My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Tanya Tucker – ‘TNT’

TNTfrontIn her 1997 autobiography Nickel Dreams , Tanya Tucker referred to TNT as her first million-selling album and the one that nearly killed her career. In 1977, in need of professional management, she was referred to a Los Angeles firm called Far Out Management, who had managed a number of pop and rock acts and had expressed an interest in helping a country act cross over. They managed to convince the 19-year-old Tucker that they could make her a platinum-selling act, unlike the “hicks” back in Nashville. TNT was the first project that resulted from this collaboration.

Released in 1978, the album created waves partly because it was a rock album. To their credit, neither Far Out nor MCA made any pretense about this being a country album. The sole exception was the closing track “Texas (When I Die)”, one of the most solidly country songs that Tucker has ever recorded, and the only single from the album to crack the Top 10 on the country charts.

The main controversy surrounding TNT, however, was the album artwork and the sex-driven marketing campaign undertaken by Far Out and MCA. Twenty-five years before Shania Twain arrived in Nashville, the cover photo of the 20-year-old Tucker wearing black leather pants with a microphone cord pulled up between her legs was considered outrageous, and the photo on the inside foldout, depicting her in a backless red spandex body stocking was even more so.

TNTinside

I always shied away from getting this album, knowing that it succeeded largely because of the marketing hype (which included a controversial Hustler ad), and that Tucker isn’t particularly proud of it. I finally bought a copy in order to review it, and was surprised to find that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. By no means is it a great album, but it’s not a terrible one, either. Possibly to appease Tanya’s country fans, the album has a rockabilly feel, including covers of Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”, which was also recorded by Waylon Jennings, and Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”. Tucker does a good job on the former, but the latter finds her trying a little too hard to emulate her idol Elvis.

“Texas (When I Die)”, written by Ed Bruce, Patsy Bruce, and Bobby Borchers, was the first single released from the album, and is the one true gem in this collection. It peaked at #5 and has become one of Tucker’s signature hits. The flip side, a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, was marketed to pop radio and reached the lower levels of the pop charts.

The second single, “I’m The Singer, You’re The Song”, is a gorgeous rock ballad written by Tucker and producer Jerry Goldstein. I enjoyed this a lot, though the production is a bit dated. It fared less well than its predecessor, stalling at #18 on the charts. Once again, MCA attempted to market the flip side of the record to pop radio, but “Lover Goodbye”, written by Phil Everly and Joey Paige, failed to chart at all.

The only other track of any interest is “Angel From Montgomery”, written by John Prine. It’s pure southern rock but would probably fit comfortably within the country genre as it is currently defined. The remaining tracks “The River and the Wind”, “If You Feel It” and “It’s Nice To Be With You” are forgettable filler. Jerry Goldstein had a hand in writing the last two.

Tucker premiered the album at a DJ convention in Nashville, where it received a chilly reception. Though she managed to win the crowd over with “Texas (When I Die)”, she left the stage feeling that she’d destroyed her career. She hadn’t of course, but even though the album did become her first platinum-seller, she knew that it was due largely to the controversial nature of the marketing, and not so much because the songs were great. The album was also ill-received by the Nashville press, resulting in the somewhat predictable accusations that Tanya Tucker had turned her back on Nashville.

Tucker recorded one more album, 1979’s Tear Me Apart under the guidance of Far Out Management, before breaching her contract with them and retreating back to Nashville. By then it had become painfully obvious that drugs had completely taken over at Far Out, and they had failed to deliver on many of their promises to her. Not a person to dwell on past mistakes, Tucker admitted in Nickel Dreams that “if I do have a regret, it’s that when we were waiting to meet with Far Out that first day in 1977, I didn’t walk out of the office and run like hell back to Nashville.”

While TNT is not unpleasant to listen to, it is for the most part a forgettable album, interesting mainly for the photography (though sadly, the body stocking photo is not included in the CD version), and in listening to Tucker experiment with different sounds. It definitely doesn’t hold its own against her many other albums, and as such, is not essential listening. For those who are interested in buying it, however, it can be purchased for a very reasonable price at Amazon.

Grade: C+

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9 responses to “Album Review: Tanya Tucker – ‘TNT’

  1. Paul W Dennis June 13, 2009 at 9:57 am

    This wasn’t her worst album (TEAR ME APART was) , but the C+ you gave it was generous. It wasn’t country, and it wasn’t especially good rock . I purchased the album when it came out on the strength of “Texas (When I Die) ” and found little to like on the remaining tracks. I guess the best word to describe the album is disappointing. Fortunately, she soon got back on track

    • Razor X June 13, 2009 at 10:23 am

      I’ve never actually heard Tear Me Apart . I remember seeing it on cassette in the stores back in the early 80s, but back in those days I was too young to be earning much of my own money. I’d save up my allowance for a few weeks until I had enough money to get a new cassette and in those early days of building my collection I usually went for hits collections.

    • wild bill June 20, 2009 at 6:50 pm

      i thought tnt was great i am the same age as tanya back in the 70s played tanya hank waylon every day loved all three. think that was her best record wasent rock. if you think that was rock what is country music today?

      • J.R. Journey June 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm

        This was a rock album in the sense that Tanya and her record label marketed it that way. It still contains some ‘country’ elements but those tend to run on the southern rock side of the country music landscape. (As Razor noted in the review.)

        I have to totally agree though that most of these songs – particularly the singles – are traditional compared to today’s hits. But that’s a whole other can of worms …

      • Razor X June 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

        Listen to her albums that preceded ‘TNT’ and you’ll notice a distinct difference in style. I agree that some of the songs are in the same vein as songs that Travis Tritt had success with some 15-20 years later. She could have recorded an album like ‘TNT’ in the 90s without marketing it as a genre change and nobody would have batted an eyelid.

    • Glen Philippe June 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      I’ve been a Tanya Tucker fan since the ’70’s,and disagree with this write-up of both TNT and Tear Me Apart.Ilove her older country stuff the best,but both of her rock albums are absolutely fantastic.In fact,I still listen to both albums on a regular basis,and wouldput them up against any album ever released as every song on each album is listenable to, over and over,which is how I classify whether an album is rated highly or not.I love country music,but most country albums have a half album at least of filler,most of which I cannot listen to no matter how hard I try.I also love rock,mostly the older stuff,and would put these two albums on a par,as far as listenability,with the Rolling Stones albums from the Mick Taylor years,anything Uriah Heep,Deep Purple,Neil Young put out,and most other top rock albums that aren’t loaded with filler from the ’70’s and ’80’s.If you like the Theme song to Billy Jack or Kelly’s Heroes,you will love both of these albums,as they have that style of music on them.
      Just because these two albums weren’t country,doesn’t mean they weren’t super albums.But,at the time rock and country didn’t mix,unlike today.She was just well ahead of her time.These albums are classics,and showed her great talent across different lines of music.The great tragedy is the garbage Tanya has to sing on her newer albums.The country today is complete trash for the most part.Anyone who can pick up either TNT or Tear Me Apart should pick up a copy.I guarantee you will not be disappointed.Instead of being ashamed of these albums,Tanya should be extremely proud,as both are largely unknown classics!

      • Ken Johnson November 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        If you are a ROCK fan you may love those albums. But if you are a fan of REAL country music…not so much. Most of the folks who frequent this site seem to favor REAL country music which is why Tanya’s attempts at rock music were not highly regarded by folks here. I hated both of those albums. Listened once & tossed ’em.

  2. Nick cbo November 26, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Dam Tanya looks hot sexy on the cover wearing leather pants (; she is young

  3. Aimee October 31, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I’ve always thought it was a KILLER album! And, yes, I still have the original album. I love it. Love the marketing, photos, and song selection. Probably my favorite album cut is “Angel From Montgomery.” Wow, she makes you feel like you’re in the song with her in some languid, humid, unbearable summer day. She does a great job on “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man,” “Texas,” “Heartbreak Hotel.” “Not Fade Away” is exceptionally “in the groove.” I am a professional Singer, Songwriter, Musician, and Music Teacher — and Mom, too! Tanya Tucker should definitely feel proud of this album! It’s a keeper!!! I’d give it an A+!!!

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