Rolling on the river without Ike in the boat, Tina Turner makes a powerful comeback on Private Dancer. Turner throws herself into the material here, her voice rasping but strong, physical and impossibly sensual. There isn’t a single dud among the songs, and they’re given modern rock settings that are neither detached nor very fussy. She got some help: Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits wrote the slow, gorgeous title track; Jeff Beck played a heart-scraping solo on the great rocker “Steel Claw”; Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware and Greg Walsh produced her hit cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”; and Rupert Hine produced much of the album and wrote one of its cocky songs, “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”
Turner covers a lot of ground, musically, but this is firmly a rock & roll record, despite its soulful heart. There’s everything from a pumping dance track, “Show Some Respect,” to a slow-tempo piece by Ann Peebles called “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” its tinkling notes seeming to fall on Tina’s head, tormenting her with some memory. “I Might Have Been Queen” has the earthiness of a “Proud Mary”; “Steel Claw,” the ferocity of a Rolling Stones song. Turner seems to completely understand the touch that each of these songs needed. When she sings about being a “private dancer, a dancer for money, and any old music will do,” she gets across the resignation of an old stripper or whore with an appropriate minimum of self-pity.
Last year, I heard Tina Turner sing that awful Terry Jacks song “Seasons in the Sun” on television, and she found something in it that broke her heart. Imagine her doing the same thing to good songs.