Saturday, July 10, 2010
It's taken longer than I'd really care to admit to cotton on the genius of the man known as IKE TURNER. In fact, it's taken me until roughly 6 weeks ago, when I purchased an awesome 2CD set on the JSP label which documents his early '50s work, either under his own name (or his band, Kings Of Rhythm) or as producer, arranger, player and all-round svengali under someone else's name (a circumstance usually borne under the constraint known as "contractual reasons"). My fandom has now been fully confirmed after having just purchased the magnifico CD on the Ace label, Ike's Instrumentals. I'd show you the front cover, if I could, though the only ones available on the 'net are about the size of my thumbnail. You'll just have to make do w/ that handsome shot of the man above. His legacy as a not particularly wonderful human being has been well documented, and I needn't add anything in that department. Fact is, some of my favourite musicians of all time were also fairly lousy humans (Miles Davis, Charles Mingus), so I'm willing to ignore such facts. After all, my only involvement w/ the guy is in regards to his music. For many years, I'd heard Turner's name bandied about as an icon of early rock 'n' roll, perhaps as even the first rocker of them all (w/Ike/Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88" track from 1951 often hailed as the first genuine rock 'n' roll song), and yet I remained unconvinced. I simply found it impossible to believe that a guy once married to Tina Turner - a woman whose turgid output in the '80s was omnipresent at the time (and still haunts folks at sports arenas worldwide... usually during sports events) and still sets a benchmark in my mind for some of the most torturous audio output ever laid to tape - could be any good. Of course, Ike and Tina did some good things together back in the '60s, but again, it took me a long time to come around to that, too. But let's talk about Ike's instrumental cuts w/ The Kings Of Rhythm ca. 1954-'65, as documented on the Ace CD. What you need to know is that there are 22 cuts featured, the last track being a near-9-minute "blues" medley, and there's not a turkey in the lot. It remains the best party-hard no-nonsense collection of raw, upbeat and truly wild (proto-) rock 'n' roll I've probably heard since... I dunno, maybe that Shim Sham Shimmy comp' of late '40s electric blues on Sub Rosa (reviewed a few entries below) from a few years back, or other musical epiphanes of that era which have rocked my boat over the last 15 years in such similar fashion: Louis Jordan, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley. Ike's instrument throughout is the guitar (though piano was his main instrument earlier on as a sideman), and his crazy whammy-bar twangs, divebombs and scorching leads - hell, every track's nothing but - all backed up by a rock-solid no-nonsense band dealing in shuffling R & B, rhumba/Latin rhythms, swamp-rock dirges and high-energy rock is the shit I've had on repeat for the last month solid. You need this in your life. A few-dozen listens had me convinced it to be some of the finest music of its era, so much so that it now has me scratching my head as to why Ike's name is not held in the same reverance as, say, Link Wray within the u/ground rock'n'roll community. Sure, Ike's a god to many overweight, house-bound record collector types the globe over, but that's not the same thing (though both communities overlap on occasion). For my money, from the evidence I've heard, Ike's output as documented on this collection outshines anything Wray did in regards to death-defying and outlandish guitar heroics. The constant roar he draws from his Fender is unstoppable. Fave cut? 1954's "Cubano Jump" (also featured on the JSP box), a 2-minute Latin-flavoured boogie romp w/ the kind of ghostly, other-worldly production/guitar lines which Joe Meek would sell a zillion copies with nearly a decade later. Ike's Instrumentals is a mandatory purchase: the case is closed... and if you want the real juice on the genius of Ike, I'd like to direct you to The HoundBlog, written by a guy who actually knows what he's talking about.