|ZOHO was privileged to “walk the last few miles” with the legendary Ike Turner, following a 2005 introduction by singer Bonnie Bramlett who had just completed her CD “Roots, Blues & Jazz” for the label. Bonnie was looking for a short, descriptive quote for her CD for publicity purposes, and suggested to contact her friend Ike who might be willing to write it. Ike kindly obliged with a funky, enthusiastic statement. A friendly business relationship to Ike developed which led to ZOHO releasing “Risin’ with the Blues” in September 2006. It became Ike’s last, stunning, career-summarizing recording which won a GRAMMY in the “Traditional Blues” category in 2007! Discussions with Ike for another recording were under way, but his death in December 2007 ended his fascinating “Blues Hop” experimentations, a fusion of two styles into something new and not-yet-heard.
“Rocket 88” takes creative inventory of a unique 56 year-long career. Its musical center is Nashville-based Mr Groove Band, highly experienced session musicians led by Tim Smith, producer, arranger and bassist. The band’s individual and collective recording credentials include Bonnie Bramlett, Boots Randolph, Bill Evans, Mel Tillis, James Taylor, Allison Krauss, and many others.
Also featured are two sensational singers who have a unique relationship to Ike: one of the lesser known facts of rock history is that Bonnie Bramlett was the first white Ikette, touring for a couple of weeks with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in the early 60s until the rough reality of racism of the time (imagine a single young white female singer traveling in a tour bus in the South, across state lines, with twenty black musicians) forced her to resign.
Audrey Turner joined the Ikettes during the 1990s, then became Ike’s principal female lead singer. Their professional relationship eventually turned into a romantic one, and she became Ike’s wife in his final years.-
This Tribute takes the listener through Ike’s musical development, in new recordings, including both “Ike” and Ike and Tina” material, from 1951 - 1973, highlighting Ike’s peak creative output from 1969 to 1971 featured on eight of the 12 Mr Groove tracks.
“Rocket 88”, an up-tempo blues from 1951, recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, is often hailed as the very first rock’n’roll single. Driven by Ike’s stomping piano, it was also his first rip-roaring R & B chart topper although originally released under the name of Ike’s sax player Jackie Brenston. Vocalist Darryl Johnson makes his ZOHO debut, and he kicks off this project in rousing fashion. Darryl, a long-time member of Mr Groove, is one of America’s most recorded studio singers. His recordings for both Pocket Songs and Sound Choice number in the hundreds. He was also a member of The Drifters in the early 90s. You will quickly hear that Darryl is no stranger to soul and blues.
No More Doggin’ was the second major R & B hit in 1952 for Rosco Gordon, a Memphis born singer/pianist. The Bihari Brothers had asked Ike to find Rosco and record him for the brothers’ RPM label. The story goes that Ike liked the song so much that he secretly had Rosco’s band return to the recording studio to re-record the tune with Ike on lead vocals.
Rock Me Baby is a 1964 B.B. King hit, first recorded by Ike & Tina for their LP “Outta Season”, released on the Blue Thumb label in 1969. An earthy mid-tempo blues, the song is one of the most frequently recorded blues standards of all time, including by Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Johnny Otis, Otis Redding, Hot Tuna, and others. Next is Funky Mule, an up-tempo, horns-driven instrumental album track from Ike’s 1969 solo album “Black Man’s Soul” for the Pompeji label.
Bold Soul Sister was another minor Ike & Tina R & B hit from 1969, recorded for Blue Thumb, sung here by Darryl Johnson. The arrangement features Ike’s spectacular, stuttering lead guitar riff, played in Mr Groove’s version first by keyboardist Steve Willets, then joined by Tim and Roddy Smith. The same riff can also be found on Sly & The Family Stone’s “Sing A Simple Song” of the same year, and then again, played by fusion guitarist John McLaughlin on Miles Davis’ epochal “Jack Johnson” LP soundtrack from 1970. We venture to guess that Ike was there first …
I Smell Trouble is a soulful, slow blues written by record executive and songwriter Don Robey in 1957, and it was soon covered by Little Johnny Taylor, Buddy Guy, and others. Ike and Tina included it as a track on their 1969 LP “Outta Season”.
The story behind Ike & Tina’s great “River Deep, Mountain High” single from 1966 is well known. Producer / songwriter Phil Spector had barred Ike from attending the recording sessions although the record was then later released under the Ike & Tina Turner name. Ike re-recorded the song several times, with and without Tina, and it became a staple of Ike’s live shows until the very end. This version features the incendiary vocal duo of Audrey Turner and Darryl Johnson.
“I Wanna Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone is one of the great soul anthems of the 70s. The song was an integral part, and absolute show-stopper, of Ike’s live show, first with Tina, then as solo artist, for decades. Mr. Groove’s treatment features a hypnotic funk groove from bassist Tim Smith and drummer Donnie Marshall, as well as jazzy solos from pianist Steve Willets, guitarist Roddy Smith, tenor saxophonist Tim Gordon, and guest organist Rick Jackson, of Larry Carlton and Kirk Whalum fame.
Audrey Turner - lead vocalist on three tracks on the CD.
“Proud Mary”, the Creedence Clearwater Revival standard, was one of the greatest hits for Ike & Tina, in a sexy, hang-fire arrangement by Ike which won the couple their only GRAMMY in 1971. The jazzy, smartly re-harmonized Mr Groove version features the stellar trio of vocalists Bonnie Bramlett, Audrey Turner and Darryl Johnson.
“Taking Back My Name” was an Ike Turner single from 1970, a hard charging rocker with an almost painfully prophetic song title. Audrey Turner makes the song completely her own with an intense, heartfelt performance. Another minor hit for Ike & Tina in 1970 was the Beatles’ song Come Together, turned by Darryl Johnson and the Mr Groove Band into a powerful soul ballad, complete with a full horn section and baritone sax solo.
No Ike Turner retrospective could be complete without Ike & Tina’s final major hit and signature song “Nutbush City Limits” from 1973. Mr Groove Band’s take on it re-imagines the song into a briskly swinging vehicle, tossing it back and forth between Darryl Johnson’s soulful vocals, Roddy Smith’s tasty/nasty guitar riffs, and a short, punchy tenor sax solo by Tim Gordon, all grounded by Tony Creasman’s amazing brush work from the drum kit.
Bonus track is an original, unreleased 2005 outtake from Ike’s “Risin' with the Blues” sessions called “Prancing”. Initially intended for inclusion in “Risin’ with the Blues”, Ike suggested to ZOHO to release the song separately from it, in order to maintain a proper balance between vocal and instrumental tracks on the eventual GRAMMY winner. He would undoubtedly have been pleased to see it now featured as a special treasure on this tribute recording! The song was initially recorded by Ike as the instrumental B side to the 1962 Ike & Tina Turner single “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”. This new version is “vintage Turner”, featuring some fired-up, spectacular lead guitar work, terse, laconic horn interjections, rollicking boogie-woogie piano, and Ike’s ever-tight backing group, the Kings of Rhythm.
Joachim “Jochen” Becker, Tim & Roddy Smith
Produced by Tim Smith. Co-produced by Roddy Smith, Steve Willets, Donnie Marshall, Tony Creasman, Tim Gordon, and Darryl Johnson.
Recorded at Groovehouse Nashville by Tim Smith. Additional recording at Suite D, Washington, DC by Darryl Johnson, Tim Gordon’s studio, Matthews, NC by Tim Gordon, and Entourage Recording, N. Hollywood, CA by Ashburn Miller.Mixed by Steve Marcantonio at Blackbird Studios, Nashville. Mastered by Phil Magnotti at Silvermine, Norwalk, CT. Package Design: Al Gold. Executive Producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.
Horn arrangements on tracks 5,8,10 by Roy Agee; on tracks 7,11,12 by Tim Smith. All other horns by Tim Gordon.