January 1999

Tina Turner - Private Dancer (Remastered)
Originally released: 1984
Remaster released: 1998

by Greg Smith

Original Quality ***1/2
Remaster Quality ****

[Reviewed on CD]I'll admit that I'm not much of a Tina Turner fan. I really didn't think that many other audiophiles were either. Despite that, JVC picked Tina's hit Private Dancer as one of the releases in the XRCD line of aluminum compact discs. Designed to compete with the best CD-mastering systems available, XRCD goes to great lengths to ensure that fidelity losses don't occur in any part of the digital conversion pipeline. Parts of that process that are often treated as an afterthought, like the clock driving the glass cutter used to make the master CD for production, are carefully controlled and optimized. While most of the buzz about XRCD has come from their reworking of releases in other genres, a small number of popular rock recordings have been handled with this process so far.

Before getting the XRCD in, my collection of Tina Turner's music had consisted solely of a greatest hits disc. It has most of what I like from her, and it sold for around $5 at McDonald's with the purchase of any combo meal a few years back. I walked out with a chicken sandwich, fries, Coke, and Tina for $10. Not a bad night, and the sound quality is similar to the other CD releases of her music.

"What's Love Got To Do With It"

  • McCD: A smooth, slick presentation with unexpectedly deep bass.
  • XRCD: There are an incredible number of little details brought out of the mix, which is a mixed blessing. You can really hear the characteristics of Tina's microphone screwing up her voice, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

"Private Dancer"

After listening to this song many times one day, I found myself humming a little tune:

I'm your private remaster
Remaster for money
When any old music won't do...

I think it's the new Golden Zone theme song, folks! With that and "Lunatic Fringe," I have songs for both of my columns!

  • McCD: The overall presentation is rather dull, particularly the percussion. The way Tina's voice is mixed in with the instruments, it's barely audible over the fat and sluggish bass. I seem to recall this track sounding OK on FM radio, but it certainly isn't impressive here.
  • XRCD: The groan during the song's opening jolted me out of my seat -- it was so surprisingly realistic. The bottom-end is still a bit overly pronounced, but the vocals are really pulled forward, improving the overall sound considerably.

"Better Be Good To Me"

  • McCD: This song sounds great. It's dynamic, the vocals are just right, and the treble is actually decent for once.
  • XRCD: The top-end is sharpened a bit, and the bass flabbiness gets slimmed down. It's probably the best sonics to be found on the whole disc. While it wouldn't be my first pick for showing off a high-end system, JVC's remastering makes for an excellent presentation.

The XRCD packaging uses a unique cardboard case instead of the ubiquitous plastic box. It gives a really premium feel to the product. Unfortunately, the disc is held in a cardboard sleeve, and I absolutely hate that. Sliding a CD out of such a contraption sucks. To top it off, the oversize case won't fit in many of the places I store my discs. Bah. I like the way it looks, the liner notes are complete, but I can't stand the container it comes in. Oh well.

Overall, JVC's release of Private Dancer offers an improvement in the sound quality of this popular disc. But being so close to the master tape lets you get very acquainted with its flaws. While this isn't really the best recording to be put under the microscope of the XRCD process, for Tina Turner devotees it's a welcome and worthwhile upgrade.