1966, Music

The Exciting Wilson Pickett (1966)

I’m a hypocrite because I’ll rip into Motown for including old hits on new albums but I’m apparently completely fine with Stax (um, I mean Atlantic) putting “In the Midnight Hour” on this album. So much of that has to do with how much I prefer southern soul to Motown and a lot of it has to do with Pickett’s dynamism. But it’s something that should be held against this album and I just can’t get there right now.

Because this is a great soul record. I have no idea how it compares to his previous two albums (the second of which is called “In the Midnight Hour” for what should be an obvious reason) but this is exactly what I want out of a mid ’60s soul album.

The covers are good but not too famous. Pickett’s version of “Land of 1000 Dances” is obviously the definitive one. I don’t know most of the other songs well enough to know if his versions are definitive but they’re all good. And the material he co-wrote with the MGs (and other Memphis people) are all pretty good, though nothing is as good as “In the Midnight Hour.” I’m partial to “Ninety-nine and a Half” from the CCR cover, but they’re all pretty decent for the genre.

Pickett is the star, obviously. He’s one of the best soul singers of his era and it doesn’t matter whether it’s one of the songs you know or one of the deep cut, he impresses on everything. The title is not a misnomer.

Both the MGs (here without Booker T, with Isaac Hayes in his stead) and the Muscle Shoals people are in fine form. (I guess at least a couple of these tracks were done at American Sound, as well, and one testament is that a laymen like me can’t really tell which song is which without looking at the credits.) They know how soul supposed to sound and that’s what they do. Only so many instruments and enough space, even on the tracks with horns and backing vocals.

Just a great ’60s soul record. Despite the different recording studios and bands and despite the re-use of at least one previously existing track. (I mean, it might be great because they re-used it.)

8/10

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