Written by Fantasma el Rey
Time Life’s Legends Of American Music series continues with a three disc boxed set of The Ike & Tina Turner Story: 1960-1975. This new collection is a good look at the music left behind in the wake of the supernova that was the career of Ike and Tina Turner. Crossing most label restrictions, Time Life is able to pull together the major hits of these magnificent performers.
The story of Ike and Tina’s life together is a well-known tale of missed opportunities, abuse and rebirth, so let me concentrate on how they met and the music at hand. For details of their life together and how bad it got see the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It or read I, Tina by Tina.
Ike was an R&B pioneer who helped give birth to Rock ‘N’ Roll with the 1951 hit “Rocket 88” by his band The Kings Of Rhythm. At the time of its release the song was credited to Ike’s sax man and vocalist on the track, Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. With the success of the song Jackie and “his” cats ditched Ike and signed with Chess Records of Chicago leaving Ike bandless and bitter.
Meanwhile over in Nutbush, Tennessee, young Anna Mae Bullock was pushing a broom and singing songs she heard on the radio. Little did she know that in a few years time she would be singing and shouting her own brand of gritty blues and expanding the R&B sound into something new, or that her life would be turned upside-down, inside-out, and hit rock bottom before she would find the success that she truly deserved in the music world.
One night in 1957 Anna Mae hooked up with Ike and his reformed Kings Of Rhythm at an East St. Louis nightclub, when she was called on stage during intermission. Ike took notice of the young blues shouter and a few days later he was at her mother’s house asking if young Anna Mae could travel with the band. Momma agreed and at the next gig she was introduced as Little Ann. The world kept spinning and Ike kept his band active, gigging and putting out records along the way. Yet not until 1960 did Ike hit with something that would stick and put him back in the spotlight.
“A Fool In Love” put Little Ann up front and sent shockwaves through the microphone and the music world. To protect himself from Little Ann abandoning him “like the others did,” Ike made sure the single was credited to Ike & Tina Turner, so he could replace her if he needed to. Although at the time they were not married, Anna Mae Bullock, now Tina Turner, was carrying Ike’s baby.
That same song opens disc one and sets the pace for most of the ‘60s tunes. With Ike’s band thumping solid beats filled out by thick bass lines, skipping drums, a rollickin’ piano, and bluesy guitar licks bent to Hell, the hits kept on a comin’. But it is Tina’s gritty growl backed by The Ikettes that sets the sound apart.
More hits follow in the mold of Ike’s formulaic sound, which broken down in these early days of soul can be best described as New Orleans Boogie revamped and Tina-fied. “I Idolize You,” “It’s Gonna work Out Fine,” “Poor Fool,” “Tra La La La La,” and “I’m Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)” by The Ikettes are the best examples of this sound. At times it’s easy to see the influence of Brother Ray Charles and The Godfather James Brown. On “It’s Gonna Work Out” guitar hero Mickey Baker of Mickey and Sylvia (“Love Is Strange”) fame is doing male vocals not Ike.
“You Should Have Treated Me Right” and “Good Good Lovin’” are good samples of Ike reaching to the past for inspiration. “Should Have Treated Me Right” screams Ray and The Raylettes, while “Loving’” has Ike pumpin’ the 88s like Huey “Piano” Smith and reworking a hit from the early ‘50s. Disc one does rounds out with some hints of things to come. The retelling of “Stagger Lee And Billy,” “Two Is A Couple,” and “I’m Gonna Do All I Can (To Do Right By My Man)” are signs of the future and another push in a new direction.
The disc ends with a live version of one of the couples more revered songs, “River Deep, Mountain High” written and produced by Phil Spector. It’s a live version because due to contractual reasons the studio take is unavailable to Time Life. The song is key to the Ike and Tina story for the fact that it drove Ike crazy that he didn’t have a thing to do with its recording while Tina was becoming the obvious main attraction of the Ike & Tina Revue and moving away from his abusive ways.
Disc Two is where it’s really at; it’s late ‘69. Opening with a solid blues number “The Hunter” that has Ike bending chords every which way he can and leaving the fret board smokin’ after his solos. Track two is a moving cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and Tina lays it down like a woman who knows the hurt of the situation well.
“Bold Soul Sister” is solid funk that mixes James Brown’s attitude with The Meters’ grooves and Tina asserts herself as a “B.S.S.” and woman that won’t take no crap! Her personnel ball of freedom is set in motion. Gliding into track four with ease and showing that they can make any song their own, the super duo takes on The Beatles’ blues tribute “Come Together.”
The reworking continued as Tina kept listening to rock music of the day. Versions of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which was a staple of their live act for years, became something new and all her own. “Proud Mary” opens slow and then launches into a spicy hot swamp rock anthem, while the Stax records-sounding “Workin’ Together” and “Get Back” sound as if they could have been part of Elvis’ 1970 Vegas repertoire.
“Up In Heah,” “Sexy Ida (Part 1),” “Sweet Rhode Island Red,” and “Nutbush City Limits” are the tunes that represent the last phase of the Ike and Tina union. The guitars become heavier and more distorted, the bass drips with funk, and the drums pound out steady time as the horns jump in and out. Swirling around the whole band are keyboards and guitar chords bent too damn far, creating space-age sounds for the next stratosphere. Lending a hand on guitar for “Sexy Ida” and “Nutbush City Limit” is Marc Bolan from T.Rex.
Disc three is a live recording from 1969 when the Ike & Tina Revue where at full power and driving audiences wild with their electric high voltage stage presence. The album “In Person” has never been released on CD before making this set a true Time Life exclusive. The disc oozes with the feel of what a live show must have been like as the band mixes rock songs with solid soul senders. We get to hear The Ikettes on “Everyday People” and “There Was a Time.” Tina knocks you out with Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” and Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music.” Not to leave out her killer renditions of “Funky Street,” “Son Of A Preacher Man” and “Respect.”
A very good way to close out one hell of a boxed set and as an added bonus the 24-page booklet is filled with many interesting photos and is written once again by the extremely knowledgeable Colin Escott. There is a great photo of Ike looking at Tina on stage and he’s giving her the evil eye. It’s great and sums up their torrid relationship well. Go pick this one up, y’all; it will have you movin’ and groovin’ from start to finish.