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Ike Turner: Risin' With The Blues

C. Michael Bailey By

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Ike Turner received a Grammy® Award for Best Traditional Blues Recording for Risin' with the Blues. Long seen as the failed husband of Tina Turner, and vilified in her biography, I, Tina (1986) and the biopic movie What's Love got to Do with It (1993), Ike Turner is nevertheless one of the most important rock 'n' roll pioneers alive.

Born in the mythic city of Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931, Turner grew up around music, learning piano from the likes of Pinetop Perkins, who taught him the basics of the boogie woogie style that would transition into rock 'n' roll. In 1951, Ike Turner released "Rocket 88, characterized by a heavy backbeat with electric guitar and horns on top—largely accepted as the first rock 'n' roll song ever recorded. "Rocket 88" was originally credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, but it was actually performed by Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm. In a bit of 1950s music business intrigue, Brenston, Turner's saxophonist at the time, gained artist and co-author credits with Turner on the song.

The 1960s saw Turner as a grand statesman of music. He was sought out by Janis Joplin as a vocal coach and by Jimi Hendrix to play in Ike's Kings of Rhythm. He helped a young Bonnie Bramlett get started and fronted the very successful Ike and Tina Turner Review. Then came the darkness, until Turner fully resurfaced with 2001's Here and Now, garnering a Grammy® nomination and a W.C. Handy Award.

At seventy years old, one might think that Turner would have lost a bit of his fire—but not a chance. Turner looks ageless, fighting fit on the cover of Risin' with the Blues. The picture is a reflection of the rugged, virile voice belting out the fifteen standard and original blues pieces on the disc. There is nothing remotely retro about the music or its production. Turner seamlessly updates the music with which he has been associated for fifty years, advancing the causes of Robert Cray, Little Milton, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy with burping electric bass, sinewy lead guitars and horns aplenty.

"Gimme Back My Wig, Hound Dog Taylor's traditional blues tome, is made over by Turner as a sleek and funky juggernaut. Louis Jordan's "Caldonia is a relentless jump blues for the 21st Century. "A Love Like Yours is deep south rhythm and blues, recalling Stax/Volt and Muscle Shoals. On the burn-down-the-house song, Turner's own "Rockin' Blues, he unleashes the full force of his piano and lead guitar. His guitar solo is one for the ages: rugged, ragged, searing. Playing like this makes Turner's frequent absences from recording that much more a loss.

The disc also commands attention for exceptional production by the crack team of Ike Turner, Jr. and Roger Nemour who put the spit-shine production to the electrons herein. Their expert direction made this recording the masterpiece that it is.

After Risin' With the Blues there will probably not be a better blues recording this year. Turner deftly updates the genre and jettisons it so far into the future that we may spend a decade catching up to it.


Track Listing: Gimme Back My Wig; Caldonia; Tease Me; Goin

Personnel: Ike Turner: lead vocals, guitar, piano; Audrey Madison, Barbra Cole, Paulette Parker: background vocals; The Kings of Rhythm : Mack Johnson, Leo Dombecki, Ryan Montana: horns; Lenny

Title: Risin' With The Blues | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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