A Long Way

I spent too many years of my music-listening life not bothering to explore much of Wilson Pickett’s music.  I (very stupidly) figured that he fit into the Otis Redding mold, and no one could top Otis Redding, so it wasn’t worth listening to much Pickett, aside from the big numbers — “Midnight Hour,” “Funky Broadway,” etc. Turns out, of course, that I was completely wrong.  Pickett put out six albums between 1965 and 1968 (and several albums after that as well, but those years are his peak period), and the only one I find uninteresting is 1966’s The Wicked Pickett (aside from “Mustang Sally,” of course).  The rest of those albums are generally fantastic from start to finish, containing ten or twelve 3ish-minute explosions of talent, and help from southern soul royalty: Chips Moman, Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper from Stax, and top songwriters like Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.  (The photo above shows a very clean cut Jimi Hendrix playing with Pickett in the mid-60s, back when Hendrix was just a session guitarist and supporting player).  In particular, The Exciting Wilson Pickett and The Sound Of Wilson Pickett are some of the best soul albums of the 60s.  Pickett excels singing over bludgeoning grooves, speedy stomping marches, or gently articulated ballads.  “I’ve Come A Long Way” is a ballad from 1968’s I’m In Love, originally written by Womack.  Pickett tears through the verses, working mainly in conjunction with the bass and an organ.  Everything else comes and goes, providing emphasis or something for the singer to push against, as needed.  Naturally, there’s a signature Pickett scream.

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