Wilson Pickett – The Complete Atlantic Singles Volume 1 (review)

Wilson Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances – The Complete Atlantic Singles Volume 1 (Real Gone Music / Rhino) review

Wicked good gritty soul

As important a figure as Wilson Pickett is in soul music, it’s unbelievable that Real Gone Music is releasing the first-ever collection of his a and b sides during his fertile time at Atlantic Records. Land of 1000 Dances – The Complete Atlantic Singles Volume 1 pulls in the first eleven platters Pickett recorded for the label, including the lesser-known flip sides, all issued in their original, much-coveted mono single mixes.

His debut single for Atlantic, “I’m Gonna Cry,” is usually only found in a wide stereo mix, here making it’s digital mono debut, while the single’s b-side, “For Better or Worse,” is a dark, slow-burner that shares some chord changes and mood with James Brown’s “I Don’t Mind”; soon enough Pickett would be blazing his own trail. His next single, “Come Home Baby,” was a duet with Tami Lynn, and let’s Pickett show off his sensitive side.

His very next single, “In the Midnight Hour,” was where the singer truly hit his stride. Recorded at the Stax studios, the combination of punchy horns, gritty guitar and Al Jackson’s heart pounding snare drum, provided Pickett the perfect springboard to unleash his unbelievable vocal prowess – he’s growling and pleading at the same time. He sounds both like a man that would kick your ass, yet be sensitive enough to please any woman he chooses.

What Pickett was creating was something closer to a soul / rock hybrid. Just listen to the gritty guitar on “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do),” and you’ll see why it became a popular song for rock bands to cover, including Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Changing studio locations to Muscle Shoals proved to be a stroke of genius. “Land of 1000 Dances” is still capable of melting speakers, just like it did back upon its release in 1966. The track is purposely over-modulated, seeming to have trouble containing all the excitement going on in the studio. Just marvel at Roger Hawkins’ funky drumming while Wilson screams as if his life was in jeopardy. The 45’s b-side shows the singer updating “You’re So Fine” from his original band, the Falcons.

The Shoals’ guys lock into a stone-cold groove for “Mustang Sally” (you can hear bass player Tommy Cogbill’s fingers all over the strings). This song only making it to #23 on the Billboard charts is truly one of the biggest crimes in the history of music. He revisits another Falcons’ track, “I Found a Love” part one and two, with the largely ad-libbed second part making it’s debut on CD.

Some of these tracks absolutely sound better than they ever have. Pay attention to the snare on “634-5789” – it’s crisp and upfront, something that was buried in every other released version on CD, while “Don’t Fight It” was always muffled, until now. “Three Time Loser,” his Solomon Burke cover “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” and “Nothing You Can Do,” were only available in extremely lousy stereo versions – these mono mixes reach out and grab you.

The accompanying booklet promises two more volumes in this set, so there’s more goodies to come. For the improved sonic clarity and high quality of every track here, The Complete Atlantic Singles Volume 1 is a must-have for any true soul fan’s collection. —Tony Peters