+1 on the minihum. I have one in the neck of my partscaster, combined with a three-knob control plate (V, V, T). Individual volume controls give me infinite tonal variations in the mid position.The Tele neck pickup design and it's variations by other companies are mostly that 'compressed dark sound'. It's just what they are. For clarity and nice neck tone (now you are becoming "not Tele"!) a Strat neck pickup, or a Minibucker are very popular choices.
I don't think you are going to get a huge change in sounds from a pickup swap to similar pickups.