Sadly nowadays Ike Turner is probably better known as the Svengali-like abusive ex-husband of Tina rather than as the brilliant all-round musician he is. Partly because of his notorious personal life, and partly because he tended not to hog the limelight anyway, Ike has never really received the musical recognition he deserves, despite a recent partial public rehabilitation, but he was a highly influential figure across several genres of popular music in the 50s and 60s.
After forming his band, the Kings Of Rhythm, he recorded Rocket 88 in 1951 (often regarded as the first rock 'n' roll song), then talent-spotted and backed legendary bluesmen such as Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King before teaming up with soul singer Tina in the late 50s. Following a string of hits, Tina eventually walked out on Ike in 1975, after which he which he slid into decline. He couldn't even attend his induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 because he was in prison for cocaine offences, but he eventually started a comeback with a new album in 2001.
This DVD, built around a 70-minute concert Ike and the revamped Kings Of Rhythm did at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland in 2002 shows the septuagenarian in surprisingly good form. He is backed by accomplished behatted, black-clad musicians, including a three-piece horn section, who all get the chance to play solos. However, Ike stands out not just because of his silver lamé jacket but for his great boogie-woogie piano playing and idiosyncratic 'whammy-bar' guitar style, while his singing is more than passable.
The songs are a mixture of Ike's own and covers, some with vocals and some instrumentals, and are mainly rhythm 'n' blues and soul, but also feature the rock 'n' roll Rocket 88, the Latin-grooved Tequila and the hillbilly Steel Guitar Rag. There are outstanding versions of Don Covay's Mercy, Mercy (with a nice horn arrangement) and Eddie Boyd's Five Long Years (in which Ike plays both piano and guitar, though not simultaneously). The last four songs feature vocalist Audrey Madison, a decent enough singer but who inevitably comes across as an ersatz Tina Turner as she sings the likes of Proud Mary and I Want to Take You higher.
In addition to an audio CD version of the gig, the DVD generously contains a number of extras, including snippets from two other concerts in Switzerland (1999) and Paris (2002), a biography, a discography, a rather embarrassing eulogistic presentation of the 2004 Memphis Heroes Award to a tearful Ike and a 15-minute documentary on 'The Early Years'. The latter features contributions from musicians who worked with Ike in the 50s and 60s, including Ike and Tina's female backing singers 'The Ikettes', and reminds one what a hot live act they were together.
The refreshingly balanced sleeve notes not only don't try to airbrush out Ike's violent and controlling behaviour towards Tina, but also point out that he had nothing to do with their most celebrated record River Deep - Mountain High, as although Ike was given billing, Phil Spector paid him to stay out of the recording studio. Nonetheless, for his own contribution to blues, soul and rock 'n' roll, and for his fostering of other individuals' talent, Ike's place in popular musical history is assured, even if most people don't yet know it.