Remember Al Bundy's motto »Sunday Funday«? Well, I can't say that of today, unfortunately. Sky's grey, climate's goin' wild and my nose's runnin'. So what about today's post? I try to make the best of it.
|United Artists LP # UA-LA203-G (1974)|
First: We cannot judge the religious senti- ment of individuals. On the face of it, Ike (son of a Baptist minister) certainly didn't come across as a model believer, and looking at how he behaved towards others (and towards Tina in particular) must leave us sceptical of whether he had understood even the most basic precepts of Christian teaching. However, it might be objected that he was too weak a person to live a righteous life, and it has been correctly remarked that God doesn't love sin but he still loves the sinner. So be it, and let's leave it that for Ike is no longer among us. Judgment is pending.
And Tina? She's a hard one, too. As a child she grew up in a Baptist and Pente- costal context. The services of the latter she found »more exciting«, but she didn't really connect to the worship. »I knew I could never be part of that religion« she said. »But for a little girl, those sanctified services were something to see« (quoted in her autobiography I, Tina, p. 17). She was impressed by the music and dancing that was going on, yet later in life she also said that she was really singing »Baptist and blues«. During her '60s career, there were little, if any, signs of outward affil- iation to any church. And as she was more and more criticized for her too blatantly sexy and provocative stage appearance towards the end of the decade acceptance of her person in church circles was nil. Her private life was always troubled, though, and Tina was later to state: »I had always held on to the Bible and the things I'd learned as a little girl ... And I prayed every night, you can believe that« (I, Tina, p. 171). Then, famously, she got introduced to Nichiren Buddhism, and although it is impossible to say exactly when it must have happened sometime around the time Ike & Tina recorded their gospel-album (in October-November 1973), possibly even before that. Officially (or semi-officially) she's been counted a Buddhist since 1975.
And another point worth considering: Does it need religious convictions to sing gospel? Or even to like gospel as music? Is it something intrinsically Christian, closed to other religious approaches, or to non-religious-minded people for that matter? Another tricky question that will get many answers according to whom you ask. I leave it open but would, in any case, not favor any answer that starts with a categorical yes or no. However, leaving this question open leads us conveniently on to the second part.
This, at least, is the less sympathetic interpretation of why they recorded a gospel album. Given that during these years they struggled hard but (with the exception of »Nutbush City Limits«) mostly in vain to put their name back on the charts it seemed a good idea to switch to soul gospel for a change. In a kinder mood, however, we could equally conclude that at this point in their checkered career the duo was ripe for gospel. Tina certainly was, in a sense. After all, I am still puzzled of what lies behind that album, really.
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Then let's have a look at what the Billboard critic had to say about this album:
»... this gospel LP is a strong and successful attempt to bring the commercial world of soul music to the church. Not the church to soul music as is usually the case. The weakest point in the LP is Ike's vocalizings. Otherwise the pro- duct makes lots of sense for all the energy and urgency of the Turner's music is aptly put to use on this their first LP of gospel tunes. There is enough church choir sounds behind the instruments ot take us all on a religious trip.« (April 27, 1974, page 53).This critic must have been a close relative of the UA sales manager. Apart from that I don't get the point fully of what he meant by bringing soul to church and not vice versa, he felt enough uplifted by what he had heard to get the swoop of a religious trip. That it had little to do with traditional religion, however, was not lost on him as becomes clear from his final advice for record dealers: »This is commercial, not pure gospel, so it can be stocked with the Turner's other soul products.« What sort of reasoning is this? It seems that the reviewer was, after all, aware that this wasn't a LP a record dealer would like to put under the eyes of the gospel buying public. And what does it tell us about the reviewer's religious trip? Was it to be a »commercial« one, not »pure gospel«? Ike could have given him some useful advice for that!
* * *Dallas Ramada Inn and pleaded for a room, although she hadn't any money to pay for it. But it did also finish because, musically, they were stuck. Blame for this most often went to Ike who wasn't a 100% gifted composer anyway and towards '74 finally run out of his creative wits.
Solid cuts on this gospel album, featuring Tina, are »Walk With Me Lord«, »Nearer The Cross« and »Our Lord Will Make A Way«. You can hear them in the following. My personal favorite is »Our Lord Will Make A Way«, the very epitome of a synthesized-funk-soul-gospel tune, Turner style. Happy Funday!
Ike & Tina Turner and feat. The Ikettes: »Nearer The Cross« / »Our Lord Will Make A Way«from the United Artists LP »The Gospel According To Ike And Tina« (1974):