|Doing what they do best: Ike and Tina Turner, tearin' it up onstage.|
The record: Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show (Warner Brothers, 1965 - WS 1579)
The artist(s): Ike and Tina Turner, with Jimmy Thomas, Venetta Fields, and Jessie Smith
|Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show|
All Music Guide says: Four stars. "The recording is primitive and raw, with considerable distortion, but that only adds to the excitement." - William Ruhlmann [link]
Was it a hit: It reached #126 on the Billboard charts in February 1965. Ike and Tina released a second live album for Warner Brothers that same year but were recording for other labels by 1966.
Choice excerpt from the liner notes: Disc jockey Curtis (Gene) Pierce of KGFJ, at the time an influential Los Angeles soul music station, gives Ike and Tina a breathless, semi-incoherent rave review. Example: "Namely, listen to 'Let the Good Times Roll' and 'Twist and Shout' on Side Two. That's where Tina sings with especially a lot of soul." [The songs he mentions are both on Side One.] Later, he advises us: "Whenever the Ike and Tina Turner Show is in your town or city, do like me. Make the scene." Trivia note: according to Pierce, Tina was often called "The Human Bombshell."
|A young John Waters.|
Ike and Tina wisely borrow from the Ray Charles playbook in their act. They end this album with a searing cover of Charles' "To Tell the Truth" and perform lurid, sensual R&B re-arrangements of country songs like "You Are My Sunshine" and "I Can't Stop Loving You," both previously done (to great commercial success) by Brother Ray. But Mr. and Mrs. Turner take these songs even further away from the white mainstream than Ray did. You won't hear any soothing strings or Caucasian backing choruses here the way you will on Ray's waxings. While Ray Charles aimed for theaters and nightclubs, Ike and Tina are firmly rooted in the roadhouses and juke joints of black America. To illustrate my point, here's Ray's #1 hit remake of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" from 1962:
And now here's Ike and Tina's version from 1965:
They're both great records, but the Turners' version is much more erotic and not nearly as pop-friendly as Ray's. It was this uncompromising quality of their music which largely kept them off the Top 40, even though they were one of the most potent acts of their time. Tina herself addresses the issue in the spoken monologue which prefaces their one big crossover hit, "Proud Mary" (which is not part of this album):
You know, every now and then I think you might like to hear something from us nice and easy. But there's just one thing. You see, we never ever do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice... and rough!With her smash Private Dancer album in the 1980s, Tina finally hit the big time with a sound that was indeed "nice and easy," mid-tempo, adult-contemporary pop-soul that was perfect for MTV and Top 40 radio. She had more than earned her day of triumph, but it's still exhilarating to hear "the Human Bombshell" back when she was nice and rough.
Overall grade: A