Ike & Tina Turner – The Complete Pompeii Recordings 1968-1969 | Album Review

ikeandtinaturnercdIke & Tina Turner – The Complete Pompeii Recordings 1968-1969

Pompeii Records

3 CDs/10 tracks, 11 tracks and 12 tracks

The liner notes for the set state that Ike and Tina Turner recorded for at least 10 different record labels between 1960 and 1970.  This resulted in almost 70 singles and 20 albums (including live albums and compilations) in a period when they averaged 300 shows a year, appeared on television countless times, raised a family and became household icons.  In 1968 and 1969 they released 3 albums for Pompeii Records.  They were So Fine, Cussin’, Cryin’ & Carryin’ On and A Black Man’s Soul.  The first two were Ike and Tina albums, the last one was Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm.  They also released 3 albums for the Blue Thumb label during these two years, and a fourth compilation album with material from these three albums was released on Pompeii.

The set comes with the CDs packaged in mini sleeves replicating the album covers.  A booklet with a history of Ike, Tina and their recording career is included with credits from the original albums, some corrections to the artist listings and some interesting graphics from shows, albums and singles.  The notes tell us the history that Ike was being played by the labels and he in turn began his own labels to play the system. Some of the material here was redone and repacked while some of it appears to be the exact same material released elsewhere.  What matters is that Ike and under his tutelage Tina, the Ikettes, The Kings of Rhythm and a host of other participants worked to produce some amazing music that built his and their legacy.  After these albums were produced, Ike and Tina became true household names releasing Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone and Creedence Clearwater songs that rocketed them to the top.

Ike began his career under the tutelage of Pinetop Perkins who mentored him on the piano.  Not wanting to lead bands from the piano bench, he also became a fantastic guitar player. His first brush with fame was in March 1951 when the 19 year old bandleader and pianist wrote and recorded “Rocket 88” with his sax player and vocalist Jackie Berenson.  Sam Phillips recorded the song and licensed it to Chess as he did not have a label at the time.  Chess released the songs as being written and performed by Jackie Berenson and His Delta Cats.  The song is likened to be the first and rock and roll song ever recorded and Ike’s name was not used in or with it.  If this early confusion were not enough, his recording so much material of production by himself or by others became a confused mess in the 1960s.  But some of the works stood out and the 1970s began their rise to the top.

Tina began life as Anna Mae Bullock who sang at church and with her family.  Rumors abound as to how she and Ike met.  The most likely scenario is that during a break between sets she demonstrated her vocals prowess to Ike and his band.  She was hired as backing vocalist to The Kings of Rhythm and then as a featured vocalist “Little Ann.”  She recorded her first song in 1958, a 78 rpm record entitled “Boxtop” on Tune Town Records.  Sue records loved the demo and paid $20,000 for it and Ike reinvented Little Ann into Tina Turner.  Future shows became the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and debuted in 1960 with “A Fool In Love” (also on So Fine here in the set).  Her fame was one the rise, so Ike added the Ikettes to the Revue.  They recorded with Phil Spector to mixed success here (lot’s more in the UK).  They grew in popularity in their live performances but never had that big hit recording through the 1960’s.  These albums and other from the era began getting them notice on the charts and then “Come Together,” “I Wanna Take You Higher’ and “Proud Mary” took them to the top in the ‘70’s.

We all know what happened later, with Tina becoming a bigger recording and movie star while Ike sank due to his substance abuse and personal demons.  They stopped recording together in 1976 and divorced two years later. Jail time came for Ike but he was finally released and they happened to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just after his release.  Ike recovered and worked his way back and won a Grammy in 2006 before succumbing to lung disease and heart problems.

So Fine, released in 1968, features Ike on guitar, keys and backing vocals and Tina as vocalist.  The Ikettes are also featured (Delores Johnson, Eloise Hester and Joshie Armstead).  All other artists are unknown.  Ike produced the album.  It was rumored he owned the label but that is unlikely, although he called all the shots here and on the other two albums.  The cuts were likely recorded in 1966 through 1968 in Los Angeles.  While these songs are not the chart toppers that followed them in the next decade, they are fine pieces of work that Ike wrote and played and Tina sang (along with the Ikettes).   The opening track “Betcha Can’t Kiss Me (Just One Time)” features the Ikettes’ voices sped up Alvin and the Chipmunks styled.  This was my favorite of the three CDs.

Cussin’, Cryin’ & Carryin’ On was released in 1969 and was recorded in 1968 and 1969 in Los Angeles excpet for track 2 which was done in Dallas in 1963 (“Poor Little Fool”).  Credits vary by session (some unknown), but the most interesting note reminds us that Fontella Bass was the lead vocalist for “Poor Little Fool,” not Tina.  Recorded as a single and released in 1964 on Sonja and 1970 on Vesuvius, it is also included here.  In any case, it is another fine set of tunes.  We also get different Ikettes here; the listing says Venetta Fields, Robbie Mongomery and Jessie Smith back Tina in 1963.  Other personnel are unknown for 6 tracks.  The songs are less consistent and varied here.

The third CD is A Black Man’s Soul, recorded in Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston in 1968 and 1969. The album says it was produced by Ike and Tina, it is unlikely she was involved in its’ production.  All the tunes here are instrumentals, ignoring the occasional shout out by the band.  Highlights here are the horns (Washee on sax and Jesse Heron on Trombone), keys by Turner, Fred Sample and Billy Preston, and, of course, Ike’s guitar.  They are all on two cuts on the 2nd CD, too.  All instrumentals make this interesting but it lacks a good vocal edge.

All three albums have some mono cuts remastered into stereo back in that era.  There are some issues with balance and mix here and there, and the dynamics and acoustics are occasionally iffy but barring little sound issues we have some nice songs that many probably don’t have in their collections.  We get to hear some early stuff from Ike and Tina and then more polished stuff from the late 1960’s.  It is not big hits like they delivered in the 1970’s but it’s seminal R&B with the most hugely talented couple ever to grace a stage or sit in a recording studio together.  With this set you get all the songs from 4 of the 20 CDs the couple produced in the 1960s’ (since the 4th Pompeii album reprised cuts from these three albums.  In fact, there are a few repeated cuts on these albums due to Ike’s shenanigans.

All in all, the set gives great insight in where the Turners had gone with their music in the late 1960’s as they were set up to take the radio and the recording industry by storm as they had already captured the live music and television world.  If you are a fan of Ike and/or Tina and you don’t have these old records then this is a no-brainer.  If you are just getting to know the couple it’s a good introduction to their earlier sound together, albeit the quality at times is not perfect and the big, monster hits are not here.  But the tunes are solid, the musicianship is even better and for two of the three albums you get to listen to Tina sing.  That alone is worth the price of entry.

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