In April of ‘99, Tina Turner opened the Divas Live show, joined by Elton John, as the two were preparing to announce a joint world tour. These plans, though, were nixed by Tina during rehearsals for special after Elton had one of his famous tantrums following Tina’s offer to show him the arrangement of “Proud Mary” on the piano. John took umbrage at the non-musician playing his piano and Turner’s zero tolerance for bad-tempered stars spelled the end for any plans the two had discussed.
Tina, of course, famously once sent Wilson Pickett back across the Atlantic from London after he made one too many diva demands during rehearsals for her Break Every Rule special in 1987. So following the Divas fiasco, Turner and her manager flew back to London and by the time they landed, the pair had made plans for another full studio album and Tina had tentatively agreed to a final world tour.
This time around, however, Tina wanted to record an album entirely of soul and R&B tracks, like the stuff she was hearing on the radio at the time and also a few dance tracks like her longtime pal Cher had recorded on her massively successful Believe album. Mark Taylor (who wrote and produced “Believe”) was called in and immediately got to work. Although he and his writing partner Brian Rawling would only end up writing one song for the project (the lush ballad “Don’t Leave Me This Way”), the pair ended up producing the bulk of the record and along with a few others managed to make it a seamless blend of modern R&B and dance tracks.
Tina’s singing on this album is flawless and the producers took great care not to drown her out (a problem on her previous album
Wildest Dreams) during the more up-tempo tracks. There are plenty of highlights to be found here and Tina enjoyed some of her best charting singles for some time. The album ended up far exceeding sales expectations and although it was heavily promoted, the major reason was the sheer quality of the material. Songs like “Falling” and the Bee Gees’ penned “I Will Be There” come near the album’s end but offer a chance for Tina to really show what a great singer she is.
Turner changes pace, though, for the menacing tone of “Go Ahead,” on which she puts the boot into her antagonist: “Why’d you go ’head tear my heart out, why’d you go ’head and hang me out to dry / Go ahead play your game, go ahead smear my name all over your blood red sky.” Turner does get a chance to rock out on the retro soul of “Twenty Four Seven,” which is an ode to everlasting love. “Talk To My Heart” is another mid-tempo love song that could have been the album’s sappy spot had it not been for Tina’s soulful delivery. Turner also incorporated her past into the album as there are numerous gospel choirs on several choruses throughout the record (Turner grew up singing in church choirs as a child).
Her past is also relived on the album’s biggest hit, the dance track “When The Heartache Is Over,” which finds Turner lamenting: “Sometimes I look back in anger, thinking about all the pain / But I know that I’m stronger without you and that I’ll never need you again.” In fact, many of these songs are easily the most personal Turner has ever recorded, as many of them feature references to her past, her relationship with her partner, and her religious beliefs (she is a devout Buddhist). Whatever You Need” is another rootsy love song that is enhanced by a gospel flavour and vocals.
Possibly the most original song on the record is the superb minimalist groove of “Absolutely Nothing’s Changed,” which is an updated women’s lament: “I’ll live to fight another day / I’m bruised but I ain’t broken.” Turner’s pal Bryan Adams guests on the uber-cool “Without You” and the two again (as always) revel in each other’s company. Last but not least is the slightly clichéd but soulful “All The Woman,” in which Turner declares, “I’ve never been a winner but I still play the game.” Who’s she trying to kid with that one?
Twenty Four Seven just happens to be one of Tina’s best albums due to her incredible singing and the team’s tight but urban production. The songs are well-crafted for Tina and although it was a definite departure for her, she handled it with ease and clearly enjoyed the challenge.
This album remains Turner’s last studio album to date, and unfortunately, I think it will for some time yet, if not forever. It still sounds fresh today and it thoroughly deserved its runaway success.
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