The Exciting Wilson Pickett

Pickett, Wilson

album cover

Wicked Pickett Sings for You

Wilson Pickett is the embodiment of hard-hitting, gutsy Memphis soul. A charming shouter, the man known as "Wicked Pickett" didn't have the finesse of Otis Redding or the sweet-talking suave of Al Green. But Pickett (1941–2006) knew how to express himself. He had the gift of directness. Where others showered listeners with ornamental prettiness, Pickett simply spoke his mind.

As on so many of the city's storied records, everything here depends on the backing band, an A-list crew that includes guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Duck Dunn, and drummer Al Jackson Jr., all veterans of hundreds of Southern soul sessions. Just by keeping time, the players get Pickett going; by the second verse of "Land of 1,000 Dances," one of several oldies-radio staples here, the singer is taunting and gritting his teeth through the theme, seeking ways to turn up the heat.

This album, Pickett's second for Atlantic, offers a balanced diet of familiar songs and lesser known ones. In a happy discographical quirk, it contains the same recording of "In the Midnight Hour" that appears on his first Atlantic release; the single was his breakthrough hit in 1965 and remains his most enduring contribution to the jukeboxes of the world. That's the only overlap: The Exciting contains the additional hits "Land of 1,000 Dances" and the equally fervent shout-out "634-5789," as well as hard-working covers of "Something You Got" and "Barefootin'." All show why so many singers still revere Wilson Pickett: No matter how tricked-out the song, he doesn't do fancy cartwheels. He just tells the story straight. And that's enough.

Genre: R&B
Released: 1966, Atlantic
Key Tracks: "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1,000 Dances," "Something You Got"
Catalog Choice: The Wicked Pickett
Next Stop: Rufus Thomas: Walking the Dog
Book Page: 600

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