Archive for September 6th, 2008

Buried Treasure: A Black Man’s Soul

6 September 2008

[Today: Remembering a bad, bad man…]

Izear Luster Turner, Jr was a bad man – perhaps a little too bad for his own good. In spite of having a legit claim to inventing rock & roll with his 1951 fireball ‘Rocket 88’, Turner is generally remembered for little other than being the abusive ex-husband of Tina Turner. In his autobiography Takin’ Back My Name, Ike pleads a sort of self-defense: “Sure, I slapped Tina… there have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.” Quotes like that, along with a monumental cocaine problem, have long overshadowed a dynamic music career.

Turner roadied for blues legend Robert Nighthawk, produced Howlin’ Wolf, and scouted talent for Chess Records. But his greatest discovery came in the form of Annie Mae Bullock, who changed her name to Tina, married Ike, and instantly overshadowed her husband to become the star of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. In the late-60’s Ike & Tina had by far the hottest act on the so-called “Chitlin Circuit” of southern clubs. During the short breaks in their rigorous touring schedule, Ike hauled a well-seasoned version of his band – The Kings Of Rhythm – into the studio for several funk jam sessions.

Those sessions resulted in the all-instrumental 1969 gem A Black Man’s Soul. It’s top-shelf funk featuring tight yet meandering grooves that are heavy on wah-wah, horns and piano, yet rarely run longer than three minutes. The songs deliver the kind of loose, gritty vibe that titles like ‘Philly Dog’ ‘Black Beauty’ ‘Nuttin Up’ and ‘Getting Nasty’ so vividly promise. This is mood music for the greatest blaxploitation flick never made, and an essential purchase for fans of funk.

Ike Turner wasn’t a nice guy, but neither was he the sadistic lunatic that Laurence Fishburne portrayed on the silver screen. Somewhere between those two extremes lived a talented musician and first-rate band leader who deserves to be remembered as something more than just a wife beater. If you’re interested in hearing the other side of Ike Turner, A Black Man’s Soul is the place to start.

Listen: Getting Nasty