A legacy

I don’t do music reviews. I’m seriously opinionated about music but I generally don’t write about it. This month I picked up the Ike and Tina Turner compilation “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” and I simply gotta talk about it.

Ike Turner is a fascinating figure in rock and roll history. He recorded “Rocket 88” here in Memphis and Sam Phillips dubbed it the first rock and roll record. That fact is hotly debated, but who am I to argue with Mr Phillips? Ike Turner was an astounding guitarist and musician. He was also, by most accounts, fucking nuts.

If you are a child of the 1980s as I am, Tina Turner holds a special place in your youth. Her pop hits during the eighties were so large that they eclipsed the body of funk and soul music that she and Ike cranked out during the sixties and early seventies. Aside from their eternally popular cover of CCR’s “Proud Mary,” what is most remembered is Ike’s horrific abuse. This compilation is a backhanded smack at Ike’s rightfully tarnished legacy.

God damn, this collection is really good.

Ike’s guitar work slides around from solid Pops Staples-esque R&B to heavily distorted psychedelia. Tina’s voice is raw and wild, so far away from the raspy polish of songs like “Private Dancer” that its hard to imagine they are from the same woman.

The title track, also a cover, has been performed by Nina Simone and Niki Costa.

I imagine that version Ike and Tina recorded was coated in kerosene and lit on fire. Tina sounds as if she is screaming directly at Ike. It is raw and it touches both a deeply danceable groove as well as an uncomfortable subject. In that way, it perfectly captures the essence of the Turner’s relationship.

There are a few more bafling and incredible cover songs including, Sly and the Family Stone’s “I want to Take You Higher” The Drifter’s “Up On the Roof” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” All of them are fantastic.

Ike is one of those timeless geniuses who also happen to be insufferable assholes. That is always a problem when thinking about art. How connected to the person should we feel his/her art is? In other words, should I not like this music because Ike was a scumbag? I have to admit, I can’t help it. The groove is just too strong.

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