Friday, August 13, 2010

Pickett, Out of Pocket?

Wilson Pickett - Love Will Keep Us Together

As I write this post I am saddened to realize that it's been nearly five years since Wilson Pickett ascended to "soul heaven." May he continue to rest in piece!

As I noted at the end of a series of tributes to Pickett I did back then, one of his strengths was that he could take just about any song and make it his own. Today's feature is another example. Although I must agree that Pickett's 1976 take on Neil Sedaka's "Love Will Keep Us Together" (a smash hit for The Captain & Tennille in '75) is not a highlight of his catalogue, I think that it has been unfairly dismissed by many, as is the case with most of his post-Atlantic recordings. The single was released on Wicked, a short-lived, T.K.-distributed label set up by the singer after he left RCA, and it managed to make it to #69 on the R&B charts. Pickett even performed the song on "Soul Train," so clearly it wasn't the disaster it is often described as in retrospectives of Pickett's career!

Here, Pickett and producer Brad Shapiro wisely avoided the cheerful bounce of the Captain & Tennille record, choosing instead to use a slower, Miami-flavored groove. With a little support from a femme chorus - whose vocals were less cloying than those on the hit - Pickett sells the song nicely. Again, I wouldn't call it a highlight of Pickett's career, nor would I call it a highlight of his '70s post-Atlantic recordings - his ballads on RCA like "Only I Can Sing This Song" or "I Sho' Love You" would vie for that title - but it's worth a listen.

(By the way, your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul must disclaim that though terms like "cheerful bounce" and "cloying" were used in this post to differentiate Pickett's version of the song from that of The Captain and Tennille, whenever their version comes on oldies radio I love hearing it. It's a textbook example of the quirky nature of '70s pop.)


Unknown said...

[Sorry to spam; I couldn't find a contact link. Feel free to delete this after you read it.]

Love the site! I run the Cover Me cover songs blog and thought you might be interested in a song I just premiered. It's Queen Emily, a semifinalist in America's Got Talent (I know, I almost deleted the email after reading that too) with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. She belts the heck out of Bobby "Blue" Bland's "No Easy Way to Say Goodbye." Real old-school stuff.

Thought you'd be interested. Keep up the great work!

WZJN said...

You know, it isn't his greatest, but certainly well worth the time to listen to. How about this - what if he had done it first and it wasn't a cover? What would we have thought of it without the Captain undertow?

And a huge hello to Brian - if not for Brian I might not have decided to blog. He was an early, eager entusiast of mine.