Soul music’s high-water mark

Shake your motherlovin’ tailfeather to the sound and sight of Ike & Tina: On the Road 1971-72, a newly released film from MVD Entertainment, shot in the soul power couple’s heyday by Bob Gruen. Also, the week in heavy shows and holiday parties.

There are numerous musical moments that instantly get my goosebumps up — recorded slices of time so searing that no matter how many times I’ve listened to them, I find myself reduced to a puddle with every repeated listen. Some serious face-melters that spring to mind are the opening of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown,” Scott Kelly’s vocal performance on Neurosis’s “To the Wind,” most Nick Drake and James Blackshaw, Mark Hollis’s vocals on Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock etc.

Without a doubt, one of the most soaring vocal performances I have ever heard is Tina Turner’s raw, awe-inspiring final take of the Phil Spector-produced “River Deep, Mountain High.” The backstory is that the cape/wig-wearing midget sociopath (Spector) continually berated Turner after an emotionally exhausting series of back-to-back takes before Turner finally broke down in tears and delivered this jaw-dropping performance.

Don’t get me wrong. You can take all of that ’80s-era Tina Turner and shove it right up Sting’s bleached asshole, but with the guiding hand of Ike from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s, absolutely nobody could touch Tina. Even the Godfather himself had to step up his game to catch this comet.

Released this week is a riveting live compilation from the fine folks at MVD: Ike & Tina: On the Road 1971-72. Shot by noted rock photographer Bob Gruen, the doc follows the two lovebirds and their band on tour and is a thrill at every turn.

Although the portable video technology of the day is spotty, to say the least, Tina rises beyond the cinematic shortcomings and proves once again that she is not a woman to be fucked with. In these zenith years, she remains a master vocalist unleashing performance after performance of pure electricity and sonic energy. Uh, and she’s not bad at flashing the gams, either.

Things, of course, kick off with Tina’s calling card of the day, “River Deep…” and just don’t let up over the course of an hour and a half before the two finally sign off on an utterly smoking version of Sly’s “I Want to Take You Higher.” The bonus footage of recording studio dates, Tina practising choreography with the Ikettes, and glimpses into Ike and Tina’s (ahem) happier days is a nice add for OCD peeps like myself, but it’s the actual live performances that will lodge in yer grey matter here.

If the current state of “soul” music has the bile attacking the back of your throat, you have to dig deep, plug this in and get ready to shake your motherlovin’ tailfeather, ’cause in ’71 and ’72, there was definitely nothing better than this.

Of course, things traditionally die down a little in the clubs on the eve of the holidays, and this year is surely no different. If you’re feeling couch-bound by Christmas-party hangovers, here’s some good ’uns to help put a spring in yer step.

Tuesday – Take in a night of improvisational music flying under the title Mardi Spaghetti, a weekly at Cagibi. Tonight’s performers are James Arnetti, Aaron Lumley and John Heward, as well as Mathieu Frenette, Ellwood Epps, Jonah Fortune and Thierry Amar. Suggest donation is $5.

Thursday – Thursday marks the 100th birthday of avant-garde composer John Cage, and la Brique has cooked up a 36-hour marathon celebration. Objects and instruments will be mic-ed up at the venue’s main room as of Thursday morning, and participants are encouraged to make as much noise as they want. There will also be live feeds sent in from absentee contributors, as well as field recordings of the building being made. Ultimately, this will result in a field recording to be made available sometime in the new year. Spectators are invited, while participants can get hold of organizer Jean Bourbonnais at la Brique for further information.

Also happening on Thursday is the reunion of defunct Montreal act Sons of the Desert, with fellow long-in-the-tooth and long-gone Montrealers Bab at Sala. Babysitters will make a killing off this one while you party like it’s 1989.

Friday – Local label Dare to Care hosts its annual Christmas party at Divan Orange. All are invited, and there are too many DJs to mention.

Happening the same night is the third annual holiday event from local promoter Passovah at Casa. This one will make your head spin, with over 14 acts offering up micro performances. Best of all, it’s all for free!

Saturday – If you’re looking to cool your heels for an evening, you can catch one of the best DJs in town, Mark Sultan (aka BBQ), at Casa. Expect dusty sides of raunchy and croon-worthy rock ‘n’ roll.

Probably the best bet of the week is down at Katacombes for Uncle Costa’s seventh annual Fuck Christmas pageant. Helping to dig the knife into Santa’s back is Armed & Hammered, Uncle Costa’s own reconstituted Vulgar Deli, Squalor and Tuff Cookie. ■

Current Obsession: Ike & Tina, ‘Nuff Said

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