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Ike and/or Tina Turner

Reviewed on this page:
The Soul Of Ike And Tina Turner - Dance With Ike & Tina Turner's Kings Of Rhythm - Dynamite - Don't Play Me Cheap - It's Gonna Work Out Fine - Fine, Fine, Fine - Get It Get It - River Deep Mountain High - Outta Season - A Black Man's Soul - The Hunter - Come Together - Workin' Together - What You Hear Is What You Get: Live At Carnegie Hall - Nuff Said - Live In '71 - Feel Good - Nutbush City Limits - Rough - Love Explosion - Private Dancer - Here And Now

At this point, Ike and Tina Turner are probably better known for their marital discord than for any of their records. And in fact, even at their prime they were never consistent hitmakers, but they've always been famous. How does that happen? They're like the Sharon Stone of R&B: nobody can name a good movie Sharon Stone has ever been in (okay, I'll give you Total Recall), and she hasn't had a box office success in fifteen years, but she's one of the most famous people in the world. Anyway, after Tina's book detailing Ike's abuse became a hit movie (and he was sent to prison for unrelated crimes), Ike's name became synonymous with villainy, and revisionist music historians overcompensated by concocting wild claims for his innovations as a guitarist and even occasionally crediting him with inventing rock and roll. (Reminds me of the Supremes fans who claim that Florence Ballard - or less frequently, Mary Wilson - was the real singer in the group, when in fact we wouldn't even know who Ballard and Wilson were if they had been solo artists instead of backing Diana Ross.)

Ike and Tina toured and recorded relentlessly through the 60s and early 70s, for a jumble of different labels and in a variety of styles. Though they wrote many of their own songs, they became best known for turning songs initially by white rockers into their own hits by making them more low-down and raucous... the mirror image of James Taylor, you might say. And one cool thing about Tina's career is that she hit almost every genre that's existed in US pop music over the last fifty years - girl group, R&B, blues, soul, funk, dinosaur rock, disco, electropop - straight through to Adult Contemporary. Combine that with the fact that she's covered almost every songwriter who ever put pen to paper, and her ouvre may be the closest approximation you can find of a pop survey course.

It used to be nearly impossible to puzzle out Ike & Tina's discography, but now there's a terrific online resource, and EMI has released their earliest records on twofers with excellent liner notes. (DBW)

Lineup as of 1971 - Tina Turner, vocals; Ike Turner, organ, guitar; Jackie Clark, guitar; Warren Dawson, bass; Soko Richardson, drums; Edward Burks, McKinley Johnson, J.D. Reed, Mary Reed, horns.

In 1951, Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm recorded "Rocket 88," credited to saxophonist Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats; this is one of many songs sometimes credited as the first rock and roll record. During the next decade Turner toured and recorded with a number of acts under various names but nothing made a national impact. (DBW)

The Soul of Ike and Tina Turner (1961)
Ike and Tina's first hit, "A Fool For You," is here, and it's representative of the entire disc: basic R&B meets girl group with the occasional honking sax ("If") but the lead vocalist carrying most of the weight - much like the early Marvelettes. At this point, though, Tina had nothing going for her except raw power, and she intejects prolonged "Ohhh!"s far too often ("I'm Jealous"). "Letter From Tina" introduces the direct, partly spoken grievance Tina would sometimes pursue during the rest of her time with Ike. Almost everything's by Ike or Ike and Tina, including "I Idolize You," which the duo would resurrect at various points throughout their career. (DBW)

Dance With Ike & Tina Turner's Kings Of Rhythm (1962)
No Tina, and in fact no singing of any kind... It may be hard to remember this now, but lots of people were scrambling for hit instrumentals in the early part of the decade: "The Gully" in particular seems like a failed stab at the success of Duane Eddy and Freddy King. The tunes are simple ("Potato Mash"), and the guitar leads - while unfailingly competent ("The Groove") - are too. Let me note here that Ike considered himself a guitarist by necessity only: it's his defenders who created the legend that he was spectacularly talented on the instrument. "Going Home" has a langorous melancholy recalling Chuck Berry's early instrumentals, and collectors may be stoked to hear an early version of Rose Marie McCoy's "It's Gonna Work Out Fine"; otherwise the record is most interesting for its range: with two-four stomp bass, handclaps and offhand interjections, "Steel Guitar Rag" may be the most country tune Ike ever cut, while "Kantanga" evokes the ersatz Latin jazz of Herb Alpert. Re-released in 2000 with half of Ike Rocks The Blues and a few extra cuts under the title Ike's Instrumentals. (DBW)

Dynamite (1963)
Half of the tracks are repeated from Soul Of, including "A Fool For You," and fortunately you can now get them both telescoped onto one CD. The new material is in the same style as the debut ("You Should've Treated Me Right") and generally unremarkable, apart from the blaring strings on "Won't You Forgive Me"; "Poor Fool" would stay in the repertoire. (DBW)

Don't Play Me Cheap (1963)
Largely the same R&B/girl group approach of Soul Of and Dynamite, but there are more slow numbers, and the arrangements are smoother and more sophisticated: strings support half the cuts including the title ballad, while "Desire" is a full-blown, orchestra-backed torch number, gamely essayed by Tina. She comes across as a far more polished singer than she'd been just a year before, but the compositions don't really live up to the delivery ("My Everything To Me," a sappy 12/8 ode). Now available on an EMI twofer with the following LP and some bonus single sides including "Dear John," a spoken, organ-backed diatribe against a violent male partner. (DBW)

It's Gonna Work Out Fine (1963)
I'm guessing Cheap flopped, because they promptly shifted back to gruffer vocals ("I'm Gonna Cut You Loose") and grittier R&B ("Gonna Find Me A Substitute"). There are still slow songs, but this time they're piano- and horn-driven ("Kinda Strange"). The title track (perversely slotted next to "I'm Gonna Cut You Loose") is repeated from Dynamite. And in 1963, everyone was trying to make up a dance craze, and Tina's entry was the strikingly ordinary "Tinaroo" (with the wildly optimistic refrain "Everybody's doing the Tinaroo"). So it's a scattershot, only intermittently interesting collection, but the assertive vocals ("Mojo Queen") and callused energy ("Good Good Lovin'") do open a window into some of the Revue's future successes. (DBW)

Ike Turner Rocks The Blues (1963)
Like it says, blues instrumentals with Ike on guitar; includes the lengthy "All The Blues All The Time," which is not so much a medley as a cut-and-paste collection of pointless fragments. (DBW)

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue - Live (1964)
Though Ike and Tina front most of the show, other singers get their shot, including chief Ikette Venetta Fields ("The Love Of My Man"). Also released as Please Please Please. (DBW)

The Ike And Tina Show, Vol. 1 (1965)

Live - The Ike & Tina Show, Vol. 2 (1965)

Fine, Fine, Fine (The Ikettes: rec. 1963-5, rel. 1987)
Like anyone else who wasn't under the protective umbrella of Motown, Atlantic or Stax/Volt, Turner continually had to scramble for hits, using a plethora of gimmicks and new band names. As part of this strategy, he cut several singles on the Ikettes without Tina. Though many of the songs are Ike's, as you'd expect, they also draw on writers like Bacharach and David ("Blue On Blue"), Frank Wilson ("I'm So Thankful"), Chuck Willis ("You're Still My Baby") and Berry Gordy ("I Love The Way You Love," originally a hit for Marv Johnson). The recordings are crisp and professional, and the lead vocals by Venetta Fields are strong ("Don't Feel Sorry For Me"), but by the same token most of the sides have a generic sound ("Peaches 'N' Cream," mixing an "Ain't That Peculiar" vibe with an annoying "Ah ah ah" refrain). A few tracks rise above the pack, though: the frantic "Camel Walk" (another dance craze attempt); the catchy pop tune "Fine, Fine, Fine"; the smooth, lovely "It's Been So Long." Re-released on CD in 1998 with a batch of bonuses. Fields left the Ikettes shortly after these recordings, formed The Mirettes, and later backed a variety of artists including Humble Pie. (DBW)

Get It - Get It (1965)
This time the duo moved into full-tilt, horn-backed urban blues - Guitar Slim's "Things I Used To Do"; Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years" - as the recording quality took a quantum leap forward. Whether listed as covers or credited to Turner, the compositions mostly sound familiar ("I Believe," a rewrite of Elmore James's "Dust My Broom"), but Tina's vocals put them across: her frenzied rendition of "Get It - Get It!" is startling, and she's convincing on slower numbers too (the slinky kissoff "That's Alright"). "I Can't Believe" is something different, though - a funky, midtempo tune full of creepy strings and aggressive whispering from Tina - and strident strings are well used on "You Weren't Ready" also. Ike & Tina are best known for being manic performers, but for my money they're better on midtempo stuff that gives her more room for vocal shading, and this is one of the most satisfying discs I've heard from them so far. I'm reviewing the remixed version released in 1969 as Her Man... His Woman... the original may be a bit different. (DBW)

River Deep - Mountain High (1966)
Produced by Phil Spector, and he insisted that Ike stay away from the studio and off the album so as not to interfere with Spector's delicate genius. Ike, in turn, insisted on being credited although the LP was really a Tina solo project. The title track is often cited as a Wall Of Sound high point; it famously stiffed on first release but later inspired covers by everyone from The Supremes & The Four Tops to Deep Purple and Eric Burdon (not to mention Ashford & Simpson borrowing the lyrical theme for "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). Personally, I can hear "flop" much more clearly than "high point." Otherwise, Spector dug up a bunch of moldy oldies ("Save The Last Dance For Me"; Arthur Alexander's "Every Day I Have To Cry"), the Vandellas B-side "A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday)," some old Ike & Tina numbers ("I Idolize You"; "A Fool In Love") and some new tunes he wrote with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry ("Hold On Baby"). If you've heard any of Spector's other 60s productions - and believe me, you have - you know what to expect, and Tina's raspy vocalizing is not a particularly good fit for his overblown cotton candy approach. The shining exception is "Such A Fool For You," a Motown-tinged number that barrels down the track like an express train. (DBW)

So Fine (1968)
The first release on Ike's Pompeii label, with "Too Hot To Hold" and "Bet 'Cha Can't Kiss Me (Just One Time)" (a very weird novelty duet with a Chipmunk soundalike). (DBW)

Cussin', Cryin' And Carryin' On (1969)
The title cut was a single. Tracks from these two releases were repackaged later the same year as Get It Together, and I believe all the tracks from both LPs are available on a CD called So Fine (thanks to Dan Hitchcock for the info). (DBW)

A Black Man's Soul (Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm: 1969)
A set of instrumentals in basically the same horn-heavy style as Get It, with Ike mostly on keys and the guitar way in the background ("Ghetto Funk"; the Stax-like "Philly Dog"). Some folks consider the record a pivotal moment in the development of funk, but really it's close to what The MG's were putting out at this time, only less melodic and memorable ("Thinking Black," which could have been a cop show theme). "Black Beauty," though, is a fine minimal groove, with perhaps the best triangle hook I've ever heard, and the piano-led "Getting Nasty" is lovely, with an informal, Sunday afternoon vibe. (DBW)

Outta Season (1969)
An abrupt swing to blues and heavy R&B, including ancient tunes like "I Am A Motherless Child" and "Dust My Broom" along with more recent fare like Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do" and B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby." There are also new stabs at "My Babe" and "Five Long Years." The most contemporary note on the record is a quite effective cover of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," which Tina pours her heart into. Otherwise, though, there's a lot of very ordinary, rote blues on tap ("Please Love Me"). The first of two albums Ike licensed to Blue Thumb, and (coincidentally or not) their two album covers making explicit racial statements: this one shows winking Turners in whiteface eating watermelon. Produced by Bob Krasnow and Tina. (DBW)

The Hunter (1969)
More or less a straight urban blues record, heavy on cover tunes (Albert King's title track, also covered by Led Zeppelin; a new version of "Things We Used To Do"). Even the so-called originals sound mighty familiar: "Bold Soul Sister" (for which Tina received a Grammy nomination) is just Sly Stone's "Sing A Simple Song" with new words. Ike plays the plentiful guitar leads, and they're competent though no revelation ("Early In The Morning"). So as usual, the quality of the record comes down to Tina's vocal leads, and as usual, she's an effective interpreter on the rare occasions that she dials down below eleven ("I Know"). This time, the album cover depicts the Turners posing in front of numerous strung-up Caucasian mannequins. (DBW)

In Person (Ike & Tina Turner & The Ikettes: 1969)
Another live album. (DBW)

Come Together (1970)
Gee, a lot of people covered that song. The blues revival (late 60s, not mid 80s version) was fading, so the shift is back to a mix of rock and R&B ("Honky Tonk Women"; "I Want To Take You Higher"). But the band hits on a series of powerful deep pocket grooves, not too fast or too slow, giving Tina something she can work with ("Too Much Woman (For A Henpecked Man)"), while her lyrics push boundaries of acceptable subject matter ("Contact High"; "Young And Dumb"). The Up With People number "Why Can't We Be Happy" features an extended wah-wah solo, but mostly the stinging guitars complement Tina's voice rather than attempting to outshine it. "Doin' It" is a simple one-chord jam of the sort the Turners would start exploring heavily starting with Nuff Said. (DBW)

Workin' Together (1971)
Stylistically a continuation of the previous LP, song-based and mostly midtempo ("The Way You Love Me"; the moving "You Can Have It"). Their famous take on Credence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" became a hit, and the act's signature song. "Funkier Than A Mosquita's Tweeter" (by Tina's sister Ailene Bullock) became a popular catchphrase, and Tina's (relatively) low-key delivery of "Game Of Love" is fantastic, but otherwise the songwriting is a bit weak, with too many songs expressing common sentiments in ordinary ways ("Goodbye So Long"). Two more Beatles tunes - "Get Back" and "Let It Be" - are energized but uninspired. (DBW)

What You Hear Is What You Get: Live At Carnegie Hall (1971)
This live album captures the Ike & Tina Turner Revue at their most polished and enthusiastic, if not at their best. The show opens with two from the Ikettes ("Piece Of My Heart" and "Everyday People") and two introductions before Tina takes the stage and the show starts to take off. The relentless breathlessness doesn't leave Turner much room for subtlety in her interpretations ("Sweet Soul Music"), though the tempo comes down a couple of times (the blues "I Smell Trouble"; "A Love Like Yours"). The endlessly extended version of "Proud Mary" is the key track, of course. The other cornerstone is an equally lengthy version of "I've Been Loving You Too Long" highlighted by crude oral sex playacting by the Turners - I'm not against smut for smut's sake, but here it wipes out the emotional power of Redding's tune. (DBW)

Nuff Said (1971)
Another big concept shift, as these "songs" are mostly just a collection of unstructured vamps distinguished by Tina's repeated interjections (the two-part title track; "Tell The Truth"). Which may bring to mind James Brown's early 70s output, but these tunes are organ-driven Stax soul ("Sweet Flustrations") rather than Brown's syncopated funk. Only "Moving Into Trip Style - A Trip Child" is an actual song, and it borrows substantially from both "Proud Mary" and Sly's "Everyday People." Curiously, for a record with so little actual songwriting there's a long list of songwriters: Leon Ware co-wrote half the tunes, usually with one or more of the Turners ("Tell The Truth"). Ailene wrote another tune, "Baby (What You Want Me To Do)," and pitched in on "Pick Me Up (Take Me Where Your Home Is)." Produced and arranged by Ike Turner. (DBW)

Live In '71 (rec. 1971, rel. 2004)
Recorded in Holland, this set is well recorded and fast-paced but largely redundant. As usual, The Ikettes kick things off, this time with a lively rendition of The Sweet Inspirations' "Sweet Inspiration." Mostly, though, the set list closely resembles What You Hear, complete with prolonged performances of "Proud Mary," "I Smell Trouble" and "Loving You Too Long." Given the greater historical impact of that collection, there's not much point to getting this one, though it is nice to hear the un-Spectoral version of "River Deep." (DBW)

Strange Fruit (The Family Vibes: 1972)
Around this time, Ike renamed the Kings Of Rhythm to The Family Vibes. "D.M.Z." is an organ-led instrumental. (DBW)

Blues Roots (Ike Turner: 1972)
A solo album for Ike. (DBW)

Feel Good (1972)
Largely a continuation of the jam-heavy approach of Nuff Said, though there are more memorable riffs (the funk stew "Bolic") and a broader instrumental palette, with touches of synth and wah-wah guitar. Structurally, the songs are either built on blues changes ("Black Coffee," not the 40s standard; "If You Can Hully Gully (I Can Hully Gully Too)") or repeated licks (title track). Also, apart from a slow, soulful "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" almost everything is by Tina (though recent reissues credit Ike on most tunes as well - I don't know if that was a publishing issue or what). Produced by Ike and Gerhard Augustin; this album has been released on a twofer CD with Nutbush City Limits. (DBW)

Let Me Touch Your Mind (1973)
With Turnerized versions of "Up On The Roof," "Heaven Help Us All" and Hank Ballard's "Annie Had A Baby."

Confined To Soul (The Family Vibes: 1973)
"Garbage Man," a comic, mostly spoken tune (not unlike "Funky Worm") is the only tune I've heard from this set. (DBW)

The World Of Ike & Tina Turner - Live! (1973)
No fooling, another live double-LP. The set list mostly reflects the past couple of studio LPs, not much repeated from What You Hear. (DBW)

Bad Dreams (Ike Turner: 1973)

Nutbush City Limits (1973)
A harder-edged sound, apart from the squeaky synth creeping into several tunes: Tina's title track (one of the act's best-known tunes) could practically be an AC/DC song. And apart from the vamp "Fancy Annie," there's a none-too-soon return to verse/chorus songwriting ("That's My Purpose"). Though most tunes are originals again, "River Deep" is remade as a rave-up, while "You Are My Sunshine" - transformed into simmering funk - and "Drift Away" are covered. (DBW)

Tina Turns The Country On! (Tina Turner: 1974)
Somewhere between Ray Charles's forays into country western and Millie Jackson's. Mostly remakes of hits by other artists, as usual (Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You"; James Taylor's "Don't Talk Now"). (DBW)

The Gospel According To Ike & Tina (1974)
Pretty clearly an imitation of Aretha Franklin's gospel album, with very familiar tunes like "What A Friend We Have In Jesus," "Closer Walk With Thee" and of course "Amazing Grace." (DBW)

Sweet Rhode Island Red (1974)
Two more Stevie Wonder songs get the Turner treatment: "Living For The City" and "Higher Ground." (DBW)

Acid Queen (Tina Turner: 1975)
The title track isn't Tina's performance in the film version of Tommy; it's a re-recording. Other rock covers include "Under My Thumb," "Let's Spend The Night Together" and "Whole Lotta Love." Side Two, though, is all by Ike ("Baby Get It On"). After this release, the Turners' marriage broke up and so did the act. Or vice versa. (DBW)

Delilah's Power (1977)
I believe this is a collection of leftovers and outtakes; the title track was a single. (DBW)

Airwaves (1978)

Rough (Tina Turner: 1978)
Produced by Bob Monaco, and he continued Ike's ploy of covering anything and everything: "The Bitch Is Back"? Perfect! Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch"? Heck yeah! Among the new material, the funky bilingual "Viva La Money" sounds like a calculated attempt to rip off "Lady Marmalade." So it's easy to mock the enterprise, but if you actually listen to the disc it's striking how well he anticipated the approach that would launch Tina's comeback six years later: she shows aching vulnerability on the ballads ("The Woman I'm Supposed To Be") while convincingly revving up the barn-burners ("Root Toot Undisputable Rock 'N Roller"), over a musical background that's modern without trying too hard to be. And "Funny How Time Slips Away" isn't the bathetic exercise you might expect: it's transformed into a rollicking, epic showpiece. (DBW)

Love Explosion (Tina Turner: 1979)
Produced by Eurodisco mastermind Alec R. Costandinos and arranged by crony Raymond Knehnestky, but his trademark symphonic sound is nowhere in evidence. "Sunset On Sunset" is generic pop-disco (though the Birds of Fire are audible in the background); "Music Keeps Me Dancin'" is a faster version of the same thing; "On The Radio" is tepid funk. There are a couple of covers: the O'Jays hit "Backstabbers," and the Mann/Weil ballad "Just A Little Lovin' (Early In The Morning)." Turner's raspy, tortured vocals don't particularly suit the mood, and the emotional impact of her alto scream is blunted because she never does anything else. Probably the highlight is the tearjerking "I See Home," which goes for broke with a dramatic string arrangement and gospel chorus, and even that overstays its welcome. After this bombed, Turner went into hiding for a few years before shooting to stardom in the mid-80s. (DBW)

The Edge (Ike Turner Featuring Tina Turner And Home Grown Funk: 1980)
I have to think the Tina tracks (making up the first side of the LP) were left over from 1976 or thenabouts. Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" and Sylvia Robinson's "Shame Shame Shame" are pure pop-disco, while Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed" expresses all of Tina's ragged sentimentality; there are also two Bill Withers tunes: "Use Me" and "Lean On Me." (DBW)

Private Dancer (Tina Turner: 1984)
A variation on Richard Perry's Secret Comeback Formula, reviving R&B artists by covering white rock stars. Here Turner tries on Bowie's "1984" and Mark Knopfler's title tune, but also remakes R&B hits by Ann Peebles ("I Can't Stand The Rain") and Al Green ("Let's Stay Together," a single). Jeff Beck pitches in, adding creatively weird solos to the title track and "Steel Claw," and saxist Mel Collins also pops up. So far, so predictable. But the small army of producers - Rupert Hine, Terry Britten, Martyn Ware, Greg Walsh and Carter - also bring in some new songs, and for every loser like the pseudo-anthem "Better Be Good To Me" there's a winner like the huge hit "What's Love Got To Do With It," a weary, cautiously optimistic number that perfectly suits Turner's ravaged voice. However, the record doesn't age well, thanks to its extreme reliance on 80s fads - crashing synth snares, squiggly synth horns, robotic synth bass, Billy Idol-sounding guitar - and her incessant mannerisms are a bit much to take at album length... it's like, when you first start scratching an itch it feels great, but if you don't stop after a while, it just hurts. (DBW)

In 1985, Tina co-starred in the film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and sang the soundtrack hit "We Don't Need Another Hero." (DBW)

Break Every Rule (Tina Turner: 1986)
The same basic approach and production team as Private Dancer. Almost every track was released as a single; "Typical Male" went to #2 in the States. (DBW)

Tina: Live In Europe (Tina Turner: 1988)

Foreign Affair (Tina Turner: 1989)
"The Best" was a hit single. (DBW)

What's Love Got To Do With It (Tina Turner: 1993)
The soundtrack from the film about the Turners, featuring remakes of many of the act's 60s and 70s hits ("A Fool In Love"; "Proud Mary"). (DBW)

Wildest Dreams (Tina Turner: 1996)
With the Bond theme "GoldenEye," written by Bono and The Edge. (DBW)

Twenty Four Seven (Tina Turner: 1999)

Here And Now (Ike Turner & His Kings Of Rhythm: 2001)
Ike's comeback attempt, with remade versions of pre-Tina tunes like "Rocket 88" and "I'm Tore Up." The set list is fleshed out with such well-worn fare as "Swanee River Boogie," "Catfish Blues," plus a number of new songs ("You Can't Winnum' All"). Turner plays guitar throughout, and adds piano to several tracks (the instrumental "Baby's Got It"); the rest of the core band is Ernest Lane (piano), Kevin Cooper (bass) and Bugsy Wilcox (drums), and a four-piece horn section. It's all professional - a bit too professional, actually, as the metronomic tracks go down more smoothly than blues ever should. And since Ike was never known as a vocalist, his whammy-heavy guitar leads lack range, and the songs - whether old or new - sound familiar, there just isn't much to listen for. (DBW)

Risin' With The Blues (Ike Turner: 2006)
Ike's final recording before his 2007 death from a cocaine overdose. Includes "Jesus Loves Me," which is a bit curious considering Ike had converted to Judaism in 1994. (DBW)

Wilson & Alroy never, ever do nothin'... nice.

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