More Box Sets – Wilson Pickett, Dinah Washington, Various Artists

Wilson Pickett
Title: Complete Atlantic Albums Collection

Artist: Wilson Pickett

Label: Rhino

Format: 10-CD Box Set, MP3

Release date: December 1, 2017



This new box set from Rhino UK appears to be a fairly straightforward reissue of Wilson Pickett’s albums for Atlantic, drawing primarily upon versions remastered in 2007. The albums include: In the Midnight Hour (1965), The Exciting Wilson Pickett (1966), The Wicked Pickett (1967), The Sound of Wilson Pickett (1967), I’m In Love (1968), The Midnight Mover (1968), Hey Jude (1969), Right On (1970), Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia (1970), and Don’t Knock My Love (1971).  A nice set if you don’t already own any of Pickett’s albums, but there is no bonus material to entice fans and collectors.


Dinah Washington
Title: Divine Miss Dinah Washington

Artist: Dinah Washington

Label: Verve

Formats: 5-CD Box set, 5-LP Box set

Release date: December 15, 2017


Verve is releasing a 5-disc set, available on both CD and vinyl, of classic Dinah Washington albums from the 1950s.  Though Washington could sing in many styles, including blues, R&B, gospel and pop, the focus here is primarily on her vocal jazz repertoire recorded for the EmArcy label. This is another straightforward reissue project, most likely attractive to those who wish to own pristine 180 gm. vinyl copies of these albums. Among the five discs are two arranged by Quincy Jones—For Those In Love (1955) and The Swingin’ Miss D—and two featuring American songbook standards—After Hours With Miss D (1954) and Dinah Jams (1954). The final album, What a Diff’rence a Day Makes (1959) released by Mercury, was arranged by Indiana native Belford Hendricks in a pop-oriented rhythm and blues style.


Title: Blue Note Review Vol. One – Peace, Love & Fishing

Artist: Various

Label: Blue Note

Formats: 5-CD Box set, 5-LP Box set

Release date: December 15, 2017


Curated by Blue Note president Don Was, the limited edition Blue Note Review Peace, Love & Fishing is the inaugural offering of a bi-annual “luxury subscription box set” designed to appeal to jazz collectors with deep pockets.  Volume One includes a double LP containing new and unreleased recordings by the likes of the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Gregory Porter, Kandace Springs, Terence Blanchard, and Derrick Hodge—plus a vinyl reissue of the previously out-of-print 1963 Step Lightly album by trumpeter Blue Mitchell. Also included are items that can be shared with other members of the family: artist lithographs, a silk scarf, turntable mat, and the self-published Notables jazz zine. Only registered subscription members are eligible to receive the set; each volume of Blue Note Review costs $200, including shipping to the US or Canada.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss



Wilson Pickett – Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings

wilson pickett mr magic man

Title: Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings

Artist: Wilson Pickett

Label: Real Gone Music

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Release date: September 4, 2015


Alabama-born Wilson Pickett, one of the most famous Southern soul singers of the 1960s, was a mainstay on Atlantic Records, where Jerry Wexler molded Pickett and Aretha Franklin into the label’s biggest selling artists. In 1973, Pickett decided to leave Atlantic after receiving a better offer from RCA. Over the next three years he released four studio albums for RCA, which have now been restored by Real Gone Music and released on the two-CD compilation Mr. Magic Man.

Pickett’s first RCA album was something of a mixed bag, combining Southern soul tracks recorded at Muscle Shoals with slicker Philly soul songs recorded at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia. Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro produced four of these Philly session tracks which were backed by the legendary group of Bobby Eli and Norman Harris (guitars), Ronnie Baker (bass), Earl Young (drums), and Larry Washington (percussion). The resulting album was named after Pickett’s first RCA single, “Mr. Magic Man,” a more pop-oriented song with a glossy string accompaniment that achieved cross-over success. The album showcased Pickett’s versatility as both singer and songwriter, with writing credits on eight of the ten tracks. Though the overdubbed strings are too prominent throughout, the Muscle Shoals tracks, such as “Sin Was the Blame,” hold up extremely well and are pure, classic Pickett.

Following shortly thereafter was the album Miz Lena’s Boy, also released in 1973. Named after Pickett’s mother, who he once described by as “the baddest woman in my book,” the album presents a much harder, funkier side of the artist. Recorded in Nashville, musicians included Detroit “Funk Brother” Dennis Coffey on guitar, Tommy Cogbill on bass, and musicians from Memphis’ American Sound Studio. The highlights of this album are the opening track “Take a Closer Look at the Woman You’re With” (a Blaxploitation-era funk workout that name checks Superfly) and the brassy closing song “Take the Pollution Out of Your Throat.” Alternate mono versions are included for “Take a Closer Look” and the country styled “Soft Soul Boogie Woogie.”

Pickett returned to Muscle Shoals and the Memphis Horns in 1974, producing Pickett in the Pocket, an apt title for the searing soul found on tracks such as “Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It,” by Paul Butterfield and Bobby Charles, and the gospel-inflected slow burner “You’re the One.” Regrettably the album failed to chart, but there are many fine tracks that have held up well over the years. Though it was rumored that Bobby Womack would produce Pickett’s fourth and final RCA album, instead he turned to Yusuf Rahman, who had worked with Charles Wright. Recorded in Los Angeles with tracks arranged and primarily written by Pickett and Rahman, Join Me and Let’s Be Free was released in 1975. Again, the album wasn’t a commercial success, but it’s full of great tracks ranging from the funky gospel of “I’ve Got a Good Friend” to the socially conscious “Higher Consciousness.”

Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings is highly recommended for fans of Wilson Pickett and Southern soul, presenting the first restored and remastered reissues of his lesser known RCA albums, accompanied by a substantial booklet with informative liner notes by Joe Marchese. This set makes a great companion to Rhino’s 6-CD box set, Funky Midnight Mover, which presents his complete Atlantic studio recordings.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


Stax Does the Beatles

Title: Stax Does the Beatles
Artists: Various
Label: Stax/Concord
Catalog No.: STXCD-30390
Date: 2008

Stax Does the Beatles is something of a companion CD to Stax Does Motown, which was released at the same time (and is also reviewed in this issue). The compilation aptly illustrates how the musical genres of rock and soul have drawn inspiration from one another, while at the same time bridging the racial divide that existed in music up until that time. British groups such as the Rolling Stones were heavily influenced by the blues, especially the electronic Chicago blues of Muddy Waters, but also did cover versions of Southern soul hits, such as Wilson Pickett’s “If You Need Me.” It was only a matter of time before inspiration began to flow in the opposite direction. By the late 1960s, Motown and Stax artists were covering a variety of songs made popular during the British Invasion, one of the most notable being Otis Redding’s version of Mick Jagger’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (check out his incredible live performance on the recent DVD release Stax/Volt Revue Live in Norway).

This new compilation includes a small sampling of “soulful covers” of some of the Beatles’ hit songs that were reworked in the Stax studios. The tracks include an assortment of vocal and instrumental performances. Booker T. & The MGs, the Stax house band led by keyboardist Booker T. Jones, perform “Got To Get You Into My Life” (previously unreleased), “Eleanor Rigby” (released on Soul Limbo in 1968), “Michelle” and “Lady Madonna” (the latter two originally released on the 1969 album The Booker T. Set). Steve Cropper, the MGs famed guitarist, also contributes an instrumental version of “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Another Stax house band, the Mar-Keys, perform their 1971 cover of “Let It Be,” while the Bar-Kays are featured on “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” (these tracks appear to have been recorded after the 1967 plane crash that claimed the lives of Otis Redding and most of the original members of the Bar-Kays).

All of the above adds up to a CD that is largely instrumental (9 of the 15 tracks), which though enjoyable, was something of a disappointment. In terms of vocal covers, the highlight of the CD is without a doubt the opening track, “Daytripper,” a previously unreleased studio version performed by the late, great Otis Redding. David Porter and Isaac Hayes, who teamed up to write many hit songs for Stax, both went on to record for the label. Featured here is Porter’s thoroughly enjoyable hard-driving cover of “Help” with backing provided by a Motown-style female trio, as well as Hayes’ somewhat meandering arrangement of “Something.” Carla Thomas, another of Stax’s major stars, performs a previously unreleased version of “Yesterday,” recorded live at the Bohemian Cavern (this is NOT included on the 2007 jazz-oriented CD Carla Thomas: Live at the Bohemian Caverns from the same 1967 performance). A pleasant surprise was provided by two of the lesser known artists in the Stax stable. Reggie Millner’s interpretation of “And I Love Her,” which has never appeared on CD, is punctuated by frequent falsetto bursts in the style later made famous by Michael Jackson. In John Gary Williams’ funky cover of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” from 1972, he inserts “a devotional spoken monologue” mid-song, in a similar manner to the opening of Diana Ross’s 1970 cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Noticeably missing from the CD are Otis Redding’s version of “A Hard Day’s Night,” first released in 1982 on Recorded Live: Previously Unreleased Performances (revised, expanded, and reissued by Stax in 2002 as Good To Me: Live at the Whisky A Go Go, Vol. 2 ), and the fabulous version of “Hey Jude” recorded by Wilson Pickett with guitar accompaniment provided by Duane Allman. OK, I know the latter was issued by Atlantic and not Stax, but it certainly must be considered in any discussion of Southern soul covers of the Beatles songbook.

According to the liner notes by noted rock historian Richie Unterberger, Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein explored the possibility of recording what would become the Revolver album at the Stax studios in Memphis, and actually visited the studio in 1966 before scrapping the plan due to security issues. The Beatles and various Stax artists would finally meet for the first time in London in March of 1967, during the Stax/Volt Revue’s European tour. But aside from Steve Cropper’s later collaborations with John Lennon and Ringo Starr, the official alliance between the Beatles and Stax studios never happened. Too bad.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss