Saturday, January 5, 2013

DVD Review: Ike & Tina: On the Road 1971-72

Text © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen, 2013
Images from the Internet
Ike & Tina: On the Road 1971-72
Directed by Nadya Beck and Bob Gruen
Carnage and Rouge Productions
81 minutes, 2012

Looking through the rear view mirror, Ike (d. 2007) and Tina Turner get lost in the legend of Ike’s abuse and Tina’s later “What’s Love Got to Do With It” period. Both are fact, but so is that Ike was one of the currently under-heralded originators of rock’n’roll, Tina was a fireball of energy and a strong songwriter, and together they brought some raucous R&B into the mainstream. They were a powerhouse as a multiple award-winning couple in the music field of the 1960s and ‘70s.

Likewise, Bob Gruen (and then spouse Nadya Beck) is recognized as a photographer of the early New York punk scene starting with the New York Dolls and going through his involvement/participation in the Sex Pistols tour of the United States in 1978. But, as with Ike and Tina, Bob’s career is also more than that, as his films have shown.

The last grouping of his and Nadya’s I saw was the Dolls’ Lookin’ Fine on Television [HERE], and now comes a collection of their filming of Ike and Tina shot on what appears to be early B&W video (reel-to-reel?), evidenced by the thick horizontal lines that show up on the occasion. There are also some color sequences that appear to be Super 8 or grainy 16mm. Thankfully, none of that detracts from what is happening at any time.

Actually, the title “On the Road” is only partially true. Yes, we open on I & T in the back of a car friendly arguing about a time past when Ike left Tina on the side of a road somewhere, but that’s the only hint of what would make the focal point of her autobio. After an in concert of the magnificent Greenwich-Barry “River Deep, Mountain High,” we are in a house (never explained whose) watching what could be any suburban couple and family on any weekend, which makes it historically interesting (for the first viewing, anyway).

After a taping of Carson (Johnny, not Daly), both musically and interview (wonder how this production got the rights), and a practice and recording session in the studio with the Ikettes, we do follow them on the road.

As great and many as the musical scenes are, they are equaled by the shots backstage as they banter and fool around, do promotion interviews and appearances, and just interact and practice with the rest of the revue.

One of the many successful aspects of this collection is that it shows that while Tina, Ike, and crew fall into a specific genre of R&B with the likes of James Brown and Joe Tex, they could also be working equally hard on the blues (“I Smell Trouble”, “A Love Like Yours [Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day]” for example). And then there is the pre-Donna Summers/Andrea True sexy “I Smell Trouble” that is accompanied by a razor sharp Ike on guitar.

We also get to see some of the revue as themselves, sans the titular couple, as they practice, horseplay, and we get to see the Ikettes on stage by themselves performing a couple of numbers.

There are a couple of directorial self-indulgences (hey, even Hitchcock did it) that are forgivable, making this collection of performances – both partial and complete – an enjoyable viewing. And in what is a nice touch, we finish as we start, with Tina and Ike in the back seat of the car, but this time they are harmonizing as Ike strums an acoustic.

The extra is a long slideshow of Gruen’s photos of the tour that is totally enjoyable. There is also a thick booklet included with a lot of the images and text (dated 2012) by Bob Gruen that explains how the whole adventure began and impressions on the road.

Track List:
River Deep, Mountain High
Pick Me Up (Take Me Where Your Home Is)
Oh Devil
Gulf Coast Blues
Shake a Tail Feather
There Was a Time
Heard It Through the Grapevine
A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day)
Under the Weather
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
Walking the Dog
You’ve Got to Get That Feeling
Try a Little Tenderness
Proud Mary
I Smell Trouble
Instrumental Theme Song
I Want to Take You Higher

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