Album review: BONNIE TYLER – The East West Years 1995-98 (3 CDs)

Cherry Red [release date: 17.09.21]

Bonnie Tyler’s two most famous songs, ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ (1983) and ‘It’s A Heartache’ (1977) are among the best selling singles of all time, with combined sales of over 12 million.
She’s enjoyed considerable commercial success for many years. Not least with German label, Hansa (now BMG) and writer/producer, Dieter Bohlen. Despite that, Tyler moved to Eastwest Records in the mid nineties, looking for a fresh beginning.
This 3 CD set contains her two album releases on that label, plus a third CD, jam packed with special edits, radio versions, dubs and extended mixes of the biggies from those two albums, Free Spirit (1995) and All In One Voice (1998).

Only two albums perhaps, but a significant slice of time in Tyler’s long career. The label put everything behind Free Spirit, bringing in a panoply of writer/ producers with proven track records … Humberto Gattica, David Foster, Jim Steinman, Christopher Neil, and top professionals on backing vocals . . . Eric Troyer, Chris Thompson, Glen Burtnik, Kasim Sulton and more.
The investment paid off. The songs are robust and thunderous, brimful of sturdy tunes and stadium sized choruses.
Steinman’s ‘Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All)’, a supersized version of Air Supply’s original; Andy Hill’s ‘Given It All’, a bittersweet AOR beauty, tailor fitted for FM Radio, and a dancefloor version of ‘Steinman’s ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ are the probable picks. But before the prizes are awarded, you have to come back to another Andy Hill song, ‘Make It Right Tonight’ a gorgeously understated study of forlorn romance. And a perfect fit for Tyler’s rough hewn voice.
The album and its spin-off singles enjoyed significant sales in Europe and the USA. ****

Most successful artists reach that point in their career where they want to widen their musical horizons, or as the music press would term it, “their experimental stage”. That moment came in 1998, with All One Voice.

As a singer brought up in the celtic musical tradition, Tyler looked first to Ireland, hooking up with well known producer of ethnic Irish music, Jimmy Smyth. The first half of the album features songs adorned with traditional Irish folk song instrumentation. It’s a huge jump from David Foster’s “bombastic pop kitsch” (Rolling Stone 1985) to the harp, the flute and the whistle. And so the music found few admirers.
The second half of the album was recorded in Germany by well known producer, Harold Faltermyer, and is peppered with songs written by the unlikeliest of bedfellows, like Royal Republic, Frankie Miller, and Franz Gruber. And includes disparate covers, including Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’, and Screamin Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’.

Interesting as these combinations were, the album was not a commercial success. **1/2

Completists will love the third CD in the set, Singles And Bonus Tracks.
‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ presents in six variations. The ‘soft dub’ and the ‘cha cha dub’ versions are marvellously inventive. The ‘Tribal Beats’ version shows you just what fun producers can have in the studio.
But the real bonuses are the two versions of the Alan Parson’s song ‘Limelight’, most especially the amped up “Overture Mix”, a roof raising, crowd pleasing stadium sized ballad written for the AOR generation. It eventually became a bonus track on later pressings of the Free Spirit album. It is a bonus track among bonus tracks, and is a magnificently apposite closer. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

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