Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Jackie Wilson: The Very Best of Jackie Wilson [Rhino, 1995]
I don't begrudge Wilson his three-CD box. Excess is the essence of the man; no point liking him if you can't abide a bit of schlock. What's that you say? Can't hear you with the band blaring. All right, a lot of schlock. Musically, the most transitional of the early masters was the creature of Dick Jacobs, whose orchestral overkill make the guys who buried Bobby Bland and Joe Turner in brass sound like acolytes of Louis Jordan. From "Lonely Teardrops" to "Baby Workout," Jacobs's rockers are suitably--i.e., supernaturally--sharp. But he felt more at home beefing up Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, and Pagliacci, and Mr. Excitement felt honored by the company. Raw and wild though Wilson could be, his spectacular chops sold him on a nightclub circuit that catered to big-band fans. So if you actually can't abide a lot of schlock, stick to this rocking condensation and learn why "Danny Boy" is a folk song. A