Ike & Tina Turner - River Deep Mountain High (1967)
River Deep - Mountain High/I Idolise You/A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knockin' Every Day)/A Fool In Lover/Make 'Em Wait/Hold On Baby/I'll Never Need More Than This/Save The Last Dance For More/Oh Baby!/Every Day I Have To Cry/Such A Fool For You/It's Gonna Work Out Fine
Ike & Tina Turner were one of those artists whose reputation is bigger than their recorded output. Their albums are few and far between, and are often patchy. This is probably the best known, from 1967 (but not seeing full release until 1969) and it is a strange amalgam of an affair - half of it is wall of sound multiple musicians Phil Spector productions, the other half funkier Ike Turner produced offerings. It results in an interesting album, and one that lacks cohesion, both in content and sound quality. The Spector songs are tinny, the Ike ones far more warm and bassy.
Incidentally, the most famous cut from the album, Phil Spector’s last big production, River Deep - Mountain High, only includes Tina on it, singing her heart out. Ike, credited on the song, was nowhere to be found - probably with a lover or in a bar somewhere....
I Idolise You, which dated back to 1960, originally, is a grinding Ike production bluesy soul number. Much as I have loved Spector for years and years, I have to say that prefer the ballsy Ike songs.
A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day) is a raucous Spector number that overdoes the crashing orchestration. Also done by Phil was the frantic Hold On Baby, the beautifully typical “kitchen sink” Spector fare of Never Need More Than This and the timeless Save The Last Dance For Me, sung in tremendously evocative manner by Tina. You gotta love Tina.
A Fool In Love is a recognisable doo-wop, punchy Ike & Tina song and Make ‘Em Wait is equally lively and pretty difficult not to enjoy. Oh Baby! (Things Ain’t What They Used To Be) cooks at maximum temperature from the first moment.
The final Spector production is the gospelly Every Day I Have To Cry and Ike is back for the last two, the pumping Such A Fool For You and the brassy It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.
The Best Of Randy Crawford
A big deliverer of quality soul hits throughout the eighties was Randy Crawford, who came to attention initially as the lead voice on the Crusaders' jazz funk hit, Street Life, in 1979.
Possessed of an immaculate, soulful and crystal clear voice, her biggest hits were One Day I'll Fly Away, a sublime cover of Tony Joe White-Brook Benton's Rainy Night In Georgia and the delicious late night soul of Secret Combination and the brassy, surprisingly deep, bassy ballad-funk of You Might Need Somebody.
Also notable were Tender Falls The Rain, the original version of I've Never Been To Me (later released on the Motown label by one-hit wonder Charlene), Everything Must Change, Who's Crying Now and two really good covers - Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door and John Lennon's Imagine - both of which are given a real soul sheen by Crawford. These are songs that have been covered many times over the years by many different artists but these are two of the very best. Both the songs are turned by Crawford into sounding like proper soul classics.
Randy Crawford was one of the great soul voices of the eighties - heard all over the airwaves and in every wine bar.
Secret Combination (1981)
You Might Need Somebody/Rainy Night In Georgia/That's How Heartaches Are Made/Two Lives/You Bring The Sun Out/Rio De Janeiro Blue/Secret Combination/When I Lose My Way/Time For Love/Trade Winds
Randy's best selling album was Secret Combination, from 1981. Its highlights (apart from the three hit singles You Might Need Somebody, Rainy Night In Georgia and Secret Combination) are the rhythmic jazzy funk of the Chris Rea-esque Rio De Janeiro Blue, the lively When I Lose My Way and the slow, evocative Trade Winds, made famous by Rod Stewart on his 1976 A Night On The Town album. Time For Love is a nice one too. Nice album, nothing world-shattering, but full of pitch perfect, pleasant and slick soul. Eminently listenable.
The Best Of Odyssey
Also best known for their run of early eighties singles were one male - two female vocal group Odyssey. They are another group whose work I only own in "best of" format.
Their highlights are the tribute to New York in the jazzy soul of Native New Yorker, with its great line "you're no tramp, but you're no lady...", the infectious singalong disco funk of Going Back To My Roots and the equally anthemic dancefloor groove of Use It Up And Wear It Out. Both of these latter two were enormous chart hits and they stand today as great examples of just how good a classic disco single could be.
My own favourite, however, as someone who loves a good romantic number, is the heartbreaker If You're Looking For A Way Out. I’m a sucker for slushy songs like this. The vocals at the end are great.
Other fine disco cuts from them were the catchy Inside Out, the thumping, guitar and drum-driven, socially-conscious Hang Together, the slightly Grace Jones-ish Magic Touch and the classic early eighties disco funk of Together. Listen to that Chic-inspired guitar on the latter.
Also interesting is their cover of Oh No Not My Baby, done in a reggae style. It works well.