Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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*****

WILSON PICKETT
The Definitive Wilson Pickett
Atlantic/Rhino

Southern soul's midnight mover

For once, the 30 songs on these two CDs actually are definitive. True, they cover only the Wicked Pickett's early years, '62 to '72. But his late peaks aren't as consistently intense, powerful, assured, macho or, truth to tell, tender--once taken for a shameless novelty, his "Hey Jude" now stands high among inspired Beatles covers. And though the 14 extras on 1992's A Man and a Half are almost as terrific, stylistically they can be distracting. Possessor of one of history's great shouting baritones, which he regularly revved to a scream when he found his sound, Pickett was also the master of Southern soul's rolling funk, most of which he recorded in Muscle Shoals, like the Alabaman he was, not the sentimentally canonized Memphis. Slick, sharp and felt, he defined the genre as well as this compilation defines him.

Blender, Aug. 2006