Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ike Turner [extended]

  • River Deep--Mountain High [A&M, 1969] A-
  • Come Together [Liberty, 1970] A-
  • Her Man . . . His Woman [Capitol, 1970] C
  • Workin' Together [Liberty, 1970] B
  • What You Hear Is What You Get [United Artists, 1971] B+
  • Nuff Said [United Artists, 1971] C+
  • Blues Roots [United Artists, 1972] B-
  • Feel Good [United Artists, 1972] B-
  • Bad Dreams [United Artists, 1973] B
  • Nutbush City Limits [United Artists, 1973] B+
  • Greatest Hits [United Artists, 1976] A-
  • Proud Mary--The Best of Ike and Tina Turner [Sue, 1991] A-
  • I Like Ike! The Best of Ike Turner [Rhino, 1994] A-
  • Here and Now [Ikon, 2001] Neither
  • Here and Now [Ikon, 2001]

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ike & Tina Turner: River Deep--Mountain High [A&M, 1969]
Since I have been known to make grumbling noises about Ike and Tina Turner albums and Phil Spector albums, I thought I ought to exempt this one, which is both. Much of it is in a class with the title cut, though not up to it. The problem insofar as there is one, is that that kind of intensity can't sustain itself for the length of an album. A-

Ike & Tina Turner and the Ikettes: Come Together [Liberty, 1970]
Tina is more convincing when she's growling out Ike's songs about her sexual appetites (I sure couldn't handle her) than when she's belting out Ike's songs about the social fabric ("Why can't we be happy like we used to be"). She's also more convincing when she's growling out a Stones song about her sexual appetites than when she's belting out a Sly Stone song about the social fabric. Still, their vogue has been good for their music--the level of effort here is so high that the sole throwaway works as a coda and brings the record back down. And the rock covers take some strain off Ike--especially when Tina sings a Beatles song that's about both her sexual appetites and the social fabric. A-

Ike & Tina Turner: Her Man . . . His Woman [Capitol, 1970]
Elevated by the Rolling Stones into mythic status among white people, the Turners are now haunted by their profligate recording habits--Capitol is the tenth label to release an I&TT LP in the past two years. Granted, most and maybe all of them are better than this, a humdrum blues runthrough (with big-band horns and fake-symph strings) on which Ike claims authorship of such works as "Dust My Broom" (here yclept "I Believe") and "Ten Long Years" (here yclept "Five Long Years"). Apparently it was cut some years ago for Cenco (?) Records. The Turners are currently contracted to Liberty, have authorized product out on A&M and Blue Thumb, and caveat emptor. C

Ike & Tina Turner: Workin' Together [Liberty, 1970]
There's a pretty fair remake of "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" in between the two great cuts on this album--the easy-to-rough "Proud Mary" (with Ike rolling in back) and their first successful "peace and love" "generation" song, appropriately entitled "Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter." Someone named Eki Renrut contributes a pretty fair do-right-man song. And Tina tries valiantly to sing her way out of some gunny sacks. B

Ike & Tina Turner: What You Hear Is What You Get [United Artists, 1971]
Those who regard Tina as Aretha with good legs should listen to her rasp through "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and "Respect" for the finale of this live-at-Carnegie double--her true grit isn't good for much power or warmth. But she and Ike really put their increasingly unfashionable rough-and-greasy notion of soul out there, and despite the speeches, backup singers, and guitar demonstrations a lot of their show is captured in disc. The band crackles, Tina is more intense than in the studio versions, and Ike provides basso humoroso commentary. And not only that but they eat each other! Right on the stage! B+

Ike & Tina Turner: Nuff Said [United Artists, 1971]
The title tune is performed by the Family Vibs, formerly Ike & Tina's Kings of Rhythm, formerly Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm. They deserve the honor. Here Tina's screeching becomes painful, not because it's rough but because it's out of tune. As for Ike, he's out of tunes. C+

Blues Roots [United Artists, 1972]
Amazingly, the title is pretty accurate--some of it's even twelve-bar. He's always played a mean, flashy guitar, and his deadpan is good for one moderately interesting LP. On the other hand, you should hear James Brown--or the Five Royales--sing "Think." B-

Ike & Tina Turner: Feel Good [United Artists, 1972]
In which Tina finds her more-than-match in all-night bikers, gentle pimps, and other wonders of nature--what, no strong-but-silent bandleaders? And then demonstrates that equality is more than Writing Your Own Songs. B-

Bad Dreams [United Artists, 1973]
After twenty years of raking it in from the shadows, he's finally figured out a way of applying his basically comic bass/baritone to rock and roll. Studio-psychedelic New Orleans, echoes of the Band and Dr. John, some brilliant minor r&b mixed in with the dumb stuff. My God--at the moment he's more interesting than Tina. B

Ike & Tina Turner: Nutbush City Limits [United Artists, 1973]
Tina hasn't regained her voice, which makes this recovery a certain rather than a likely fluke, but I find happy accidents in every cut except maybe "Drift Away." Highlights include the nutball title hit, a stripped-down "River Deep, Mountain High," a tribute to East St. Louis's "Club Manhattan," and "That's My Purpose," keyed to a line I happen to be a sucker for: "Let your face be the last I see." B+

Ike & Tina Turner: Greatest Hits [United Artists, 1976]
I prefer Come Together, which this duplicates only on the title cut, but I like the way the sides are split between rock and soul/r&b here. Best moments: the Ikettes harmonizing on "A Fool in Love" and Ike and Tina slurping on "I've Been Loving You Too Long." A-

Ike & Tina Turner: Proud Mary--The Best of Ike and Tina Turner [Sue, 1991]
Seven early-'60s hits, two or three of them classic, constitute their authentic stage. Then there's a hiatus when they record for at least four other labels (cf. Tomato's typically patchy Great Rhythm & Blues Sessions quote unquote). Then there are Beatles, Stones, and Sly covers, followed by Eki Renrut's "Workin' Together," followed by the Creedence cover that breaks them pop. After which they return to authenticity at a higher (that is, less authentic) level of consciousness, like "Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter" and their second-biggest pop record, "Nutbush City Limits," which reached number 22. Excellent stuff in general, don't get me wrong. But legendary? This woman really knew how to show off her legs. A-

I Like Ike! The Best of Ike Turner [Rhino, 1994]
Hardly the last major rock and roller to brutalize women, Turner gets short-changed by history partly because his best-known victim was so major herself and partly because his specialty was collaboration. Sadly, Rhino's licensing whizzes failed to secure his Federal sides, depriving us of both his rawest singer--Billy Gayles, the real Screamin' Jay Hawkins--and his most primordial guitar. And leaving a lean, mean bandleader whose ear for the permanent novelty only began with "Rocket `88'"--as did everything else. A-

Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm: Here and Now [Ikon, 2001] Neither

Here and Now [Ikon, 2001]
Ike Turner is the kind of innovator best appreciated by connoisseurs--for his solos, his arrangements, the singers he exploited. One of these, headlong shouter Jackie Brenston, had his name on the 1951 r&b smash and first-rock-and-roll-record nominee "Rocket 88." On this comeback, 69-year-old Ike, who hasn't made a solo album since 1972, slows the classic just a hair, and though his typically expert band hits the groove on all cylinders, his raspy vocal could use an oil change. And so it goes. Of the seven songs, only the newly minted sexist novelty "I Need A-Nuddin'" properly shows off his comic baritone, and only a remake of Turner's old Billy Gayles showcase "I'm Tore Up" conveys the urgency palpable in late Muddy Waters or Alberta Hunter. Of the four instrumentals, only the fast-moving "Baby's Got It"--highlighted by Ike's (or maybe Ernest Lane's) piano--strops up the kind of edge that sharpens 1994 Rhino compilation I Like Ike! throughout. Ike can still get it up, definitely. But how much he enjoys it isn't as clear as it should be. [Rolling Stone: 3]

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