Singer-songwriter Jimmy Thomas had this to say about recording with the Ike & Tina Revue: “I’ll tell you some strange stuff. I’ll tell you why you get confused with this stuff. Everybody gets confused. Look … Ike was a wheeler-dealer when it came to … I mean he knew how to juggle. In them days people like myself … in the organisation … we were just young, only Ike knew what was going on. And Ike would make masters and masters of other masters and wheel and deal and change names around and stuff … like, I wrote two or three Ikettes songs that sold pretty good and Ike stuck his name on ’em and stuff like that. Because he said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it, I got the publishing company so the money’ll come’ … you don’t know until later on, a few years later you learn better and you do it different. But, yeah, he sold a lot of masters more than one time. He re-recorded songs, you know, new masters of various songs. That’s why you see things on various labels, same song by a different name … We would be on the road, we did a lot of recording down in New Orleans, Cosimo’s studio … Whatever city we’d be in, we was always touring, we’d do some recording usually. Lay down some tracks. Odd places, population twenty and stuff like that. If there was a studio there and we was in town, Ike got some ideas, even if they ain’t new ideas, just re-record what we did last year, you know, whatever …”
The Ike & Tina Revue spent nine months of the year on the road during the 60s, playing the length and breadth of the United States. The rest of the time they were based in Los Angeles, although some have suggested they spent 11 months on the road and only one in Los Angeles. The one thing missing for Ike Turner was a regular run of pop hits. By 1963 he’d had two pop chart successes under the name Ike & Tina Turner on the Sue label and others under the name of the Ikettes on Atco. Then, during 1963 to 1965 (the time frame of this collection), Ike's wheeling and dealing went into overdrive. He signed the Ike & Tina Revue to his old cohorts the Bihari Brothers at Modern, where he immediately hit paydirt with the Ikettes. But hit sides for the main act were unforthcoming, and Ike hedged his bets by recording sides on a gamut of raw R&B talent. Some sides were issued on Modern, some on a plethora of indie imprints started by Ike himself, and then leased out if not released.
The session held at Cosimo’s, mentioned by Jimmy Thomas above, was one of a handful held in New Orleans. The one featured on our comp was held in order to record tracks by various members of the Revue for overdubbing with a fake audience at a later date and issued as a “live” album. Here you hear the tracks shorn of the fake crowd, and sounding as raw as nature intended. The great singers included are Jimmy Thomas, Stacy Johnson, Vernon Guy, Jessie Smith, Bobby John, Jackie Brenston, Venetta Fields, Tina Turner (yes, she's present), Ernest Lane and Dee Dee (Delores) Johnson – plus one of the toughest line-ups of the Kings of Rhythm Ike ever assembled.
Apart from the stripped-down New Orleans tracks there are previously unreleased songs, unreleased versions and alternate takes of a few cuts only ever issued before on a long-deleted Ace LP. Then, for good measure, some rare 45s not issued on CD before – if they have been, we’ve given you longer versions from the master. And all this freshly mastered directly from the original 3-track and 2-track master tapes.
Altogether one of Ike Turner’s lesser-known but most prolific time periods.
By Brian Nevill