Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 14: Ike And Tina Turner, "Workin' Together"

Artist: Ike And Tina Turner
Album: Workin' Together
Year: 1971
Label: One Way

Throughout the course of music history, there are many figures whose personal life and public notoriety often eclipses their musical achievements. Though one often cannot ignore these non-musical issues, one must often overlook them to properly understand and appreciate the individuals' contributions to the world of music. Standing as one of musics' most notorious "bad boys," as well as one of the most innovative and influential musicians of all time, there is only one man who defines the term "badass" quite like Ike Turner. Though he made his legend has a solo artist in the 1950's, when he teamed up with his future wife, the incomparable Tina Turner, they created some of the most high energy and absolutely unparalleled musical works in history. From their hit singles to their Grammy's to their very public personal life, Ike and Tina Turner were truly worldwide superstars and both their stories and music continue to fascinate audiences to this day. Combining Ike's top-notch writing and musical ability with Tina's electrifying voice and stage presence, their songs run the gamut in terms of style, yet they are never anything less than phenomenal. Perfectly capturing everything that made this pair so special is a record that came more than a decade after their first releases, 1971's magnificent Workin' Together.

Though as a duo, they are perhaps best known for their string of hit singles throughout the 1960's, it was not until Workin' Together that Ike and Tina Turner fully realized their potential on a complete musical effort. The album presents each of their various styles, as there are funky, grooving tracks, deep soul numbers, fast paced rockers, and smooth ballads. The album is truly highlighted by the couple's rendition of the Fogerty classic, "Proud Mary." Encapsulating everything that makes Ike and Tina Turner so amazing, the song seamlessly transitions from a slow grooving soul sound to an all out rock and roll frenzy. The single broke into the top five on the singles charts and became a standard of their live performances, as well as becoming the definitive version of the song. Powered by the single, Workin' Together broke into the top twenty-five in album sales, and remains today the duos' best selling album. Though their early singles were amazing, there is little doubt that the reason Workin' Together was so successful was simply due to the fact that Ike and Tina blend perfectly on every track, and the diversity found on the album offers something for every music lover to enjoy. The arrangements that Ike forms for each song is absolutely brilliant, and the fact that there are so many covers on the record seems to fall to the wayside as the arrangements are fresh and give the songs a new life.

Love him or hate him, the reality is, without Ike Turner, rock music simply does not exist in its current form. Along with his brilliant orchestrations and production talents, Ike Turner is also widely regarded as the first person to ever put a distorted guitar sound on a record. In 1951, Turner placed a broken guitar amp on a folding chair in Sun Studios and recorded one of the first rock and roll songs ever (in fact, 1991, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame credited it as THE first rock song), "Rocket 88." The sound that came from the broken amp was a bit gritty, and sounded like nothing heard before. From rock and roll, to soul, or R&B, Ike Turner has had massive impact on every musical genre that he has explored, and the music found in Workin' Together is just as brilliant as anything else he did in his career. Whether he is directing one of the groove based songs, such as the albums' title track, or pushing the band as hard as he can on the iconic "Proud Mary," Turner proves that he still has just as great an ear as he did during the early days of rock and roll. His own guitar work also sounds as good as ever, as he blends his signature sound in with the fantastic backing musicians that he has gathered. The combination of the deep bass, the bright horns, and the variance in stylistic approach is what makes Ike Turner such and icon, and why he will forever be one of the most important figures in music history.

While many attempt to emulate and imitate, try as they might, there has simply never been another vocalist with the combination of power and beauty that rivals that of Tina Turner. Turner (real name: Anna Mae Bullock) never gives anything less than a high-energy, high-emotion vocal performance, and whether she is giving a low growl or an all out joyous celebration of sound, every vocal she delivers is nothing short of stunning. The mixture of soul, funk, R&B, and rock music found on Workin' Together perfectly compliments Tina's wide range and style, and every track on the album proves that her singing ability true knows no boundaries. The lyrics she delivers range from classics like "Let It Be" and the aforementioned "Proud Mary" to far deeper themes like those found on "The Way You Love Me" and amusing plays on words like "Funkier Than A Mosquita's Tweeter." The album also features the truly ironic song, "Game Of Love," which gives song writing credit to Ike Turner's alias: Eki Renurt. With lines like "...just like you can cheat on me, I can cheat on you...there's no rule that says the game of love, can't be played by two..." and the rest of the song speaking about the necessity of fidelity, the song strikes a stark contrast to the very public vices of Ike Turner. With the wide range in themes, and the breathtaking vocals from Tina Turner, Workin' Together is a musical juggernaut of immeasurable proportions.

It goes without saying that one of the most tragic things that can happen to a musical artist is when their reputation outside of the realm of music overpowers their musical achievements in the eyes of the general public. Though he was certainly no saint by any stretch, the reality is, there are virtually no other people who have had as massive an impact on the state of rock and roll as Ike Turner. From his use of distorted guitars to the amazing musical arrangements and production that he presented throughout the 1960's and 1970's, Ike Turner was a force like no other in the music world. Similarly, the power and pure, unguarded emotion that is conveyed in all of the vocal performances of Tina Turner knows no match anywhere in music history. Easily one of the most high-energy and dynamic performers, as she nears seventy years old, she still out-performs nearly every singer, most of whom she more than doubles in age. Tina Turner possesses one of the most instantly recognizable voices, and whether she is growling out a funky song or blasting her amazing voice in a soulful number, there are truly no limits to her vocal range or the talent within her delivery. With such unprecedented talent between the two, it comes as little surprise that their work together ranks among some of the greatest music ever, and they recorded the definitive version of many rock classics. Capturing everything that made the duo great, from their diverse musical styles to the stunning talents of both of them, Ike and Tina Turner's 1971 masterpiece, Workin' Together, remains nothing short of musical perfection and is by far one of the finest albums one can ever experience.

Standout tracks: "Workin' Together," "Game Of Love," and "Proud Mary."

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