Where would we be without the internet?
Surely richer, maybe wiser, arguably happier but certainly without "obscure-ish" records like this Rascals one.
I, like many people outside the US (and probably many within the US), know and love The Young Rascals for their blue eyed soul rock and pop hits of the mid to late 1960s. The music was fun, well performed, inspired, and without any pretensions.
In two years (1966-1968) they had nine Top 20 hits in the US including three #1s.
They were big.
wikipedia: "Eddie Brigati (vocals), Felix Cavaliere (keyboard, vocals), Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums) started the band in Brigati and Danelli's hometown of Garfield, New Jersey. Brigati, Cavaliere and Cornish had previously been members of Joey Dee and the Starliters. Eddie's brother, David Brigati, an original Starliter, helped arrange the vocal harmonies and sang backgrounds on many of the group's recordings (informally earning the designation as the "fifth Rascal"). When Atlantic Records signed them, they discovered that another group, Borrah Minnevitch's and Johnny Puleo's 'Harmonica Rascals', objected to their release of records under the name 'The Rascals'. To avoid conflict, manager Sid Bernstein decided to rename the group 'The Young Rascals'… The Young Rascals' first television performance was on the program Hullabaloo on February 27, 1965, where they performed their debut single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore". The track reached #23 in Canada, and touched the lower reaches of the U.S. charts. This modest success was followed by the U.S./Canada #1 single "Good Lovin'". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rascals
Like Vanilla Fudge, Mountain, The Illusion (and the Four Seasons and Dion and the Belmonts before them, and Bon Jovi after them and many others in-between) the nucleus of The Young Rascals were working class Italian-Americans from the greater New York / New Jersey area who were trying to escape their surrounds (economic if not physical).
Their musical background was in the working dance hall bands of the time. These bands made good time music that had to be danced to. People may scoff and the "disposability" of such music but one can't deny the musicianship that goes along with playing halls and venues night after night.
The Young Rascals like any act worth there salt though were not content in just rehashing the same sounds. They eventually dropped the "Young" from their name, wrote more original songs, observed the wider world, and looked beyond their good time rock and soul music.
They incorporated psychedelic rock, funk, gospel, jazz and some Latin and country into their sounds
The hits stopped and the music wasn't as infectious but it was more challenging and ultimately, despite the lack of hits, I'm happy they did this because it keeps their music interesting and ripe for rediscovery.
This album, their seventh, is the last with the original line up (Brigati had left before the album was finished and Cornish left shortly after) is from the "challenging music" period. Two more Rascals albums followed in the same vein.
What I find most interesting on albums like these is the "sound of the streets" feel on the albums. Not in the recording techniques but in the mix of styles : Latin, funk, gospel, rock all intermingle. This album oozes the US urban north-east so much that it could be a soundtrack for any gritty domestic drama about good guys, bad guys and cops and robbers of the time. That's not to say the music is all "mean streets" the Rascals, despite melancholy moments, have always been an upbeat band.
Their glass is always half full.
The early 70s were trouble times ecological issues had become big news, inflation, unemployment, urban crime, inner city decay were everywhere so it's good that they managed to keep their glass half full.
The band relies on a gentle good time funk as well as (the positiveness of) gospel more often than not to punctuate the songs. Cissy Houston (Whitney's mum) and The Sweet Inspirations (who were on the Atlantic label with The Rascals) provide the backing vocal magic which gives the album it's spiritual punch.
As an aside: The Sweet Inspirations were riding on a high. In mid-1969 the group (Cissy had been with the Sweet Inspirations until late 1969 before going out on her own) began recording and touring with Elvis Presley as both background singers and his warm-up act. The association with Elvis was well-publicized as he routinely introduced them on record, film and televised concerts.
It all works though there are no stellar tracks. It is an album of it's time but there is nothing wrong with that especially if you love the time.
Their lack of visibility as a great band from the 60s perhaps says something about rock music snobbery. At some stage to be a great rock act you had to be a great albums act. A series of great 45s was not enough. The Rascals like many other acts were never really an album oriented band despite putting out some very ambitious albums. That's not to say they didn't put out good (and occasionally great albums) but their format was the single
Tracks (best in italics)
- Right On – (Felix Cavaliere) – A nice slab of funk and gospel.
- I Believe – (Felix Cavaliere) – Pure gospel (with Cissy Houston and Tosha (Tasha?) Thomas on backing vocals) in attitude and music and Felix shows why he was a great white soul singer.
- Thank You Baby – (Felix Cavaliere) – more gospel soul.
- You Don't Know – (Gene Cornish) – a straight ahead semi rocker with country overtones.
- Nama – (Dino Danelli) – a instrumental number that moves into Blood Sweat and Tears territory. Nice, real nice. Danelli (as is often noted) is a great drummer. I'm not sure what "nama" means, though in Croatian it means "us". (how's that for trivia?) know
- Almost Home – (Felix Cavaliere) – a good ballad (with pastoral overtones) which is quite evocative.
- The Letter – (Wayne Carson Thompson) – The Box Tops #1 (US) deep soul hit from 1967 is given a deeper soul treatment …in a Vanilla Fudge style. This is how covers should be done – as an individual interpretation that doesn't miss the point of the song. You have to love those keyboards.
- Ready for Love – (Felix Cavaliere) – Very breezy and happy. I think this is a great track. There is a great flute solo in there. How many times have you ever said that?
- Fortunes – (Dino Danelli) – slightly trippy mid tempo song which is quite catchy in its own way.
- Glory, Glory – (Felix Cavaliere) – a big, big showbiz gospel number with the Sweet Inspirations and Cissy Houston at their best.
Of it's time but endearing and extremely undervalued…. I'm keeping it.
1970 Glory Glory The Billboard Hot 100 #58
1971 The Billboard 200 #198
You Don't Know
Ready for Love
with Tom Jones
- I have noi idea what the front and back cover paintings are about. but they are by Wolfgang Huitter, an Austrian painter of the fantastical. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Hutter
- wikipedia: Regarding the inner cover photo, "The photo shows Dino Danelli, Gene Cornish, and Felix Cavaliere sitting on a rooftop. There is an empty space with a pair of unoccupied shoes between Danelli and Cornish. Cornish’s right arm is sticking out as if he has his arm around one’s shoulder. In the background, Eddie Brigati is standing in one of the neighboring apartment windows. However, this was an insert photo condensed to fit in the window; Brigati himself is not in the photo, having left the group before the photo shoot (with Cornish's departure shortly thereafter)"...see below.
- Cavaliere went on to put out solo albums, Cornish and Danelli (also a visual artist) formed the group Bulldog in 1972 (and pout out two albums) before disbanding in 1975. Danelli then joined the Leslie West Band for a short time. In 1978 he and Cornish joined the powerpop group Fotomaker (initially with ex-Raspberries member Wally Bryson). In 1980, Danelli joined Steven Van Zandt as a member of Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul.
- The Racals reformed in their original line-up for a series of concerts in 2012-2013.