Long before achieving infamy as Tina’s sparring partner, Ike Turner accidentally helped invent rock & roll with ”Rocket ’88,”’ a furiously inebriated 1951 hit about driving under the influence. The story goes that an amp tumbled off the car en route to the studio, paper was crammed into its speaker cone to fix it, the guitar woundup sounding distorted, and the rest is history. Starting with that song, The Best of Ike Turner: I Like Ike! documents the singer’s subsequent, mostly-’50s R&B output (usually without Tina). He never quite matched ”Rocket ’88”’ — his blues shuffles tend to drag — but almost every song here draws on its fast-wobbling rhythm, complete with pianos and saxes that will bowl you over.
If you’re wondering whether life imitates art, this collection makes its point: Ike and his bandmates growl hostile novelty lyrics about putting voodoo spells on women, even threatening to beat them with a stick. Just about the only lady immune to these guys’ wacky wrath is one who chews tobacco and has a wooden leg (”Peg Leg Woman”).
I Like Ike‘s most explosive track after ”Rocket ’88”’ is an instrumental: 1961’s ”Steel Guitar Rag,” a strange hillbilly-hand-clapped number that could have been recorded in a barnyard. Which makes one wish the guy could have learned to lighten up. The less serious Ike was, the more his music really smoked. B+