Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ike And Tina Turner: The Best Of

It's easy to forget that Tina Turner was once a force to be reckoned with in the world of soul music. Between mediocre duets with David Bowie, pantyhose commercials, trips to the thunderdome, nostalgic biopics, and cheesy tours, Turner's image has been warped into something of an adult-contemporary songstress. Granted, she has legions of fans, and her first solo release Private Dancer has its merit. But the fact of the matter is that during the sixties and seventies, Turner (along with much maligned husband Ike) was delivering some of the most sultry soul music in the world. If you find that you've forgotten, may we recommend this collection as the solution to your amnesia?

Best-Of discs can be a real bear: typically featuring only singles and "hit" material, they tend to represent the record company side of the artist, rather than the creative side that made them great. In Ike and Tina Turner's case, a remarkable thing occurs: those two entities are one and the same. Ike Turner (despite whatever else he did) was without a doubt a craftsman of hit records. His vision managed to shape the duo's career in a way that their artistic strengths and hit records combined to yield a string of singles that, on one disc, are a bulletproof testament to their unquestionable legacy.

Compared to this record, Tina Turner's modern "bad girl" image seems like something of a joke. These singles seethe with genuine soul and sexuality that's so palpable you can almost taste it. Turner's vocals manage to encompass a fantastic range of styles, from slow and soulful, to funk, to straight up rock and roll. It doesn't hurt the situation that Ike Turner had managed to gather a backing band that is unbelievably tight. They underpin Tina in a way that she can work her vocals off of them, and through remarkable interplay, bring the songs to the their climax.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these tracks is just how modern they sound. While many R&B classics from the same era can sound dated or sickly sweet, these tracks have an edge and appeal that manages to feel remarkably current. Perhaps it's the fact that at the time they were considered "edgy", or maybe it's simply the product of some fancy digital remastering. Regardless, the disc sounds fresh and new in a way that only serves to emphasize just how solid it truly is.

It's easy to be skeptical of classic R&B these days. The image has been so cheesed up and corrupted by the media that is can be a bit tiresome. Reunion tours, commercials, poor recording quality: all of these things can serve to dissuade a new listener from some of the best music produced in the modern era. All we can say to that is keep trying. The fact of the matter is that there are countless amazing records out there waiting to be heard, so they can escape the corruption of commercialism and The Big Chill. You may as well start here, no?

mp3: Ike And Tina Turner - Living For The City