Jackie Wilson

The Best of Jackie Wilson [Metro]

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Compiling a Jackie Wilson best-of set is a fairly stress-free undertaking for the licensing person at a reissue label. From the beginning of his solo career in the late '50s until the end of his chart run in 1975, the same year he collapsed on-stage and went into a coma from which he never emerged (Wilson died in 1984), Wilson recorded for one record label, Brunswick. Dozens of labels -- including Brunswick itself, under various owners -- have strung together Wilson's biggest hits and assorted non-hits for Brunswick and made them available in a dizzying array of configurations, from single-disc collections to multi-disc retrospectives to specialty items focusing on one aspect or another. So many of these have been issued that it would seem that a prospective buyer would be able to compile a wish list of Wilson tracks and find one that matches that list. This British collection is a strange one, though. While purporting to assemble the "best-of" the lionized vocalist inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during the institution's second year of existence, it cherrypicks from his catalog rather curiously. For example, of Wilson's six hits that reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart, two are missing, "You Better Know It" and the crucial "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," the 1967 Motown-esque floorshaker that became his last chart-topper. Also nowhere in sight are 1959's exuberant soul shouter "That's Why (I Love You So)" and "Night," the operatic 1960 ballad that proved Wilson could excel at anything he put his voice to. Other Top Ten tracks are also ignored. On the other hand, the compilers found space for Wilson's head-scratching (but admittedly well-sung) rendition of the borscht-belt standard "My Yiddish Mamme" and a handful of inconsequential B-sides such as 1967's "The Who Who Song." To its credit, Metro doesn't claim this to be an all-inclusive greatest-hits collection, and there is an explanation on the back cover to the effect that standards and rarities are mixed in with the hits. Nonetheless, it would seem that, with a 24-track capacity at their disposal, at least the most colossal of Wilson's hits should have been accounted for before the oddities were chosen to fill in the additional slots.

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