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Ike Turner, featuring Tina Turner
Ike Turner Review: I Smell Trouble!
El-Camel's Ratings:

ABM Label
michael white


Her success has been overwhelming and universal. So much so that it's now hard to sanction, let alone remember, a time when she was plain (though this was probably only ever true in one sense of the word) Ms Annie Mae Bullock - hopeful night-club singer; and when Ike Turner was the main recognised talent and focus of attention. This process has been cemented via his demonisation in print and on film, with the result that their marriage has become a watchword for volatility and an abusive, self-destructive relationship. Ike has come to appear as little more than a footnote in the inexorable rise of a superstar.

Whether he held her back - physically or career wise - is best left between them and the lawyers; however, listening to this album there is no doubting the opportunity and grounding he offered her. If James Brown has long rejoiced in the sobriquet of 'the hardest working man in showbiz' then Ike must have been star pupil on one of his youth training courses. The enduring energy and excitement of classic strands of blues, jazz, funk, rhythm 'n' blues, soul, rock 'n' roll and the infectious innocence of early '60s girl group pop are all brilliantly realised here. Adding in his considerable prowess as a pianist (child prodigy), guitarist, writer, arranger, producer, and his legendary eye for picking the 'talent' of the Ikettes for his stage Review, leaves you wondering where he got the time to cultivate the monster within.

Opening track - 'Beauty Is Only Skin Deep' - is a clarion call: its free-falling, high bouncing resonance has all the characteristically cacophonous simplicity and alert production tricks of Motown. 'Funky Mule' is more knowing. It immediately kicks in with a message to get down that is all wound up stridency masquerading as a brass knuckled hoof to the groin.

'I'm Fired Up' has a languid, liquid riff - which any blue-eyed white mod band of the era would have been proud to call their own - opening out the space for Tina to let rip in that glorious abandoned persona of hers. Its foot-stomping ferocity and awesome woman scorned begs the question: how could this female have been anyone's victim? Having pushed the rhythm method and got the audience on the dance floor comes 'You Got What You Want' delivering a slow quivering arrow to the heart: a showcase for Tina's deep throated theatricality that is easily the equal in impact of any of her contemporary work, and all the better for the raw simplicity derived from the booming spatial production of the '60s.

The true revelation though is Ike: the droll subtleties of his keyboard work on instrumental - 'Freedom Sound'; the rolling, throbbing Jimmy Reed-like guitar gait of 'Rock Me Baby'; and best of all the slow electric blues workout of the title track - where Windy City cool is made flesh in his telling use of pregnant pauses, tremeloed sparsity, and bursts of spikey, silvery scattershot note clusters. The Chicago slow-quick-slow blues is a breeze for him - here's an Ike of all trades who has an itinerant mastery of pretty much all of them.

'It Sho Ain't Me' is an evocative soul number which plants Tina's rich and pained voice into an Otis Redding style, slow burning torch setting. The anthemic chant-along of good-time dance that is 'Too Hot To Hold' is a closing call to strut your stuff just one more time. It's title serves as analogy of Ike's relationship with Tina as well as another potent reinforcement of the breadth of a typical Ike Turner Review show and the enthralling live prospect that it offered the audience.

This studio collection is an impassioned journey around all the early melting pot styles of American popular music, giving just a hint of the road-honed vintage of the material; and a reminder of the exciting fluidity of a moment in music history when personally/stylistically anything seemed possible.

Tina Turner - the rocking pensioner at sixty we all know about. As for Ike? He's still out there doing itů somewhere.

Oilzine Members Reviews
Ike Turner, featuring Tina Turner

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