Check out my other Rascals comment for background on this seminal American band.
Putting the hit singles to one side, The Young Rascals are sadly underappreciated outside of the US. They were, for a short time, phenomenal, but like many other American acts their popularity outside of the US was underwhelming.
You don't hear people asking "What's Your favourite Rascals album?" as they would of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Who or Kinks.
And, they had a #1 album in 1968 (the Greatest Hits album), 2 Top 10 albums, another 3 Top 20 albums and another Top 40 album … all in 4 years!
I think, outside of the US, there is still an under appreciation of LPs by US 60s bands generally, such was the popularity of the British invasion groups. The good thing is, for me, the discovery of these "new" albums.
This was the Rascals third album and here they really extended themselves bringing in Latin rhythms, pop, balladry, horns, psych influences to their already establish blue eyed soul and garage sound.
They could do this, and do this easily…
As a working band they could play as good as any band in the land. Playing night after night will sharpen your skills to the point where anything you tackle with imagination will pay off.
And they had imagination.
The late 60s, and 1967 specifically, was a time of imagination and experimentation. Anything was possible. Both musically and otherwise. The Summer of Love was underway and even though there was a war being fought on south east Asian fields escapism rather than confrontation was the rule of the day.
The Rascals tapped into that alternative reality. There is an urban pastoral (if that's not a contradiction) feel to this album. This album is relaxed and laid back, as if you were going for a stroll in the local park, even if it is surrounded by skyscrapers. The heavier, noisier rock and soul of their first two albums only sticks its head in occasionally here. I love that music but the "good vibrations" on this album really make it special and ease a weary mind.
Even today, despite some sounds that are of their time, this album is perfect for the days of winter sunshine when you don't have a care in the world.
Within a few years everything would turn to shit and a realisation that escape does not exist without ramifications, becomes clear, but, for a moment there in 1967 the world was perfect. It was good to be young, free, and in love.
The Young Rascals knew this and put it to music, just like an East Coast Beach Boys.
What is most striking to me is the similarity to The Beach Boys. Wait, listen. I'm not talking about sounds, but thematically. With a sense of innocent wide eyed excitement much of this album feels like something coming in the immediate aftermath of "Pet Sounds" (1966). Surely that album had an influence on this album. The horns replace The Beach Boys multi layered vocals but, otherwise, the emotional punch in the songs comes from the same area.
This is sublime music.
All songs are written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, except where otherwise indicated.
Tracks (best in italics)
- A Girl Like You – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – A great song. Really, a great song. A touch of The Lovin Spoonful in here but what a great song.
- Find Somebody – ((Lead Vocals: Eddie) – ) – Garage rock with psychedelic overtones. This is good and tough ….
- I'm So Happy Now – (Gene Cornish) – (Lead Vocals: Gene) – beautiful … gentle.
- Sueño – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – A wonderful Latin lilt runs through this, naturally enough given the songs title. Though here the Latin is injected with some psych. Excellent.
- How Can I Be Sure – (Lead Vocals: Eddie) – a fantastic single with a beautiful melancholy accordion (well three of them are of Italian ancestry). This is one of my favourite "accordion" rock n pop songs. This sounds like it could have come off a soundtrack of the time. It is sublime, totally romantic and wonderful.
- Groovin' – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – The big single and one of the greatest of songs from pop. Its effect on the happy part of the brain is palpable … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groovin%27
- If You Knew – (Lead Vocals: Eddie & Felix) – a very pretty song. Filler, but superior filler.
- I Don't Love You Anymore – (Gene Cornish) – (Lead Vocals: Gene) – Beautiful.
- You Better Run – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – Apparently a song left over from earlier albums. This is straight garage and rock with keyboards up front. Maybe they were hedging their bets in case the old fans didn't like the new direction but, it doesn't matter because the song is so well done and sung.
- A Place in the Sun – (Ronald Miller, Brian Wells) – (Lead Vocals: Eddie) – a cover of the Stevie Wonder hit from 1966 (#9). The Rascals play this gently and it fits in perfectly with the originals (thematically also).
- It's Love – (Lead Vocals – Felix) – a great soul rock song with swirling flute and an ethereal light psych feel. The Flute solo is by legendary jazz flutist Hubert Laws.
A magnificent album. One of the best of the 1960s … I'm keeping it.
1967 How Can I Be Sure The Billboard Hot 100 4
1967 Groovin' The Billboard Hot 100 1
1967 Groovin' R&B Singles 3
1967 A Girl Like You The Billboard Hot 100 10
1967 Groovin' R&B Albums 7
1967 Groovin' The Billboard 200 5
1967 Groovin' #8
1967 A Girl Like You #37
A Girl Like You
How Can I Be Sure
- apparently The Young Rascals were one of the only white groups to have a sizeable following with Afro-Americans (five of their albums made the R&B Charts).