Ike Turner - Classic Early Sides 1952-1957

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Ike Turner - Classic Early Sides 1952-1957

Postby blueswriter » Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:41 pm

Ike Turner
Classic Early Sides 1952-1957
JSP (2008) JSP4203


56 tracks, 2 CDs, 136 minutes. Essential (with reservations). In all honesty, a compilation of this sort was long overdue for Ike Turner. His importance in the Post-war Blues canon would be hard to overemphasize. Not only was he a bandleader who barnstormed his own regional area extensively during the early to mid-1950s, he was also a prolific recording artist and a successful producer, guitarist, pianist and talent scout. Although Neil Slaven’s four-plus pages of liner notes do a fair job of explaining Turner’s status and musical accomplishments, a lengthy booklet at the least would truly be necessary to shed light on this period of his career. Ike wasn’t blessed with a great voice, but he did manage to hold his own, which shows on approximately the first third of this set, along with four tracks featuring Bonnie Turner. The remainder of the vocalists here range from merely excellent to purely brilliant. There’s a handful from Johnny O’Neal, including the wonderfully funny Ugly Woman (Peg Leg Baby), plus the outrageous and hallucinatory Johnny’s Dream. Dennis Binder’s Early Times and I Ain’t Drunk from Lonnie “The Cat” Catlon are also high points, both alluding to the joys of liquor consumption. In addition, disc one contains four instrumentals with Ike’s scratching guitar well to the fore on Cubano Jump, Loosely, Cuban Get Away and Go To It. Disc two leads off with a fine pair each from Matt Cockrell (Gypsy Blues/Baby Please) and Clayton Love (Wicked Little Baby/Why Don’t You Believe Me) before some real fireworks from “The Sly Fox” (Eugene Fox). His Hoo-Doo Say alone is worth the price of admission. This stop-time, rhythm-shifting rocker with its blistering guitar solo from Turner is a visual masterpiece from a lyrical standpoint. Fox also delivers I’m Tired Of Beggin’ and My Four Women with vocals as ragged as a gravel road. The pair from Johnny Wright (The World Is Yours/Suffocate) are absolute masterpieces, both which include Turner’s ridiculously good guitar. There are eight masterful tracks devoted to Billy Gayles including Do Right Baby, Just One More Time, Take Your Fine Frame Home and the now-classic I’m Tore Up. His vocal prowess is not to be doubted upon hearing his amazing range and ever-so-tasteful phrasing. Jackie Brenston takes center stage for a quartet before Clayton Love’s voice returns to feature on four more, with particular attention due for She Made My Blood Run Cold, another slice of wonderful imagery. The closing pair, Rock-A-Bucket and Trail Blazer, are both horn-fueled instrumental features for Ike’s band, The Kings Of Rhythm. The numerous sessions were all recorded in either Clarksdale, Memphis, or Cincinnati and feature Turner's abilities on guitar and piano as well as the enviable skills of his hand-picked vocalists. Add the tight horn arrangements and rhythmic precision all over the two discs and you wind up with more than two hours of explosive blues and R&B. In closing, accurately rating these box sets from JSP can be an exercise in exasperation. Although there’s no doubt as to the overall importance of the music, the scant liner notes are bothersome and the layout of session details leaves more than a bit to be desired. While the budget prices in most retail markets are certainly attractive, the label’s packaging is pretty much the opposite and their website is close to a disaster area in terms of design and surfabililty.


© 2010 by Craig Ruskey
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