Jackie Wilson

The Very Best of Jackie Wilson [Rhino]

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Rhino's The Very Best of Jackie Wilson is not to be confused with Brunswick's own compilation of the same title; each has its own advantages, and it's difficult to go wrong with either. Rhino's collection offers fewer tracks (16 versus Brunswick's 24), but concentrates exclusively on the singer's prime period, and also boasts the typically excellent remastering and sound quality that have become the label's hallmark. Rhino also paints a more complete picture of his career by allowing a bit more space for Wilson's MOR pop leanings, which were -- soul fans' tastes notwithstanding -- a significant part of his repertoire. Not only did they help him maintain a white audience and a presence on the pop charts, they also gave him a chance to show off the near-operatic range and power of his elastic, swooping voice. Of course, that voice was also a pivotal instrument in transforming R&B into soul music, and after an early spate of hits co-written by a pre-Motown Berry Gordy, Wilson continued to alternate R&B tunes with pop ballads for the supper-club set. And any lingering skepticism about Wilson's soul credentials ought to be obliterated by his incredible performance on album closer "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," one of the purest fusions of secular romance and gospel transcendence ever committed to wax.

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