It’s fair to say that by 1989, Tina Turner was on one hell of a roll. The release of her seventh solo album Foreign Affair in September of that year capped off a remarkable decade for the rock legend. Her previous release (the lackluster Break Every Rule) spawned the incredible, record-breaking world tour that culminated in Turner writing herself into the record books with the largest paying crowd for a solo performer ever after 182,000 Brazilians packed the Maracana football stadium.
Upon the completion of the tour, Turner spoke of plans to return to
Whether the plans to retire were genuine or not, the following decade would prove to be just as rewarding and the tours just as long. The Foreign Affair Tour played to more than four million people with 121 shows staged in six months, breaking another record (surpassing her old buddies the Stones) when it became the most successful European tour in history. What made the tour so great was the inclusion of many new songs from the Foreign Affair album, which complemented her older stuff and gave her band some great bluesy rock to sink their fangs into.
The album kicks off with one of Turner’s sexiest moments ever recorded, “Steamy Windows,” written by Tony Joe White. It’s a great swampy blues/rock song that finds Turner lamenting those wild nights of teenage lust (“Radio blasting in the front seat / Turning out the music fine / And we were snuggled up in the back seat / Making up for lost time”). It charted well and quickly became a Turner classic after it was used to open the shows through the tour.
“The Best” (written by Mark Chapman and Holly Knight) was released the previous year by Welsh belter Bonnie Tyler to little acclaim. When Turner heard the song, she instantly knew what to do with it and insisted on recording it for the album, much to the bewilderment of her producers. But Turner heard the potential to finally have an anthem of her own fit for the stadium crowds she was now accustomed to playing for. After reworking the arrangement with the band, Turner got the result she wanted. It’s every bit the sing-along anthem she wished it to be, and after becoming a massive worldwide hit, it has been a constant inclusion on each of her successive tours.
“Undercover Agent For The Blues” (again penned by White) is a classic moment for Turner and proof that her roots are still very much steeped in the blues. The easy groove is complimented by White’s guitar and Turner’s awesome performance as she shrieks with delight at her lover’s advances, “He was blinded by the blackness of my long silk stocking / I was rocking with an optical illusion / And this ain’t how I thought it’d be / He just kept on keeping me in a state of total confusion.”
“Be Tender With Me Baby” is the most soulful rock ballad Turner has ever recorded, and her desperate pleading rather than singing is enough to induce goose bumps. “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” was the album’s other hit single (especially in
The other standout here is the title track, which is another White composition and closes out the album superbly. Just why Turner never collaborated with White again for an album is a mystery, being as they make such great music together. White’s lyrics and bluesy arrangements are the perfect fold for Turner’s raspy, sultry delivery.
Produced mainly by the late Dan Hartman, the album is not void of filler. “You Know Who (Is Doing You Know What),” “You Can’t Stop Me Loving You,” and “Not Enough Romance” are the usual kind of pop songs that littered most adult contemporary albums in the ‘80s, but they are given some edge here due to Turner’s voice and Hartman’s punchy arrangements. “Fallin’ Like Rain” fares better due to the layered vocals and catchy chorus.
Foreign Affair would become Turner’s third consecutive release to sell in excess of ten million copies worldwide. Its success helped firmly cement Turner’s status not only as legendary performer but as a mega-selling recording artist also, and it remains one of her most enjoyable and consistent records to date.
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