Ike Turner

The Sun Sessions

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The early recordings of Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm (also sometimes known as the Kings of Rhythm featuring Ike Turner) are scattered all over the map, mostly owing to the sheer number of labels for which they recorded from 1951 until 1958. Astonishingly, given their reputation, Turner's Sun Records sides have always been a lot tougher to get hold of than the stuff he did for the RPM and Federal labels, which are downright ubiquitous on CD. Varese has fixed that problem with this 19-song disc covering his work for Sam Phillips between 1951 and 1958, working in every idiom from mournful blues ballads such as "You Can't Be the One for Me" (featuring Tommy Hodge) and "When My Baby Left Me" (sung by Billy "The Kid" Emerson) to the bouncy jump blues of "Love Is a Gamble," featuring his then-girlfriend Bonnie Turner on vocals. A couple of instrumentals, "The Snuggle" and "Bourbon Street Jump," also make this worth hearing as a cross-section of the band's sound and output, and some of the sides also present Turner's guitar, up close and personal -- indeed, the best track on the album is arguably "Ugly Woman," one of the funniest songs in Turner's output and one that shows off the bandleader/guitarist/singer Johnny O'Neal working on all cylinders in overdrive. Tommy Hodge is the most consistent singer here, though the disc is also worth hearing for Bonnie Turner's work -- whatever their other attributes, Turner evidently did choose the women around him at least partly on the basis of their vocal skills. The sound is excellent and the annotation by Bill Dahl is thorough and very well detailed.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:03
2 3:34
3 2:18
4 2:35
feat: Raymond Hill
6 3:01
7 2:11
8 2:36
9 3:13
10 2:37
feat: Raymond Hill
12 2:42
13 2:53
14 2:45
15 2:14
16 2:48
17 2:22
18 2:55
19 3:01
20 3:06
blue highlight denotes track pick