Ike & Tina Turner put out so many recordings in the final years of the 1960s that there was no way to meticulously craft each of them. As a result their discs, while usually acceptable at the very least, had an uneven feel, and were apt to present routine material and arrangements that weren't always worthy of the Turners' talents. Most general soul fans will prefer investigating this material through more selective best-of compilations. But if you are a more serious aficionado who wants to collect more, this two-CD, 44-track compilation does a pretty good job of putting a lot of it in one place, in a more thoughtful, logical grouping than many such CD anthologies do. Four 1968-1969 albums are presented in their entirety here, those being 1968's So Fine and 1969's Cussin', Cryin' & Carryin' On (both originally issued on the Pompeii label), and 1969's Outta Season and The Hunter (both issued on Blue Thumb).
Certainly the records were spotty, and (aside from Cussin', Cryin' & Carryin' On) too oriented toward familiar covers of familiar blues/soul/R&B tunes. Accepting that this isn't Ike & Tina at their very best, however, it's certainly no disgrace to their names, as Tina Turner's singing is almost always involved and fiery, and the tracks always competent at the least, if not always inspired. Certainly the cuts from So Fine are the least distinctive, with something of a soul-by-numbers feel, though occasionally (particularly in the blues-soul slow burner "It Sho Ain't Me") even these rise above the average. The material from Cussin', Cryin' & Carryin' On is more interesting, if only because Ike Turner wrote most of it, though its zigzags between R&B ballads, girl group-influenced soul, and quite good funk-rock instrumentals with a menacing edge, suggesting it might have been culled from various sessions over a lengthy period. Both Blue Thumb albums (heard on disc two) are decisively bluesier and better than the two Pompeii LPs, though the song selection is a little unimaginative, with covers of well-known tunes like "Dust My Broom," "3 O'Clock in the Morning Blues," "Rock Me, Baby," "My Babe," and "The Things That I Used to Do." Ike Turner's guitar work is certainly more assertive on the Blue Thumb material, and while the songs themselves might not be the best interpretations, overall they add up to a pretty good blues-soul listen, highlighted by what's probably their most acclaimed cover from this era, "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (originally by Otis Redding). As nice bonuses, the compilers also tacked on the one track (the instrumental "Funky Mule") from their 1969 Pompeii LP Get It Together! that hadn't been previously released at the time, as well as the famous, original Phil Spector-produced 1966 single "River Deep, Mountain High," always good to hear even if it doesn't stylistically fit in with the rest of the compilation.