Sparks fly, but there's barely a fire

Review: Tina Turner gives it her all, but `Twenty Four Seven' is simply not a great album.

February 01, 2000|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

The best test of a good singer is bad material.

Given the right melody and arrangement, almost anybody can have a hit. In fact, many of the voices on the hit parade these days aren't that much better than those belonging to the folks singing along with the radio.

But a bad song? It takes a pretty good singer to make a mediocrity seem memorable -- someone who can inject personality in the lyrics, add muscle to the melody, and make you hear some sizzle when the tune it- Tina Turner self has no heat at all.

Tina Turner has that talent. Between her bluesy exhortations, her sweet, soulful purr, and her rollin', rollin', rollin' rhythmic momentum, she has all the tools required to turn a two-bit tune into something that at least seems interesting. Trouble is, "Twenty Four Seven" (Virgin 6 14931, arriving in stores today) is the sort of album that relies a little too much on those skills.

Tuneful and slick, the 11 tracks on "Twenty Four Seven" find Turner walking a line between her rock-and-soul past and the hip-hop-driven present. Not that she tries to rap or anything -- Turner's sense of dignity is too deeply ingrained to indulge in such foolishness -- but the beats beneath these songs clearly draw from hip-hop and house.

Thus, there's DJ-style turntable scratching in with the strings and strummed acoustic guitars of "Whatever You Want," and all sorts of funky electronics setting up the groove in "All the Woman." Apparently, the idea is to convince us Turner is gettin' jiggy wit' it -- that she's as modern as Mary J. Blige, never mind she was making records before Mary J. was born.

Unfortunately, that hipster set-up is just a tease. Deep down, the songs on "Twenty Four Seven" are as stodgy and conservative as a Midwestern Kiwanis Club. Invariably, each funky verse leads into a big, bland pop-rock chorus, stranding the song on the shoals of predictability. Even on your first time through the album, you'll swear you've heard it before.

Turner, bless her heart, does her best to reduce the deja-vu factor. Never mind that "Talk to My Heart" is hobbled by a monotonous verse and a dull sing-song chorus. Turner approaches the song as if its self-help lyrics were the depth of profundity, leaning lustily into the blue notes and charging into the chorus with a vigor that nearly upstages the gospel-style back-up singers. It's almost enough to make you think "Talk to My Heart" is a great song.

It's not -- but Turner is a great singer, and the principal pleasures to be had from "Twenty Four Seven" derive from hearing her breathe life into such lackluster material.

Take away the vocal, and "Without You" is just low-watt Bryan Adams, distinguished only by the odd bagpipe-like effect applied to the main guitar riff. Add Turner and suddenly it's as if a whole hydro-electric plant has been brought on line. Suddenly, the verses crackle with power, while the chorus becomes almost incandescent. For a moment, you might be fooled into thinking you're listening to a great rock record.

Had there been more moments like that on the album, "Twenty Four Seven" would have been a round-the-clock pleasure. Instead, it comes across merely as competent entertainment -- neither total thrill nor complete bore. A pity, given the effort Turner invests.

Tina Turner

Tina TurnerTwenty Four Seven (Virgin 6 14931)

**

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