Wipe Off The Dust: Thangs n' Stuff and Stuff n' Blues From Ike and Tina Turner

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When you hear the names "Ike & Tina Turner" several things come to mind. Okay, yeah, obviously "domestic abuse", then "Anne Mae you want some cake?!" (I've disliked Laurence Fishburne ever since seeing What's Love Got To Do With It---talk about good acting). On the music front, "Proud Mary" is the song everyone and their Momma knows and tries to shimmy shake to, completely forgetting it was Creedence Clearwater Revival's tune from the beginning. Then you have to marvel at Tina having possibly one of the best comebacks in music history in the 1980's. Yet, where, musically, did Tina come back from? That's what people somewhat tend to have selective amnesia about, not really realizing that Ike and Tina were more than just "rolling on a river" and having a volatile relationship.

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.

From Outta Season"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.


  1. I got into Ike & Tina last year with this very Blue Thumb best of. I like BT as a label, because they hosted both the Pointer Sisters & Sylvester, so they had a very diverse roster.

    As for I&T, "Bold Soul Sister" is one of their best, very punchy & manic fun. I later bought a fleshed out three disc box on them that had even more stuff, "Sexy Ida, Part 2" is one I'd recommend. The Soul Train performance clips are hot. But, as a longtime TT fan, it was nice to expand into her I&T stuff, very iconic in its own way. Nice work.-QH

  2. QH,
    That is so right! Pointer Sisters were on Blue Thumb---didn't know about Sylvester, though. I'm a huge Pointer Sisters fan and you're right they are very diverse in their catalog, and strangely people don't know about THAT! I think their first albums were on BT---very good stuff that grossly gets ignored.

    3-disc box set, wow! You're doing better than me, lol cause I just have the Blue Thumb album, Proud Mary compilation, and River Deep-Mountain High. I spent an afternoon watching nothing but Ike & Tina performances on YouTube---highlight of my week. Amazing stuff, such energy. I'm a big fan of Tina too, and it's really fascinating to reach back to what she did with Ike past "Proud Mary".

  3. My favorite album from Ms. Turner is '95's "Wildest Dreams." Yeh, the Pointers were signed to Blue Thumb until '78, they became a three piece, Bonnie left to go solo with Motown. Then they teamed with Richard Perry (Diana Ross, Carly Simon) and his Planet label, later absorbed by RCA for their genre bending work of the tail end '70's until '88. Just some history, I love talking Pointers.-QH

  4. QH:

    Talk away about the Pointers :) I haven't heard Bonnie's solo project, but I've seen reviews saying it worth a check out. As for the trio sisters, I haven't met a Pointer Sisters album that I didn't like, well, I did stop at '88, haven't gone beyond that or heard June's solo project. I'm now getting the urge to do a Pointer Sisters post!

    My fave Tina album is 1989's "Foreign Affair", she revisits her Blues roots on it, plus Sly Stone pops up, can't beat that. I haven't heard 'Wildest Dreams' in a loooong time, might have to brush that one off.

  5. "Foreign Affair" felt a bit uneven to me, as many of her post-PD albums did, but it was WD that really seemed to have its own vibe and force to it. WD was WD, not a PD xerox, and for that I think people really responded to it, overseas anyway.

    Ironically, it (WD) echoed a more Transatlantic sensuality that FA DID, maybe it was her cover of Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" and Trevor Horn, the Pet Shop Boys, Nellee Hooper, and The Edge (of U2) having a hand in the pot for this project.

    I'm only missing the Pointers first album, and '88's "Serious Slammin'," their early '90's set, "Only Sisters Can Do That" has some really nice highlights that make it worth the purchase.-QH

  6. QH:
    I always have liked Trevor Horn's productions (Seal, ABC, Grace Jones) and Nellee Hooper (Bjork!) so I might have to revisit 'Wildest Dreams'. I still love 'FA', you can't sway me otherwise, lol! I listened to it a lot in college and was glad she played a few numbers from it when I saw her live back in '08.

    I don't have the first Pointers album either, or the early 90's one, but I do have 'Serious Slammin'. A bit overproduced, but I don't mind it, and it's New Jack/Big 80's R&B heaven. Strangely it has "My Life" from 'Hot Together' on it again, but has some kicking dance numbers and a wonderful Diane Warren track called "Moonlight Dancing". You should try and scope it out!

  7. I won't sway you, I do like "The Best" from FA and the title track is hot as well. ;)

    I'd say after "Contact" the dance mode they'd been operating in was getting stale, and sadly they, for some reason, didn't switch gears. It was rumored Perry's drug issues didn't give him much clarity to see what was in need of retooling. Ah well. I plan to get SS someday as well as their first one.-QH


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