cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"With singles such as “In the Midnight Hour” he established himself as an indomitable presence during the heyday of Sixties soul" - [RollingStone] . . . "I'm gonna wait til the midnight hour, that's when my love begins to shine" - [Wilson Pickett] . . . "Wilson was able to hold that note until you could feel it." - [Solomon Burke]

This is album retro-review number 131 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

This retro-review features a “soul” man who was not just exciting, he was downright wicked!

The artist is the amazing Wilson Pickett and the album is the recently re-released 2013 CD version – The Exciting Wilson Pickett.

The CD album was produced and released on the Atlantic Label by Warner Music and has the code WPCR-27614.

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
CD Label – [Click to enlarge]

 

It is in mono exactly as the original 1966 vinyl version was produced and has 12 tracks.

When there is any discussion of top artists on the Atlantic label, on R&B, particularly the Soul stream, of exciting and dynamic black singers of the 1960’s, then Wilson Pickett is always included.

According to his bio, Pickett was born March 18, 1941 in Prattville, Alabama, and grew up singing in Baptist church choirs.

He was the fourth of 11 children and called his mother “the baddest woman in my book,” telling historian Gerri Hirshey: “I get scared of her now. She used to hit me with anything, skillets, stove wood — (one time I ran away and) cried for a week. Stayed in the woods, me and my little dog.”

Pickett eventually left to live with his father in Detroit in 1955.

Pickett’s forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit, under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he later referred to as “the architect of rock and roll.

In 1955, Pickett became part of a gospel group called the Violinaires. After singing for four years in the locally popular gospel-harmony group, Pickett, lured by the success of other gospel singers of the day.

He eventually left gospel music in the late 1950s for the more lucrative secular music market, joining the Falcons in 1959. The Falcons were one of the first vocal groups to bring gospel into a popular context, thus paving the way for soul music.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
That Falcons single – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Pickett’s biggest success with The Falcons came in 1962, when “I Found a Love,” (co-authored by Pickett and featuring his lead vocals). It peaked at #6 on the R&B chart, and at number 5 on the Hot 100.

Soon after recording “I Found a Love,” Pickett cut his first solo recordings, including “I’m Gonna Cry,” his first collaboration with Don Covay.

Around this time, Pickett also recorded a demo for a song he co-wrote, called “If You Need Me.” A slow-burning soul ballad featuring a spoken sermon, Pickett sent the demo to Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records. Wexler heard the demo and gave it to one of the label’s own recording artists, Solomon Burke.

Burke’s recording of “If You Need Me” became one of his biggest hits (number2 R&B, number 37 Pop Charts) and is now considered a soul standard. However Pickett was crushed when he discovered that Atlantic had given away his song saying later that it was the “First time I ever cried in my life”.

Pickett’s version of the song was released on Double L Records, and was a moderate hit, peaking at number 30 R&B, number 64 pop charts.

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
Wilson Pickett – 1963

 

Pickett’s first big success as a solo artist came with “It’s Too Late,” an original composition (not to be confused with the Chuck Willis standard of the same name).

Entering the charts on July 27, 1963, it eventually peaked at number 7 on the R&B chart (#49 Pop chart). This record’s success convinced Wexler and Atlantic to buy Pickett’s recording contract from Double L Records in 1964.

Pickett’s real breakthrough came at Stax Records‘ recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where he recorded his third Atlantic single, “In the Midnight Hour” (1965).

This is arguably his best-remembered hit, peaking at number 1 R&B, number 21 pop (US), and number 12 (UK). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

The genesis of “In the Midnight Hour” was a recording session on May 12, 1965, at which Wexler worked out a powerful rhythm track with the very best of studio musicians.

He started with the best studio guitarist of the time, Steve Cropper then adding Stax regulars Al Jackson and Donald “Duck” Dunn.

Wexler said to Cropper and , “Why don’t you pick up on this thing here?” He then performed a dance step.

Cropper later explained in an interview that Wexler told them that “this was the way the kids were dancing; they were putting the accent on two”. Basically, we’d been one-beat-accentors with an after beat; it was like ‘boom dah,’ but here this was a thing that went ‘um-chaw,’ just the reverse as far as the accent goes.”

Pickett recorded three sessions at Stax in May and October 1965.

In addition to “In the Midnight Hour,” Pickett’s 1965 recordings included the singles “Don’t Fight It,” (number 4 R&B, number 53 pop) “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A,)” (number 1 R&B, number 13 pop) and “Ninety-Nine and A Half (Won’t Do)” (number 13 R&B, number 53 pop).

All but “634-5789″ were original compositions that Pickett co-wrote with Eddie Floyd and/or Steve Cropper; “634-5789″ was credited to Cropper and Floyd alone.

For his next sessions, Pickett would not return to Stax; the label’s owner, Jim Stewart, banned all outside productions in December, 1965.

As a result, Wexler took Pickett to Fame Studios, another recording studio with a closer association to Atlantic Records.

Located in a converted tobacco warehouse in nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Pickett recorded some of his biggest hits there. This included the highest charting version of “Land of 1,000 Dances“, which became Pickett’s third R&B number1, and his biggest ever pop hit, peaking at number6 , it was another million selling disc.

He worked with the best and that included having a stint with the late and great Jimi Hendrix who was in his backing group, prior to Hendrix’s career exploding!

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
Pickett and Hendrix – 1965

 

Other big hits from this era in Pickett’s career included two other covers: Mack Rice‘s “Mustang Sally“, (number 6 R&B), and Dyke & the Blazers‘ “Funky Broadway“, (R&B number 1 , number 8 Pop charts). Both tracks were million sellers.

From here his career continued, despite some major set-backs due to poor lifestyle choices which included jail time, until his death in 2006.

Despite success and hits throughout his later career, I believe that the period from the early 1960’s through to the mid 1960’s were indeed his most exciting years musically, and it’s very appropriate that this compilation album carries that name.

All 12 tracks on this album are there for righteous reasons and help tell the musical story of Wilson Pickett. Very interestingly the inside cover of the CD has the tracks listed exactly as they were listed on the original vinyl.

Tracklist

A1 Land Of 1000 Dances 2:23
A2 Something You Got 2:50
A3 634-5789 2:52
A4 Barefootin’ 2:16
A5 Mercy, Mercy 2:25
A6 You’re So Fine 2:30
B1 In The Midnight Hour 2:29
B2 Ninety-Nine And A Half 2:35
B3 Danger Zone 2:06
B4 I’m Drifting 2:49
B5 It’s All Over 2:17
B6 She’s Good To Me 2:15

 

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
Rear Cover: Track Listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It is impossible not to start with track number oneLand Of A Thousand Dances.

Written by Chris Kenner and recorded and released by him in 1963, it failed to chart.

In 1965 Cannibal and the Headhunters, who were a Mexican-American group who also opened for the Beatles on their second US tour, did a critical make-over of the track, and it went to number 30 on Billboard’s top 100.

What they did was to add one two letter word, repeated five times. It provided one of the best hooks ever in an R&B track.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett

 

Pickett certainly has a very solid musical backing and it’s no wonder he did have the famous Muscle Shoals rhythm section. 

This included drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist Tommy Cogbill, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, and guitarists Chips Moman and Jimmy Johnson, along with the Memphis Horns’ Andrew Love, Wayne Jackson, Floyd Newman, and Charlie Chalmers, all behind him.

It became Pickett’s third R&B number 1, and his biggest ever pop hit, peaking at number 6, it was another million selling disc.
cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
One, two, three
One, two, three
Alright

Got to know how to pony
Like Bony Maronie
Mash potato, do the alligator
Put your hand on your hips, yeah
Let your backbone slip
Do the Watusi like my little Lucy

Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
I need somebody to help me say it one time
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na

You know I feel alright, huh I feel pretty good y’all
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
Come on y’all, let’s say it one more time
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na

Playing, it is a habit
With long tall Sally
Twistin’ with Lucy
Doin’ the Watusi
Roll over on your back
I like it like that

Do that jerk
Watch me work y’all
Do it, do it
Watch me do it

Aah help me
Aah help me
Rpt

Land Of A Thousand Dances

 

The next track to check out is track number three634-5789.

Written by Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd, according to the liner notes, it disregards the fact that Wilson Pickett actually contributed to the writing of this song, but that credit was never forthcoming.

Despite that it’s one of the most loved R&B/Soul tracks among aficionados. The track name actually has what I guess called be called a “sub-title”, and it’s “Soulsville U.S.A“.

It’s not a “driving force” track, and it’s not a “church-style” ballad. I guess in some ways you could say it “lopes’ along but with a serious grooving edge to it.

The guy is making it clear to his baby, that everything she wants romantically, he can provide and to make it easy he gives her his phone number – and it’s quite possibly the most famous phone number in any song.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett

If you need a little lovin’
Call on me….(alright)
If you want a little huggin’
Call on me baby….(mmhmm)
Oh I’ll be right here at home.
All you gotta do is pick up the telephone and dial now
[Chorus:]:
6-3-4-5-7-8-9 (that’s my number!)
6-3-4-5-7-8-9

And if you need a little huggin’
Call on me…(that’s all you gotta do now)
And if you want some kissin’
Call on me baby….(all right!)
No more lonely nights, when you’ll be alone.
All you gotta do is pick up your telephone and dial now…
[Chorus:]
Oh. I’ll be right there.
Just as soon as I can. (oh)
And if I’ll be a little bit late now,
I hope that you’ll understand (whoa-yah… Allright)

And if you need a little lovin’
Call on me….(Lord have mercy)
And if you want some kissin’
Call on me baby….(that’s all you got to do now…)
No more lonely nights, when you’ll be alone.
All you gotta do is pick up your telephone and dial now…
[Chorus:] repeats 5 times.

63 45 789

 

Track number 7 is the mighty In The Midnight Hour.

It is best described as an R&B “ripper”!

It was Pickett’s breakthrough at Stax Records‘ recording studio in Memphis where he recorded this, his third Atlantic single.

Written by Pickett and the legendary guitarist Steve Cropper, It is easy to argue that it it is his best-remembered hit, peaking at number 1 R&B, number 21 pop (US), and number 12 (UK).

It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
Singing “In The Midnight Hour” – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The song has become a 1960s soul standard, and placed at #134 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.

It is simply dripping with power and emotion and the quality of the musical backing totally befits the calibre of the musicians.

Jerry Wexler said that the secret of the music’s success, “Was to push the second beat while holding back the fourth.” And a soul classic was born!

In The Midnight Hour

 

In an album full of wonderful tracks, I stop at track number 8Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do).

Written by Wilson Pickett, Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd, the track reached number 13 in 1966 on the US R&B charts.

Today it’s not remembered as well as some of the other Pickett tracks, especially those already discussed, but it is just as soulful and insistent as any of Pickett’s hits of that era.

The track certainly has something that catches the ear and in fact was re-recorded by no less than sixteen other artists including Buddy Guy, Creedence Clearwater and Etta James.

I mean the lyrics are not world shattering – they simply reflect a man who demands 100% of his gals love – her everything!

It’s a lay-back track that does have a solid backing with a heavy downbeat on the second and fourth beats courtesy of the Stax House band.

The horn sections really have a fabulous wail about them and Wilson definitely is doing his best to make certain that they all give 100% – after all 99.5% just won’t do! F-u-n-k-y!

Got to have all your love, night and day
Not just a little part, but all of your heart, sugar

Ninety-nine and a half just won’t do
Oh, no, no, just won’t get it

Don’ t be led in the wrong direction
To start this thing off right, a man need a little love and affection
Yes he do, now

Ninety-nine and a half just won’t do
Oh, no, no, just won’t get it

All right. Lookie here

We got to bring it all down, start gettin’ it right
We got to stop this messin’ around, and keep the thing up tight
Yes we do, now

Ninety-nine and a half just won’t do
Oh, no, no, just won’t get it

All right, sugar
Got to have a hundred
Got to have a hundred
All right
Ooh, I must do, I must do
I must do now

Oh! Got to have a hundred
Got to have a hundred
Oh! Got to have a hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hundred, too right
Got to have a hundred, now. Oh

Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t D0)



Pickett spent the twilight of his career playing dozens of concert dates every year until 2004, when he began suffering from health problems.

While in the hospital, he returned to his spiritual roots and told his sister that he wanted to record a gospel album.

However, he never recovered passing away from from a heart attack on January 19, 2006.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 131 – wilson pickett: the exciting wilson pickett
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

His legacy was mighty indeed leaving behind some 59 singles and 30 albums.

Part of his legacy can be attributed to his nickname “Wicked Pickett” – which has been described as a reference both to his screaming delivery and to his offstage behaviour.

Just prior to his death he gave an interview to Rolling Stone where reflecting on his career years after his chart performance had begun to slip.

He said he had once harboured mixed feelings about abandoning his gospel roots, fearing that “… if you leave God and go to the devil, you’re going to go to hell. (But) you see, I wanted to sing gospel, but I wanted to make me some money, too.


There are no lack of Wilson Picket albums/CD’s on the market – in regard to Ebay, it has an enormous selection of CD’s, but not so good a selection of vinyl LP’s.

If you go searching, I’d recommend Discogs – who have an excellent selection of vinyl and CD’s.

It’s hard to imagine a decent record collection without Wilson Pickett in it.

It would be impossible (or should be impossible) to have an R&B/Soul collection and not have several Wilson Pickett albums. The man is synonymous with R&B & Soul – and if you haven’t got the Wicked Mr Pickett in your collection, I hope this retro-review helps in encouraging you to fix that oversight.


VIDEOS:

Youtube again provides a decent selection of live performances, although the better quality videos are from latter day performances, here are some from the era of the album reviewed.

 

Mustang Sally

 

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

 

Land Of A Thousand Dances

 

In The Midnight Hour


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

#101:  Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (Live)

#102:  Les Paul and Mary Ford – The World Is waiting For The Sunrise

#103:  Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

#104:  Los Fronterizos – Misa Creole

#105:  Bobby Bright – Child Of Rock And Roll

#106:  The  Nylons – One Size Fits All

#107:  Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come [Soundtrack from the film]

#108:  Paul Simon – Graceland

#109.  The Ventures – The Very Best Of

#110.  The Pardoners – Indulgences

#111.  Atlantic R&B: Volumes 1 – 3 [1947 to 1957] 

#112.  Atlantic R&B Volumes 4 & 5 [1957 – 1965]

#113.  Roots of Rock: Vol.12 – Union Avenue Breakdown

#114.  David Fanshawe – African Sanctus

#115.  A Reefer Derci – Various Artists

#116.  Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

#117.  The Walker Brothers – The Walker Brothers

#118.  Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel

#119.  Curved Air – Airconditioning

#120.  The Delltones – The Best of The Delltones

#121.  Hound Dog Taylor – Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers

#122.  Bessie Smith – Queen of The Blues

#123.  The Shadows – The Shadows Greatest Hits

#124.  Gil Scott Heron – Reflections

#125.  The Dingoes – Five Times The Sun

#126.  Bert Jansch and John Renbourn – Bert and John

#127.  Nat King Cole – The Complete After Midnight Sessions

#128.  Various Artists – The Rock and Roll Collection [A Box Set]

#129.  Sam Cooke – 16 Most Requested Songs

#130.  Various Artists – Australian Rock Heritage Vol.1