The Very Best Of Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson

Brunswick/Ace Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


There are two inherent problems with evaluating any recording by R&B great Jackie Wilson.

The first is the simplest: Wilson was a much better showman than a recording artist. On stage, Wilson was electric; performers as varied as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson (who, before he was a punch line, put on a pretty good show himself) have praised his live genius, a genius that nevertheless only remains in a few scattered filmed performances.

The second issue is harder to quantify. Wilson’s song choices and recording style on his longtime label, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Brunswick, seemed almost perversely chosen to emasculate his earthy soul sound. Instead of being firmly in the same camp as Ray Charles, two-thirds of his recorded tracks make him sound like a poor man’s Johnny Mathis. In the search for chart respectability, Brunswick took a pit bull and dressed him up like a poodle, and the result was predictably mediocre. Early in his career, Wilson had a professional relationship with Motown’s Berry Gordy -- put on the list of great musical ‘what-ifs’ the concept of Jackie Wilson recording with greats like Smokey Robinson.

So The Very Best Of Jackie Wilson really isn’t. Wilson’s very best was done onstage or was never recorded, forced instead to be a dilution of his true sound. If I sound disappointed, it’s because I am; I have added to my list of musical regrets the fact that Jackie Wilson is dead and that his record label were fools.

There are a few good tracks on The Very Best Of. There is the standard “Higher and Higher,” which is still one of the most upbeat songs ever recorded. Classics like “Lonely Teardrops” and “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want To Meet)” have worn well, and there are a few lesser known gems like “Doggin’ Around,” the danceable “Baby Workout,” and “No Pity (In The Naked City).” But most of this CD is filled with middle-of-the-road drek like “Night” (which has one of the worst background choruses ever) and the maudlin “My Empty Arms.” By the time that Wilson took on “Danny Boy” (“Danny Boy,” for the gods’ sake; it’s rare you hear a track that would make both Ciaran Nagle and Ray Charles puke), I was hiding under my desk, begging it to stop.

In summary, there is no The Very Best Of Jackie Wilson. The very best of Jackie Wilson died when he had a massive heart attack on stage in 1975. All we have left are leavings, might-have-beens, and the sad legacy of an unfulfilled greatness. Damn shame, that.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Why the uneccesary knock on Micheal Jackson??? I'm a big Jackie Wilson Fan and I've never heard him being compared to Jonny Mathis. This review reeks of someone who probably only saw Jackie Wilson on American Bandstand, and thinks he's knowlegeble enonugh to review his music. Doggin Around was one of his bigger hits, yeah that one that you call his lesser known tune, BIG TIME FAIL !

© 2008 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Brunswick/Ace Records, and is used for informational purposes only.