers like Quincy Jones, Michael Omartian and Giorgio Moroder. Where these Hollywood high-tech craftsmen enjoy flaunting sound effects that conjure up science-fiction thrills and chills, the arrangements for the best cuts on ''Private Dancer'' serve the singer and the song by distilling the perfect psychological atmosphere for telling a story. And although she didn't write the songs on ''Private Dancer,'' Miss Turner's singing gives them a ring of personal truth. The portrait of Tina Turner that emerges on ''Private Dancer'' is of a passionate, self-knowing woman who has come through the fire, cognizant in the ways of the world, her spirit undefeated.

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