Wilson Pickett

In Philadelphia

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After cutting most of his hits in the laid-back but gritty environs of the Deep South (most notably Memphis and Muscle Shoals), in 1970 Wilson Pickett decided to move with the times and headed to Philadelphia, where his raw, bigger-than-life vocals were paired with the higher-gloss funk of songwriters and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It may not have seemed like an ideal match on paper, but in the studio the results were inspired; on Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia, Gamble and Huff kept the studio band on the good foot at all times, and Pickett's always passionate and forceful performance added whatever grease that might have been missing from the Philly session cats. (Not that they sound lacking in spirit, as Pickett inspires fiery performances from the band on cuts like "Engine, Engine Number 9" and "Run, Joey, Run".) While a few of the songs aren't quite up to snuff (especially the just-plain-silly "International Playboy"), and Pickett sound a lot better when he's tom-catting than when he's lovelorn (as on "Help The Needy"), the star still fires on all cylinders regardless of the material, and Gamble and Huff create first-class accommodations for his performances without losing touch with Pickett's gritty soul in the process. Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia was one of his last truly memorable sets for Atlantic Records; in 1973, he'd leave the label for RCA Victor, and his career as an R&B hit-maker would never truly recover.

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