The Ikettes really should stand beside such as the Supremes, the Ronettes, the Shirelles and the Shangri-Las as one of the greatest of girl groups in the sixties, in turn the greatest of decades for girl groups. That they have been largely overlooked, despite such hits as I'm So Thankful, Peaches 'n' Cream, I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song) and Camel Walk, could be due to a number of factors. Because they are best known as the glamorous backing singers and dancers for Ike and Tina Turner, their role as artists in their own right probably had less impact, and they had far fewer singles and albums under their own name than, say, the Supremes.
Also, they lacked the focus of an identifiable lead singer, as their line-ups were in a state of constant flux as Ike Turner hired and fired them, or they chose to leave because of low wages or other reasons, and indeed it is hard to know who sang what on which record. Lead singers over the years included Robbie Montgomery, Jessie Smith, Venetta Fields, Dee Dee Johnson (aka Flora Williams), PP Arnold and Joshie Armstead.
Although the hits had a pop sensibility, they had a blacker, grittier R&B sound than many of the other girl groups, more in the vein of Fontella Bass, Etta James or (obviously) Tina Turner, and the lyrics of their original material kept it real in a way that you wouldn't get from the more romantic Chiffons or the Cookies.
As well as the singles, the Ikettes had one album to their name, The Ikettes Soul The Hits, which included a number of popular hits of the day as well as their own hits and some original material mostly written by Ike Turner.
The venerable Ace label did its bit to correct their obscurity by collecting a number of their best Modern label recordings (I'm Blue had been on Atco) on a 1986 compilation called Fine, Fine, Fine. This appeared in an expanded edition on CD in 1992. Can't Sit Down...'Cos It Feels So Good is the new Ace compilation that supercedes it, and contains over ten minutes of extra tracks.
It includes everything from the Soul The Hits album as well as several singles, and hearing them all one after the other should convince any listener just what an awesome unit they were, with some belting vocals, abetted by Ike Turner's tight band and production (plus a couple produced by Stan Venet), and his own not inconsiderable skills as guitarist and pianist. From the bits of between-takes chat included we can tell from Ike's name check that the incomparable Earl Palmer is the drummer on at least some of the tracks.
The extra tracks, some previously unreleased, including several featuring Venetta Fields. Two of these (I'm Leaving You/You're Still My Baby) seem to have been a single on Sony (no relation) in 1963, unless they are different recordings. Blue On Blue also appears likely to be identical to the single Blue With A Broken Heart by Flora Williams (it came out on the Sonja label in 1964). Also included are some outtakes from Soul The Hits: The Loco-motion, Sha La La and Da Doo Ron Ron, all covers that had been big hits for Little Eva, the Shirelles and the Crystals in the preceding couple of years, and You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too, a great track. Much of the album is in true stereo mixes, most making their CD debut, with only six of the tracks in mono. The single version of Camel Walk has been chosen in preference to the album take found on Fine Fine Fine, and there is also an early alternative take of it included.
Unreservedly recommended for fans of girl groups and good R&B.
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