The Good: Some truly great songs.
The Bad: Short. All of these songs and more are available on another compilation.
The Basics: A disappointing compilation, The Essentials has only tracks which appear on The Very Best Of Wilson Pickett.
Of all of the musical artists I have studied for review, I cannot think of one whose works are more often compiled than Wilson Pickett. Compilation after compilation keeps coming in for me with very little variation in the track lists. In the case of The Essentials by Wilson Pickett, the compilation is a flop for one simple, easy reason: The Very Best Of Wilson Pickett has every single track from this compilation on it (and more!). The result is that anyone looking to get a good sense of the scope of Wilson Pickett’s music would do better to pick that compilation up.
With only a dozen songs occupying half an hour on compact disc, The Essentials is the most predictable collection of Wilson Pickett singles arranged in chronological order. As a result, Pickett’s songs go from his first hit (“In The Midnight Hour” ) to “867-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.) and eventually to his covers of "Mustang Sally" and "Hey Jude." Pickett was a vocalist who wrote a handful of his songs, but did not play any instruments on his albums, nor did he produce them.
What Pickett did very well was sing. The Essentials showcases his smooth voice on "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You" and his rougher style on "Fire And Water." As Pickett evolved musically from a smooth r&b artist to a funk vocalist, he accented his emotive lines with screams and shouts, which are illustrated on The Essentials.
Most commonly, Pickett is backed by the trumpets and saxophones which make his sound very soulful and funky. Wilson Pickett was one of the first mainstream black r&b performers to make it big and for those who have not heard his works, his instrumental accompaniment is similar to that of James Brown. Bass and drums keep time, Pickett sings and the brass accents at key moments to create frenetic musical works which are largely dancable.
Thematically, The Essentials characterizes Wilson Pickett as a passionate man who se dominant reason to sing is to express desire. As he got older, he mixed desire with a sense of loss pertaining to love with lines like "You´ve got what it takes / To make a poor man heart break . . .Woman you turn me on / As quick as a flash, your love is gone" ("Fire And Water”).
But none of that matters, in truth. The Essentials is so bare bones that fans of Wilson Pickett will be left wanting more and those looking to learn about Wilson Pickett will be doing themselves a disservice. All twelve songs on this album are on The Very Best Of Wilson Pickett; go with that!
For other works by Wilson Pickett, please check out my reviews of:
The Exciting Wilson Pickett
The Wicked Pickett
I'm In Love
In The Midnight Hour And Other Hits
The Very Best Of Wilson Pickett
It's Harder Now
For other music and album reviews, please visit my index page for neat listings by clicking here!
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.