After the massive success of Private Dancer, a world tour, four Grammy awards, and a blockbuster film (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,) Tina Turner was on top of the world, and rightfully so. She had pulled off a remarkable comeback and was finally receiving the kudos she deserved.
The follow-up to Private Dancer became another chart-busting, multi-million selling LP. A record-breaking tour followed as Turner cemented her place as the premier female rock performer of all time. The only glitch (with the wisdom of hindsight) is that Break Every Rule is a really disappointing album, and where its predecessor still sounds fresh and edgy, this disc has dated dreadfully.
To repeat the success of Private Dancer, Tina and Roger Davies employed the song writing team of Britten and Lyle to once again work their magic; the first five tracks are theirs. Two of their contributions here are truly dismal. “Afterglow” is moody and Tina gives a great “half-assed” reading of a cliché lyric, but it‘s just too similar to “What’s Love Got To Do With It” to break any new ground. “’Til The Right Man Comes Along” is the second worst song here and really sounds as if no one had the nerve to tell them it sucked; even Tina, for once, sounds stone cold bored.
“Two People” and “What You Get Is What You See” are much better, however, the former being a sweet love song that Tina clearly enjoyed singing. Meanwhile, the latter is a cheeky ode to the masculine sex sung by the decade’s sexiest rocker, an up-tempo and fun pop-rocker that charted well and still packs a punch.
The other Britten/Lyle track is the opener, “Typical Male,” which became the LP’s only #1 hit. It’s fun and rocks in the right places, including Phil Collins on the drums. Mark Knopfler contributes a song (“Overnight Sensation”), which has Tina lamenting her past: “I had to beat the stage fright, had to cry all night / Tryin’ to make the song fit, when you know it never was mine.” Again, it’s fun and rocks well, but it suffers heavily from the horrid ‘80s production, a little too much gloss.
The title track and “I’ll Be Thunder” were both co-written by Rupert Hine. “Break Every Rule” is very pop in its execution as well as its lyrics; it’s littered with beefy guitars (probably an attempt to rock it up) but it just comes off sounding confused and a bit messy really.
“I’ll Be Thunder” is easily the worst song Tina has ever recorded; you would struggle to find a bigger turkey than this, even in the 1980’s. The song is void of a melody, and any emotional pleading that Turner delivers is drowned out by a lush and insipid attempt at some sort of ambient arrangement.
Still, there are two absolute gems to be found here after all. The Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance-penned “Back Where You Started” is the kind of stadium rocker that Tina does better than any woman and most men; this was definitely the way to go. If only “The Queen Of Rock” actually recorded rock albums…
The other gem is easily the album’s best and one of Turner’s most pleasing ballads. “Paradise Is Here,” written by Paul Brady, is an atmospheric and moody ballad that builds into a wonderful climax. Although the saxophone was the decade’s most abused instrument, it is thankfully put to good use here and Tina’s performance is effortlessly sublime and reminds us that she is an exceptional singer, given the right material.
This is not her worst, but without a doubt, it is Tina’s most disappointing album. It did its job, though, and sold well in support of the Break Every Rule tour, which smashed records and sold out the world’s biggest venues. The pop fluff here was again beefed up by her band and delivered with gusto, which when you are familiar with the power of her shows, listening to the originals here can be a rather unfulfilling experience.
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