Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Blues Side of Ike and Tina

 When I was in college back in the latter part of the sixties, I purchased a copy of the album, “Outta Season” by Ike and Tina Turner on Blue Thumb. It has a gatefold cover showing the two in whiteface eating watermelons which may have been controversial back then. It was a collection of mostly blues including a terrific rendition of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” I had known of Ike and Tina from Murray the K playing the heck outta of the Phil Spector produced single “River Deep, Mountain High,” but getting this album was a revelation since at that time I was unaware of Ike’s legendary role in the post-war Delta blues scene as well as is the St. Louis music scene of the late fifties and sixties.

My musical education continued when the succeeding album, “
The Hunter” came out a year or so later, with some really superb guitar by Albert Collins on many of the tracks. Of course after some major crossover hits, the relationship between Ike & Tina turned very sour and Tina became perhaps an even bigger star than in earlier years. Ike himself produced and played on a number of blues recordings that displayed he was still quite the musician.

Several years ago, the Spanish Blue Moon label reissued the Blue Thump albums on CD,
“The Hunter and Outta Season,” which was, and is, available as an import. More recently, the American Acrobat Music label, issued an abridged reissue of the two albums that I reviewed in the November 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 310-with my photo of McCoy Tyner on the cover) which can be downloaded at jazz-blues.com. Here is that review of the American Acrobat reissue. Both reissues are still available, with the import being a bit more expensive.

Among its initial releases, the American Acrobat Music has issued Ike & Tina Turner “
Sings the Blues.” This album is compiled from the two albums that they had issued on Blue Thump, “Outta Season,” and “The Hunter” but unlike a Spanish reissue of the two albums of a few years back, this release only makes available 11 of the 13 songs on the first album and 7 of the 9 on the second release, which is unfortunately, since the full contents of both do fit on a single CD. One other serious shortcoming is the liner notes make no mention that Albert Collins, not Turner, was guitarist on much of “The Hunter,” which is not to say that Turner’s own guitar work is not worthy of praise as he was a first-rate and distinctive string bender as well as bandleader and Svengali. That all said, the music still resonates as fresh as it was four decades ago (I still have my vinyl LPs).

Tina was, and remains, a superb singer, able to touch one’s gut with her expressiveness whether its her nailing Otis Redding’s “I've Been Loving You Too Long,” or her take of “Three O'clock in the Morning Blues,” taken from B.B. King’s recording with some terrific guitar around her vocal from Ike, or her down-in-the-alley take of “Five Long Years.” “Grumbling” is an instrumental where Ike evokes Freddy King’s “The Stumble.”

Tina’s vocal shines even more brightly on the spiritual “
I Am a Motherless Child,” with its spare backing. Albert Collins’ stinging guitar should be immediately recognizable on her strong take of the Albert King blues, “The Hunter,” and it certainly sounds like Collins, although somewhat restrained in the solo, on the Jimmy Reed Classic “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” titled here as “You Got Me Running.” Ike is on guitar on the funky “Bold Soul Sister,” but Collins is laying it down on his Telecaster for the Bobby Bland classic, I Smell Trouble,” and also on “Early in the Morning,” a version of Junior Parker’s “Mother-in-Law Blues.”

I already mentioned the two main flaws in this reissue, its omission of songs and inaccuracies in its annotation. The music that is made available on this is compelling and highly recommended.

For FTC purposes, I received a review copy from a publicist for this issue.

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