Ike and Tina aren't really 'album artists', as their singles ruled the roost, and for the casual listener, their plethora of albums is a bit overwhelming and extraneous. Still you can safely have a solid Turner collection by just one or two greatest hits compilations---but then again, it's just more fun to go beyond that.
During their time together, the duo had an initiative to experiment and cross a board of genres. These style shifts kept them from being peskily categorized, which at times worked to their benefit, because well---you can't say they were boring. Still people didn't seem to invest in the times where they really tried to stick out from the pack and be really bold. As they pulled off Phil Spector's 'Wall of Sound' approach for River Deep Mountain High (where they remodeled their earlier hits into glossier pop recordings), a couple of years after that they dove into a Blues mindset, and personally, they excelled in this vein. Cue the conversation to talking about 1969's Outta Season and The Hunter.
Diving in their Blue Thumb label releases, it's evident that Ike was more interested in being a Blues act as his guitar playing proves that point, not to mention his well-known gripes about crossover pop music in general and how he didn't want to go that route. Tina on the other hand was rock-n-roll to the hilt and wanted to do what the Brit rock boys like Bowie and Jagger were doing. So when conflicting minds and talents merged, Outta Season and The Hunter were born. Though both are mostly comprised of cover versions, with an newbie creation here and there, most of everything sounds fresh out the oven original by the two.
"Rock Me Baby" gives the B.B. King original a run for it's money as does Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" where the above performance is a testament to Tina's raw vocal power---ignore creepy Ike (did he really just throw in some shade with his ab-libs?), and man, hear a woman on edge. Tina also knew how to pen a tune as when you hear "I'm A Motherless Child" and how it lingers ghost-like after, you'll see that she had a way with words past fluffy stuff like "Nutbush City Limits".
The Hunter is more so polished than Outta Season, and the best of the two as it's even more grimy and rugged. The re-worked Sly & The Family Stone's "Bold Soul Sista" sizzles and walks on it's own funky legs, making the Grammy nomination Tina got for it deserving. The lengthy, but depth defying title track is punchy, as is "Early Morning" and it's honky-tonk jangle.
From the bushel of highlights on The Hunter, "I Smell Trouble" is my favorite. Oddly my first exposure to the track was from a little-known (but a really entertaining) Keanu Reeves film, called The Night Before which featured the track (sidenote: George Clinton and Funkadelic make a memorable appearance as a house band in the film). Instantly I fell in love with it, and find it one of the best examples how Tina uses her vocals. Real from the gut emotion is projected here, not to mention a really mean guitar gets it fuss on.
This era is nicely defined and condensed on Bold Soul Sister: The Best of the Blue Thumb Recordings, with a tracklisting that features the best off of both albums. It's a great place to start if you're interested in hearing more of the searing 'blues' of Ike and Tina Turner.