Get our free newsletter
Bonnie Tyler’s Free Spirit is overproduced. Literally. The disc credits six different people with the task. Three of the half-dozen—Stuart Emerson, Andy Hill, and Jim Steinman—also wrote the tracks for which they are credited. Tyler, best known for the 1978 hit, “It’s a Heartache,” returned to the airwaves last year on the Nikki French dance remix of her “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” one of three previously released Steinman tunes reprised on Spirit. But the singer’s latest disc is unlikely to jump-start her career: Most of the material here is uniquely ill-suited to her gifts. More to the point, most of the material here is bad, except Steinman’s—and even his sounds bad. Indeed, the disc is most interesting as a means of charting the devolution of Steinman’s pop sensibility. (Seventy-eight was also a good year for Steinman, who wrote the songs for Meat Loaf’s hugely successful Bat out of Hell.) His compositions are famous for their operatic bombast, and Tyler’s husky voice and characteristically overwrought delivery would seem the perfect complement to his material. But Steinman’s hilariously inept production renders the songs unlistenable. “Making Love (Out of Nothing at All),” for instance, a hit for the much-reviled Air Supply, opens with impossibly corny “Celtic” noises—muted chanting and distant thunder. “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad”—which is stretched to an excruciating eight minutes and 40 seconds—is backed by electronic instrumentation that sounds like a Casio stuck on the maximum tempo setting and interspersed with Nintendo sound effects. Like too much of Spirit, these tracks sound like an attempt to craft dance music by someone who hasn’t heard any since, well, 1978.