Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ike Turner

  • Blues Roots [United Artists, 1972] B-
  • Bad Dreams [United Artists, 1973] B
  • I Like Ike! The Best of Ike Turner [Rhino, 1994] A-
  • Here and Now [Ikon, 2001]  

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Blues Roots [United Artists, 1972]
Amazingly, the title is pretty accurate--some of it's even twelve-bar. He's always played a mean, flashy guitar, and his deadpan is good for one moderately interesting LP. On the other hand, you should hear James Brown--or the Five Royales--sing "Think." B-

Bad Dreams [United Artists, 1973]
After twenty years of raking it in from the shadows, he's finally figured out a way of applying his basically comic bass/baritone to rock and roll. Studio-psychedelic New Orleans, echoes of the Band and Dr. John, some brilliant minor r&b mixed in with the dumb stuff. My God--at the moment he's more interesting than Tina. B

I Like Ike! The Best of Ike Turner [Rhino, 1994]
Hardly the last major rock and roller to brutalize women, Turner gets short-changed by history partly because his best-known victim was so major herself and partly because his specialty was collaboration. Sadly, Rhino's licensing whizzes failed to secure his Federal sides, depriving us of both his rawest singer--Billy Gayles, the real Screamin' Jay Hawkins--and his most primordial guitar. And leaving a lean, mean bandleader whose ear for the permanent novelty only began with "Rocket `88'"--as did everything else. A-

Here and Now [Ikon, 2001]
Ike Turner is the kind of innovator best appreciated by connoisseurs--for his solos, his arrangements, the singers he exploited. One of these, headlong shouter Jackie Brenston, had his name on the 1951 r&b smash and first-rock-and-roll-record nominee "Rocket 88." On this comeback, 69-year-old Ike, who hasn't made a solo album since 1972, slows the classic just a hair, and though his typically expert band hits the groove on all cylinders, his raspy vocal could use an oil change. And so it goes. Of the seven songs, only the newly minted sexist novelty "I Need A-Nuddin'" properly shows off his comic baritone, and only a remake of Turner's old Billy Gayles showcase "I'm Tore Up" conveys the urgency palpable in late Muddy Waters or Alberta Hunter. Of the four instrumentals, only the fast-moving "Baby's Got It"--highlighted by Ike's (or maybe Ernest Lane's) piano--strops up the kind of edge that sharpens 1994 Rhino compilation I Like Ike! throughout. Ike can still get it up, definitely. But how much he enjoys it isn't as clear as it should be. [Rolling Stone: 3]  

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