Wilson Pickett: Land of 1000 Dances (1966)

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Wilson Pickett: Land of 1000 Dances (1966)

Although Bob Dylan brought a literary sensibility into popular music in the early Sixties, most pop music -- whether it be rock, soul, reggae, hip-hop or whatever -- isn't poetry.

Most lyrics don't stand much serious scrutiny.

But that is not a criticism, there's a very good case to be made that, as Little Richard once memorably said, "It ain't what you do, it's the way how you do it".

Consider the unabashed enthusiasm of Little Richard himself as a case in point, or the screams and grunts of James Brown, or the phlem and fury of Johnny Rotten . . . 

Or the great Wilson Pickett, the Wicked Pickett, who made over the Cannibal and the Headhunters' 1962 hit Land of 1000 Dances into something so powerful you can almost hear the tectonic plates shifting beneath your feet.

The lyrics are feeble -- just a list of dances punctuated by "nah-nah-nah-nah" -- but it ain't what it says, it's the way how he says it.

Pickett screamed in a way few others could.

Jerry Wexler (who co-produced this at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals with studio boss Rick Hall) once said of Pickett, "When Wilson Pickett screamed, he screamed notes. His voice was powerful, like a buzz saw, but it wasn't ever out of control. It was always melodic".

Pickett had over 30 hit singles (among them Mustang Sally, another classic) but this song which was his zenith. With a terrific backing band of FAME session players (including guitarist Chips Moman over from Memphis), Hall and Wexler assembled an almost Spector-like cast -- three keyboard players, three guitarists, three bass players -- just to make sure they could find someone who could actually play the arrangment they'd come up with.

From Pickett's opening count, the hammered-in horns and throbbing bassline before Pickett's grunts, this one starts with an almost desperate energy, and never lets up.

One of the many great tracks on The FAME Studios Story, a thrilling three CD set of genius and adrenalin distilled into dozens of three minute songs.

Wicked all the way.

(Incidentally the excellent Rufus "Walking the Dog" Thomas version of this song is in the superb and bargain buy Atlantic Soul Legends box set, along with Pickett's classic In the Midnight Hour album. See here.) 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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Gavin Hancock - Dec 13, 2011

Still one of the funkiest, most danceable songs ever recorded. It's also a great pick-me-up...if you don't feel good after listening to this you must be dead.

Gavin Hancock - Dec 13, 2011

Oh and it's as soulful as anything proving that soul isn't black or white.

Gavin Hancock - Dec 13, 2011

"When Wilson Pickett screamed, he screamed notes...It was always melodic". I dare say you can thank Pickett's gospel background for that.

Clive - Dec 13, 2011

wow,I need this set;a perfect companion piece to 'Take me to the river-A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977.Picket was the man,I remeber all the soul bands in Auckland doing his stuff in the mid sixties(as well as Otis,Sam and Dave etc).On the original album series you can get his first 5 albums for $20 from JB hifi.All his hits plus great soul songs that I am sure 98% of us have never heard

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