Sunday, September 21, 2008

Track of the Week: Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do) by Wilson Pickett

Another of the great Stax creations, Wilson Pickett had a hit with "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" in 1965. Though it shares a title and at least a bit of a similar idea with a gospel song of the same name (though substituting the love of God with that of a woman), Pickett is listed as the songwriter. There are also two pretty decent covers, one an imitation (but in the good way) and the other makes it psychedelic.

Wildon Pickett
The original jumps out of the speakers with a vengeance. Pickett's vocals slice through the minimal, yet foreboding, instrumental introduction which had set up a great groove that sounds as if it is bubbling out of a swampy graveyard similar to Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." Otherworldly horns punctuate Pickett's soulful shrieks of want as the song continues. "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" is more than a simple soul song, though the lyrics are simple enough. Instead, it really does sound something mean and almost scary. Well, it would be scary if it was not about love or whatever.

Creedence Clearwater Revival
That mood fit Creedence Clearwater Revival perfectly. Their desire to be a garage band from the south led them to cover plenty of soul songs from the south. On their first record CCR busted out the Wilson Pickett and stayed relatively faithful to the original, but added a few more breaks and some solos (one short drum break and an extended guitar solo) which add up to a full minute extra than Pickett's 2:42 version. John Fogerty's voice fits the style perfectly and the production, again by John, is top notch.

Fever Tree
Fever Tree also did a cover. Who is Fever Tree? They were a psychedelic band and one "hit" wonder from Houston in the sixties. On their first album in 1968 they also covered "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" but in a completely different style. Theirs is very rock oriented and almost fully throws aside any soul elements beside the vocals (to an extent). As opposed to the very tight CCR recording, Fever Tree allows the lead guitar to continuously wail throughout the song. It is a very loose recording and extremely freaky psychedelic.

The Tracks
Wilson Pickett
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fever Tree

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