Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

NOVEMBER 3, 1997:  There are precisely two songs on alt-radio these days that are worth listening to: the modish "Walkin' on the Sun" by Smash Mouth and the intractable "Tubthumping," the first track off this disc from Chumbawamba. You know the one -- a bunch of Brits chanting about getting knocked down but getting back up again. It's undeniably catchy when catchiness will do in a pinch, and seems to stake out some poppy middle ground between wordless and repetitive techno and the preposterously overdone "menace" of, say, Prodigy. Despite its prima facie disposability, the track is enough to earn the rest of the record a listen, if only for the off chance that what we have here is another Pop Will Eat Itself.

But then they have to go and ruin it with political pretensions. And I do mean pretensions. In the past, during the band's punk incarnation, this north England combo released albums with titles like Nevermind The Ballots! and Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records; blunt statements that seem mere memories on Tubthumper. Any remnants of anarchistic soccer-socialism are either so vague or so oblique as to be completely ineffectual. There are a few other songs that pack "Tubthumping"-sized hooks, such as "The Good Ship Lifestyle" and "I Want More," but that doesn't change the fact that a band that claims to meld dance and ideology is in trouble when its Web page (chumba.com) is more incendiary than its record.

Which is not to discount Chum-bawamba all together. "Tubthumping" is a perfect track to play at basketball games to break up the monotony of that damn "Dr. Who" remix. -- Jim Hanas

Ike and Tina Turner
Bold Soul Sister -- The Best Of The Blue Thumb Recordings

Mention the Ike and Tina Turner Revue to anyone over 30, and the image most likely conjured is of the group on television in the early 1970s, steamrolling at breakneck speed through "Proud Mary," tassels a-flyin' and voices a-testifyin.' Yet, for 10 years prior to forging this supercharged brew of soul and rock, Ike and Tina toiled away in the cotton fields of rhythm and blues. Bold Soul Sister -- The Best Of The Blue Thumb Recordings finds the duo at the crucial period where the Age of Aquarius threatened to whitewash and diminish the ever-evolving Age of Afro Awareness.

Nineteen sixty-nine was a heady and pivotal year in Ike and Tina's continuing careers as performing musicians. They recorded two albums' worth of material for upstart label Blue Thumb Records (Outta Season and The Hunter) before leaving on the Rolling Stones' ill-fated tour, which ended grimly at Altamont (view the Maysles' Brothers chilling 1970 documentary, Gimme Shelter, for a bitter taste of things to come). Although just about every recording from this period is either steeped in or tinged with acid-dripped psychedelia, the Turners' Blue Thumb recordings are totally free of any post-Sgt. Pepper's pretension. On Bold Soul Sister, 16 tracks from these two undeservedly obscure Blue Thumb LPs have been compiled and digitally remastered to reveal an impressive array of straight-ahead traditional blues, without a hint of the frenzy that was soon to come.

In this new configuration, Bold Soul Sister plays like Ike and Tina's affectionate tribute to modern rhythm and blues, with three songs from B.B. King ("3 O'Clock In The Morning," "Please Love Me," and "Rock Me Baby") and faithful interpretations of classics like Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby," Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do," and Elmore James' "Dust My Broom." Only two Turner originals appear -- "Bold Soul Sister" (with Tina displaying her best James Brown moves) and "I Am A Motherless Child." The torrid Ms. Turner also burns it up in her anguished interpretation of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long."

Although prevailing wisdom would counsel you believe otherwise, the true star of Bold Soul Sister is the much-maligned Ike Turner. The menacing portrayal of Ike as a jealous, wife-whompin' control freak power-pimp in the 1993 Hollywood biopic What's Love Got To Do With It has all but obscured the man's sizable contribution as a tireless discoverer, producer, arranger, and promoter of native African-American music since the 1950s. Despite any personal shortcomings, Ike's prowess on these hallowed blues tunes is formidable indeed, particularly on "I Smell Trouble," where Ike's guitar stings again and again like a hopped-up hornet in heat. Ike and Tina's professional relationship would weather almost 15 years of tumultuous upheaval, with many highs and lows in between. Yet, somewhere in the chaos there must have been moments of relative harmony that allowed the stability of their shared past to overshadow the approaching fitful future. Bold Soul Sister stands as a testament to the staying power of Ike and Tina Turner's brand of sizzlin' Southern soul -- smoky as backyard barbecue, and just as honest and tasty. -- David D. Duncan

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