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'Jackie Wilson' Offers a Small, Sweet Deal

HOME TECH / CD CORNER

March 04, 1994|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

"The Very Best of Jackie Wilson" is the latest dividend in a series of CD compilations that offers much of the quality of a box set at a mid-line price.

Box sets are a collector's dream because the multi-disc packages give you a comprehensive look at an artist's work, plus illustrated booklets that contain essays and other historical information.

But what if you don't want 50 or more selections by a particular artist at a price between $30 and $50?

The alternative has generally been skimpy, single-disc "best of" packages with only 10 to 12 songs and the barest of accompanying information.

But Rhino Records' single-disc series features 16 songs and a mini-essay--all for around $11.

"We're trying to offer the casual fan a series featuring top-of-the-line sound, song selection and packaging," said Gary Stewart, who is vice president of A&R at the label.

"Many of the early 'best of' titles in the industry were simply transferred to CD from the old vinyl format," he added, "with no thought given to expanding and revising track selection, updating sound quality or adding historical perspective."

Rhino began moving toward this upgraded approach in late 1992 after entering into an arrangement with Atlantic Records to manage Atlantic's catalogue reissues.

By the end of 1994, the label expects to have more than 20 titles in the mid-level series. Among the titles already available: "Very Best of" entries by the Drifters, the Rascals, Wilson Pickett and the Spinners. Among those to come: two volumes on Aretha Franklin, the Coasters and Manhattan Transfer.

The Jackie Wilson CD contains 16 songs, including such signature hits as "Lonely Teardrops," "Baby Workout," "Doggin' Around" and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher."

Besides being a gifted singer, Wilson was also a dynamic performer whose stylish dancing may have been as much an influence on such contemporary figures as Prince and Terence Trent D'Arby as James Brown's was.

In an accompanying essay, Robert Pruter, R&B editor of Goldmine magazine, focuses on that dancing.

"No one could forget the way Wilson floated across the stage," he writes. "Without missing a beat or note, he would perform elegant steps, classy spins, and at a high point do a crowd-pleasing split, lowering himself to the stage."

The vitality of those performances made the final years of Wilson's life all the more disheartening. After a heart attack in 1975, Wilson lay in a semi-comatose state for nine years before his death.

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