Wilson Pickett

It's Harder Now

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Most modern-day soul albums, especially those of the comeback variety, usually fall several steps short of their goal; the production is some sort of mummified "this-is-how-the-old-records-sounded" rehash, the band (while playing very competently) just lays there flat and lifeless, and the singers always sound about ten squares past their prime. A nice little trip down nostalgia lane, perhaps, but if you're going to compare this to their best work from the late '50s to mid-'60s, the new recordings just don't stack up, no way. But here's the album that proves to be a major league exception to the rule. It took Wilson Pickett something like 12 years to get around to making another record, but it definitely was worth the wait. Pickett is in top form on It's Harder Now, with a brand new batch of tunes, almost all of them co-written by producer-guitarist-bandleader Jon Tiven, with the Wicked One contributing to five of the 11 tunes onboard. His sore-throated howl is still mightily intact, even in the falsetto regions (yep, he can still hit those high screeches that fueled his best work on Atlantic), and his energy and instincts are as finely tuned as ever.

Modern-day soul albums are seldom very rewarding, but this one is and then some. It's a comeback album that exceeds all expectations and acts as proof that Pickett is still wicked heading into the 21st century. Lovers of real soul music should add this one to their shopping list; it'll make you dance.

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