Posts Tagged ‘Ike & Tina Turner’

In 2014 I heroically listened to every album Prince ever made. Well, I heroically came close. I listened to the first 14. I will eventually listen to the remaining 987. This was an exciting, enlightening quest for which I received 100% zero thanks. I didn’t get a link from Wikipedia. I didn’t get a lousy T-shirt from Prince. And, as always, WordPress refused to give me any money.

I remain undeterred. Why? Because it says BLOGGER on my uniform! So today I jump on my new project, the project I should’ve jumped on before I jumped on Prince: the black music of the 1970s. But first: The Rules!

Rule 1: Provincialism is good. I’m disqualifying 98% of planet Earth. Once you dive into my unscientific survey you’ll discover that almost all of these performers are from the USA. That’s because I’m from the USA. USA! USA!

Rule 2: One-hit wonders are blunders. The 1970s were a magnet for the truly awful (that was somehow spectacularly popular). For every passable tune such as Jean Knight and “Mr. Big Stuff” you get a dumpster full of this:

Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones”
Peaches & Herb, “Reunited”
Labelle, “Lady Marmalade”*
Anita Ward, “Ring My Bell”
A Taste of Honey, “Boogie Oogie Oogie”**
Hues Corporation, “Rock the Boat”
Carl Douglas, “Kung Fu Fighting”***

* This is the “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, c’est soir” song.
** I hate to put them on this list, because they were an early girl-power band with two female guitarists. Also, they looked most excellent in backless swimsuits. But their song sucks.
*** According to legend, “Kung Fu Fighting” was recorded in 10 minutes. Of course it was.

Rule 3: I make the tough calls! Reggae was obviously a vital part of the ’70s – it was a huge influence on British punk – but I don’t care for reggae so you won’t find it here. I like the blues but there’s no blues on my list because after half an hour it’s not the blues, it’s whining. There’s no rap because, while I like some rap, I don’t understand it.

Even within the genres I like – rock, psychedelia, disco, soul, R&B – I’ll have to leave out some fun people to make sure I can get through this project before 2250 A.D. Here are two:

  • Eddie Kendricks, who sang lead on The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination” and had a solo hit with “Keep on Truckin’.”
  • Johnny “Guitar” Watson, who played blues, jazz, and funk but is probably best remembered for that sentimental lament, “A Real Mother for Ya.”

Rule 4: I’m sure to forget somebody. I only remembered The Spinners about 5 minutes ago.

This list I’m about to unleash is not exhaustive, though it’s exhausting me. I might not make it past 1974. But here goes.

The ’70s begin!

On the starting line we have:

  • Marvin Gaye and worthy but lesser satellites: Al Green, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Diana Ross, but not The Supremes
  • Quincy Jones
  • Ray Charles
  • James Brown
  • George Clinton
  • Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and Barry White
  • The Jackson 5, The Isley Brothers, and other notable families
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Sly & The Family Stone
  • Ike & Tina Turner
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips
  • Earth, Wind & Fire and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan)
  • The Four Tops
  • The Spinners
  • The Temptations

Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were at their height in the ’70s, and their height is somewhere north of the Matterhorn. I could write about them and never get to anyone else.

Diana Ross released 17 albums in the ’70s. (First on this list is James Brown’s brain-busting 28.) She played Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. She recorded duets with Marvin Gaye. Like a true diva, Diana Ross can’t be ignored. But I can ignore her former co-workers. This was not their decade.

I am mostly going to ignore Quincy Jones. Sure, Jones can compose, arrange, produce, conduct, and play. He brought out the best in the senior-citizen Frank Sinatra and the young-adult Michael Jackson. “Killer Joe” is one of my favorite jazz standards. But almost everything I like about him comes before 1970 or after 1979. I’m only going to mention Jones once, for an album I’m not recommending, and I hope the Lords of Kobol will forgive me.

Did Ray Charles do more in the ’70s than make those dopey commercials for Scotch Brand recording tape? Run-DMSteve investigates!

Everyone on this list owes something to James Brown. Everyone who isn’t on this list owes something to James Brown, even if they were born in a galaxy far, far away. Soul Brother #1 began the decade with the 11-minute “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” a song that added substantially to my knowledge of how to deal with women (building on what I’d learned from Capt. Kirk and a stolen copy of South Pacific).

Brown ran out of fissionable uranium by mid-decade. His disco resurgence in 1979 doesn’t count.

George Clinton’s bands were Funkadelic and Parliament. After reacquainting myself with the few songs I knew and listening to the many I didn’t, I see him now as the secret weapon of the ’70s. Clinton has suffered the most from the way white radio playlists, particularly the Oldies and Classic Rock formats, exclude black artists.

We’ll get to Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Barry White, and Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Quincy Jones again when we dive into the deep end of the Shaft/Super Fly machismo pool.

The Jackson 5 were the best family act of any color of any era. Their only contenders are Don and Phil Everly, and I think that’s a very close race. (The Isley Brothers are right behind them. Two more challengers popped up in the ’70s: The Pointer Sisters and The Staple Singers.) The J5 were superior to Sister Sledge, The Osmonds, The Carpenters, The Cowsills, The Partridge Family (OK, that’s cheating), the von Trapps, and everyone who has ever appeared on Lawrence Welk.

Jimi Hendrix existed in the ’70s for about nine months. His early death is the second-greatest tragedy in the history of pop music. (Mozart’s early death is first.)

With Aretha Franklin, it’s always 1967, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is on the turntable, and you’re about to drop the needle on the first track, “Respect.” I can’t imagine the pressure this woman faced at the age of 25 with “Respect” heading her résumé. Bruce Springsteen faced the same pressure when he was 25 and had just recorded “Born to Run.”

Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone, is mostly known for the music he gave us in the ’60s. By the time he got to the ’70s, his revolutionary zeal had congealed. Sadly, so had his optimism. Sly & The Family Stone’s last great album, There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971), is as confused, cynical, and hard to listen to as The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (1972). The main difference between the two is that Stone was apathetic. The Stones were sleazy.

Sly Stone fun fact: You could transfer “Just Like a Baby” from There’s a Riot Goin’ On to Exile on Main Street and nobody would know the difference.

Most of Ike and Tina Turner’s music evaporates while you listen to it. For every “Proud Mary” or “River Deep – Mountain High” they have 20 songs that are guaranteed not to stick to your ribs. But we needed The Ike & Tina Turner Revue because they created the image of Tina Turner as a force majeure. Ms. Turner gave us one good record on her own (Private Dancer), but that’s off in the ’80s.

Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded the first version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a hymn that could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. In the ’70s they recorded “Midnight Train to Georgia.” I still want to kick them.

Earth, Wind & Fire were just getting started and didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up. Same with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

Rufus was funky for sure, but they’re not as good as their contemporaries War. But they’re important for giving Chaka Khan a launching pad. Khan has a voice like Tina Turner’s, with less power but more finesse at close range.

The Four Tops’ many classics are all from the ’60s. In the ’70s they recorded two albums with The Supremes (minus Diana Ross), The Magnificent Seven and The Return of the Magnificent Seven. Not enough of a draw to make me listen. Sorry kids, but as I’ve stated many times in this blog I am paid to be unfair. All right, I’m not paid, but I’m still unfair.

The Spinners have left little behind them besides the image of five guys in yummy-colored pantsuits. But they had a run of hits in the early ’70s, starting with “It’s a Shame,” which I always thought was Al Green until I finally looked it up. Duh. However, I don’t care for the rest of their easy-listening catalog, and they gave us the gift of “The Rubberband Man,” which is clearly related to the crud back in Rule 2, so though they meant well they disappear as soon as this sentence hits the period.

The Temptations recorded “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in 1972. This was another show-stopper written by Norman Whitfield. The Temptations could’ve stopped right there. But they didn’t, and neither will I. I’ll be back next time with: Blaxploitation!

 

For years, my dogs Emma and Sailor collaborated on free-form and synchronized barking. Though Emma was older and smaller than Sailor, she never took a backseat to him. In fact she kept him on probation for seven years. As a producer of sound, Emma was a formidable unit who could shake the shack with her John Philip Sousa thundering. In memory of Emma and Sailor and their body of work, which is still echoing through the cosmos, here’s a look at some famous female/male musical duos.

Look At Us
Sonny & Cher
(Salvatore Bono and Cherilyn Lapierre)
1965
Sonny and Cher were perfectly matched, as neither of them had a particularly good voice. Sometimes I can’t tell which one of them is singing. But they harmonized well! Sonny rarely ventured beyond his limited range; when Cher swung out, as in her solo hit “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” (1971), it sounded like controlled yelling. When they worked together, Sonny did the composing, Cher did the hair. Most of their albums aren’t worth spit, but if you were a teenage love couple in the ’60s you have a soft spot in your heart for “I Got You, Babe.” The dopey lyrics don’t hurt the surprisingly strong finish, the spare but effective piano arrangement, and their genuine affection for each other.

River Deep – Mountain High
Ike & Tina Turner
1966
I could’ve picked any of their albums because none of them are memorable, but I picked this one because it features “River Deep – Mountain High.” This is either Phil Spector’s masterpiece or his monster mash. Tina sounds like she’s floundering in a tidal wave of strings, but she’s one of the few vocalists of that era who could stand against the full fury of the Wall of Sound. Crosby, Stills, & Nash would’ve been sucked into another dimension. Ike wrote most of their material (not “River Deep”), but Tina topped him when she wrote their last hit, the upbeat, funky “Nutbush City Limits” (1973).

Make Your Move
Captain & Tennille
(Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille)
1979
It pains me to even consider these characters, as their lukewarm music makes Bananarama sound like The Buzzcocks. However, I can appreciate their special status in the music industry: A husband-and-wife team who have been recording and performing together since the early ’70s. The only other couple I can think of with that kind of staying power is June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash. Dragon wrote most of the Captain & Tennille catalog, so he’s the one who deserves the lengthy prison sentence, but the bland-voiced Tennille is guilty of aiding and abetting. She also contributed their final hit, “Do That to Me One More Time” (1979). If this blog survives until 2015 it will be my pleasure to wish them a happy 40th wedding anniversary.

While we’re discussing substandard music of the ’70s, let me briefly mention The Carpenters, Donny and Marie, and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Roberta Flack by herself was by far the biggest talent in this sorrowful group, but none of them were as good as (to cross into another genre) Ian & Sylvia. [Note from me in 2015: I was thinking here of the Flack/Hathaway duets, which I didn’t care for. Flack on her own was a force, if not The Force. Hathaway wasn’t my style, but I recognize how good he was and the tragedy of his early death.]

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Eurythmics
(Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart)
1983
Annie Lennox has a truly outstanding voice, and in Eurythmics she was also a formidable artistic partner. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) gave us two iconic ’80s hits: the title track and “Love Is a Stranger.” Here’s a rumor I remember from 1983: Lennox’s transsexual look in the “Love Is a Stranger” video alarmed some radio programming heads, who demanded to know her gender before they would play the single. Which reminds me, I somehow managed to leave Ms. Lennox off my Ladies of the ’80s post, even though “Love Is a Stranger” is one of my favorite songs of that era.

Eurythmics were no fluke, as on later albums they produced “It’s Alright, Baby’s Coming Back,” “Here Comes the Rain Again,” “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eightyfour),” and “Would I Lie to You Baby?” which I think is their finest moment. The band dominated the middle of the decade, but didn’t last into the next one. Lennox and Dave Stewart long ago split up, personally and professionally. Two things Lennox has done in her solo career have caught my attention: the covers album Medusa (particularly her interpretations of Neil Young and Procul Harum) and her Mick Jagger impersonation on “I Want a Man.”

Nerd alert: Lennox wrote “Into the West” for the third Lord of the Rings movie.

Poolside
Nu Shooz
(Valerie Day and John Smith)
1986
Nu Shooz are here only because they’re from Portland and because Valerie Day and John Smith are still together and still performing. They had a hit with “I Can’t Wait,” which is an excellent warm-up number before you start spinning the dance music. As for the rest of their stuff…I can wait.

Details
Frou Frou
(Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth)
2002
This one-off from two British musicians is noteworthy even before you get to the music: The couple is not romantically involved, and the woman not only does the singing, she also co-writes, co-produces, and plays some of the instruments. Imogen Heap’s voice is not as powerful as Annie Lennox’s, but it’s more expressive, like Tina Turner’s without Turner’s Wagnerian wallop. Some of the tracks on Details are pleasant (“Hear Me Out”), some are Gary Numan-like electronic excursions that are humanized by Heap’s voice (“Flicks”), one is upbeat despite its ambiguous lyrics (“Breathe In” – are they breaking up or what?), and one is every bit as melancholy as Pink Floyd, but with adult lyrics (“Psychobabble”):

You couldn’t be more wrong, darling
I never gave out these signs
You misunderstand all meaning
Snap out of it
I’m not falling for this one

I only like a few songs from this disc, but I like those a lot, and I wish there’d been a follow-up to this at times mesmerizing debut.

Supernature
Goldfrapp
(Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory)
2006
Time for more guilty pleasures! Goldfrapp is an electronic dance outfit for people who are just a tiny bit scared of Lady Gaga. Goldfrapp’s music is danceable, but not as frantically as Gaga’s. Goldfrapp is willing to chance some downbeat numbers, which might make her the thinking woman’s Gaga if you don’t listen to the lyrics. Both performers flaunt their legs, but they’re both built like sticks so it’s hard to say who is superior in this area. (Actually, it’s not hard to say: Tina Turner.) They cover some of the same thematic material; Gaga wants to ride my disco stick, Goldfrapp wants to ride a white horse. As David Byrne sang, “Everybody. Get. In. Line!

The main difference between the two women is Allison Goldfrapp’s voice, which must be one of Britain’s natural resources and the main reason I keep listening. “Felt Mountain,” the title track from the album before Supernature, is like a story by H.P. Lovecraft – nothing but atmosphere. She’s singing, but there are no lyrics. If there’s a radio station on Mars, “Felt Mountain” is in heavy rotation. “Do That to Me One More Time” is not.

Supernature has quite a few misfires, but I can recommend “Fly Me Away,” “Ride a White Horse,” and “Ooh La La.” (“Little Bird,” from their Seventh Tree  album, could’ve been a Magical Mystery Tour  outtake.) Ms. Goldfrapp is the co-author with Will Gregory of most the band’s songs and she has considerable influence on the videos, so I am placing the responsibility for the “Ride a White Horse” video on her shoulders. This footage must be seen to be believed. You might be tempted to bail after the first 30 seconds, but I urge you to hang in until 2:05 when The Underwearers climb out of a dumpster and form a zombie conga line behind her.

Volume One
She & Him
(Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward)
2008
I’ve tangled with these people before. I still haven’t succeeded in developing any affection for them. This is pretty much how I feel about another cult couple, Richard and Linda Thompson (I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, 1974).

Zooey Deschanel has a precious, little-girl voice that’s as warm as tin. M. Ward is too country and frankly kind of tame. (He is from Portland, though, so extra points there.) “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” sounds like the B side to something by Badfinger. Perry Como would’ve rejected “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today” as too laid-back. “I Was Made for You” is simulated ’60s Girl Group. I couldn’t help tapping my foot to it, and I also couldn’t help asking myself who could’ve done this better. I finally settled on The Monkees.

Deschanel writes all the lyrics, and they give the illusion of meaning, which is more than I can say for Goldfrapp. But it’s still an illusion. I am interested in their covers, though. Ward’s lo-fi arrangement for “You Really Got a Hold on Me” is austerely beautiful, and they were gutsy to record “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Deschanel’s voice rises to the occasion on that one, so bravo, She & Him!

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody, whether your union is heterosexual, homosexual, multidisciplinary, or independent/undecided. And as for our current dog, The Notorious S.M.A.L.L., he’s been a solo act too long. We’re getting a puppy.