Thursday, November 11, 2010

There Are Other Anthologies With More Music, But The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner Works!

The Good: Funky, Some decent vocals, Some good vocals and lyrics
The Bad: SHORT, Other mixes seem to have more.
The Basics: The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner is a compilation with a unique tracklisting that arguably gets the ten best songs by the duo together.

When I began my exploration of the works of Tina Turner, it was hardly a surprise that I have ended up – so early in the study – with albums of Ike & Tina Turner. While so far, I have only heard the compilations All The Best (click here for that review!) and Tina! Her Greatest Hits (click here for that review!) by Tina Turner, my local library has managed to get me in a limited number of c.d.s so far and as a result, I find myself, rather early on, listening to The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner. This compilation, released in 1990, seems to be an attempt by Ike Turner to continue to make money off the material he had in his possession after the Ike and Tina Turner divorce. The truth is, though, while there have been a few other compilations for the pair that I have gotten in which have more songs, none have quite this mix and the more I listen to this one, the more I like it.

While I am not yet prepared to say that this is the best compilation of the pair's career, it is a unique mix and it sounds good. Anyone looking for 1950s and ?s funk will find that The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner has a number of intriguing hits – “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Proud Mary” – as well as some surprisingly cool takes on other, popular songs of the day, most notably “Honkey Tonk Women” (yes, the song by The Rolling Stones!). The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner might not have any unique tracks, but there are no other albums which have these precise songs and as a result, it becomes a decent compilation, at least as far as I can find.

With only ten songs, occupying a rather meager half hour on c.d., The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner is a decent compilation which includes both works written by Ike Turner, Tina Turner and songs popularized by their cover versions. Ike wrote two of the songs, Tina wrote two and the remaining six are cover songs, which is weird when one considers that “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” includes dialogue between Ike and Tina which seems odd if one considers someone else wrote it! Ike plays guitar and bass on various tracks, but Tina only sings songs on this compilation. Neither is credited with any aspect of production.

What makes The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner distinct is the starkness of the production and instrumental accompaniment on many of the songs. “A Fool In Love” and “I Idolize You” both have more dominant backing vocals than any instrumental accompaniment. It’s not until the song “Proud Mary” that the duo gets backed instrumentally with anything like their level of vocal enthusiasm. Like many r&b and funk albums, the dominant instruments are guitar, bass, and percussion with a noticeable brass section. The trumpets come out on a few songs as accent pieces, so mostly these songs have a more traditional pop-rock sound and feel to them.

Vocally, this album makes it clear both how Tina Turner has the talent to launch a solo career and how she built a loyal audience while with Ike. Turner's vocals go all over the spectrum. While she is low and primal on “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Proud Mary,” she is able to go high and emphatic on “Nutbush City Limits.” What tends to be distinct about Turner’s vocals is that no matter how emotive she becomes, her lines are still sung in a way that can be clearly understood. While Ike joins Tina on “Proud Mary,” Tina is more frequently accompanied by female backing vocalists who tend to be more limited in their range than Tina is.

Lyrically, The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner is an interesting mix of relationship songs and musical storysongs. Tina tends to focus on conflict in relationships and her songs tend to read like cautionary tales to men, like “Don't try your love on sexy Ida / You might as well try it with the spider / She's got his long black hair / It's a hangin' on down her back / Long black pretty legs / And she walks just like a cat / Hypnotic eyes / And a stacked up love sacks / She not only wants your love / She wants your life after that don't do it” (“Sexy Ida, Pt. 2”). Tina’s lines tend to have good imagery and a strong sense of presence which makes her songs resonate well with both the theme she is trying to articulate and a story that makes that theme interesting.

Ike’s lyrics, on the other hand, tend to be much more straightforward and about the expression of feelings. Ike’s lines tend to blend between emotional desire and physical lust. It was he who wrote “Is some touch from you / Just a little bit attention / You know will see me through / Cause you know you're my kind / And I want you to be mine / I idolize you / I idolize you / I would like to make love to you / When the lights are low / I would like to scream to you baby / Just to let you know” (“I Idolize You”) and that tends to characterize his style of songwriting: simple diction, straight to the point.

The pair also makes a fair effort to cover the works of others. I was pleasantly surprised by how well their version of “Honkey Tonk Women” resonated. Of the songs that others wrote, they continue the trend of oscillating between musical storysongs, emotion-driven tracks and social messages. The duo does a decent job of plugging peace, love and brotherhood with lines like “People disliking one another / Because they were born of a different color / And maybe I'm protesting the wars across the sea / 'Cuz there are people here that are still not free / Working together we can make a change / Working together we can help better things/ So let us put our hate aside and let us let love be our guide” (“Workin’ Together”). Such direct, plaintive appeals to the listener work with the two singing and playing to emphasize the message well.

Ultimately, as I delve into the works of Tina Turner, I am pushing the Ike & Tina Turner works to the back of the month (if I get to them), but The Best Of Ike & Tina Turner stands out as a compilation that is actually funky and cool and worth listening to, despite its brevity.

The best track is “Proud Mary,” the low point is “A Fool In Love.”

For other groups, please check out my reviews of:
The Bird And The Bee - Interpreting The Masters Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall & John Oates
Crash Test Dummies - God Shuffled His Feet
Lifehouse - No Name Face


For other c.d. and music reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here for an organized list.

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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