Tuesday, 30 September 2008

"Fill Your Head : The Studio Albums 1969-1974" by RARE EARTH (2008 Hip-O Select 3CD Shaped Box Set - Seth Foster Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Welcome To The Beat Of A City Street…" 

There's a huge amount of stuff on this cool American import (a shaped 3CD Mini Box Set) - so let's get straight to the funky downbeats and Rare Earth details...

Disc 1 (77:45 minutes):
1. Magic Key
2.Tobacco Road
3. Feelin’ Alright
4. In Bed
5. Train To Nowhere
6. Get Ready
Tracks 1 to 6 are the debut album "Get Ready" issued August 1969 in the USA on Rare Earth RS-507 and January 1971 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11165

(Tracks 7 to 15 are BONUS single versions from the various 5 studio albums)
Track 7 is "Generation (Light Up The Sky)" which is the A side of Rare Earth 5010 issued November 1969 - also on the O.S.T. to the film "Generation"
Track 8 is "Get Ready" the 7" single edit issued April 1970 on Rare Earth 5012
(the single edit is 2:50 minutes long, while the full album version takes up all of Side 2 at 21:35 minutes)
Track 9 is "(I Know) I'm Losing You" - the 7" single edit issued July 1970 on Rare Earth 5017 (the single edit is 3:42 minutes long, while the full "Ecology" album version is 10:52 minutes)
Track 10 is "When Joanie Smiles" the non-album B-side to "(I Know) I'm Losing You"
Track 11 is "Here Comes The Night" which is the non-album B-side of "Born To Wander" (from "Ecology") issued January 1971 on Rare Earth 5021
Track 12 is "Hey Big Brother" is a non-album A-side issued November 1971 on Rare Earth 5038
Track 13 is supposed to be "Love Shines Down" the non-album B-side to "Good Time Sally" (on "Willie Remembers") issued October 1972 on Rare Earth 5048 - BUT A MASTERING ERROR repeats Track 1 "Magic Sky" albeit a little shorter
Track 14 is "Chained" which is a non-album A-side issued May 1974 on Rare Earth 5057
Track 15 is "Fresh From The Can" is the non-album B-side of "Chained"

Disc 2 (73:40 minutes):
1. Born To Wander
2. Long Time Leavin’
3. (I Know) I’m Losing You
4. Satisfaction Guaranteed
5. Nice Place To Visit
6. No. 1 Man
7. Eleanor Rigby
Tracks 1 to 7 are their 2nd album "Ecology" issued June 1970 in the USA on Rare Earth RS-514 and July 1971 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11180

8. What’d I Say
9. If I Die
10. The Seed
11. I Just Want To Celebrate
12. Someone To Love
13. Any Man Can Be A Fool
14. The Road
15. Under God’s Light
Tracks 8 to 15 are their 3rd studio album "One World" issued June 1971 in the USA on Rare Earth RS-520 and October 1971 in the UK on Rare Earth SREA 4001

Disc 3 (77:30 minutes):
1. Good Time Sally
2. Every Now And Then We Get To Go Down To Miami
3. Think Of The Children
4. Gotta Get Myself Back Home
5. Come With Your Lady
6. Would You Like To Come Along
7. We’re Gonna Have A Good Time
8. I Couldn’t Believe What Happened Last Night
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 4th studio album "Willie Remembers" issued October 1972 in the USA on Rare Earth R-5431 and March 1973 in the UK on Rare Earth SRE 3008

9. Ma
10. Big John Is My Name
11. Smiling Faces Sometimes
12. Hum Along And Dance
13. Come With Me
Tracks 9 to 13 are their 5th studio album "Ma" issued May 1973 in the USA on Rare Earth R-5461 and September 1973 in the UK on Rare earth SRE 3010. Both "Willie Remembers" and "One World" make their CD debut on this 3CD set while the 1971 live double "Rare Earth In Concert" issued on R 534 isn't featured at all (studio only).

Rare Earth’s first album "Get Ready" came in a rounded top sleeve in the USA - rather like the gravestone head sleeve of “S.F. Sorrow” by The Pretty Things or a Zippo lighter sleeve of “Catch A Fire’ by The Wailers. This mini card box imitates that shaped packaging. 

Released in the USA in September 2008 on Hip-O Select B-0003636-02 (Barcode 602498643426) - the lid of "Fill Your Head: The Studio Albums 1969-1974" by RARE EARTH has the words LIMITED EDITION embossed in gold on the rear (3000 copies worldwide) and inside is a concertina-effect card sleeve that depicts all 5 albums covers front and rear when fully folded out. The 3 discs themselves sport the distinctive red Rare Earth logo on each while the 32-page booklet even pictures the Tamla Motown special offers inner bags that came with some early 1970s albums.

There's an essay by noted writer SCOTT SCHNIDER on the group - all album artwork featured again in full colour - session details, discography info - all of it very tasteful done - pretty much as you would expect from this top notch reissue label. Against it - I'd say that the packaging is a card sleeve and therefore too prone to crushing - it would have been better in a book form - like the wonderful and far more robust Jimmy Cliff and Muddy Waters sets on Hip-O Select (see reviews).

But as ever with HIP-O SELECT the goodies come with the SOUND. Remastered from the Motown Archive tapes by SETH FOSTER at Universal Mastering Studio East - the sound is full, detailed and wonderfully clean. I would say though that the first Disc is slightly hissy in places - especially on the debut "Get Ready" and the mastering error is sloppy for sure.

A cross between Rock and Soul -RARE EARTH were difficult to categorize - a sort of rockier version of The Temptations meets the funkiness of Blood Sweat & Tears meets The Undisputed Truth's social documenting of urban America - a lethal combination if ever there was one. Take tracks like “Born To Wander” (lyrics above) or “Big John Is My Name” or the cool Instrumental “Fresh From The Can” – these are fantastic nuggets that both Soul and Rock fans would want to own. “Long Time Leavin'" and "If I Die" are fabulous too.

One reviewer has expressed extreme disappointment with the sound - but I don't hear that. I would say though that the song quality does taper off as you get to the end - but with 43-tracks in all - I can't help but think that fans of the band, Tamla lovers and soul-rock junkies everywhere - will absolutely eat up this set. Unfairly dismissed at the time (especially in Europe) - hopefully this 3CD box set will make people reassess.

In their ongoing trawl through the Motown archives - and despite reservations about packaging, content and sound - in my mind - this is yet another good HIP-O SELECT reissue. Dedicated fans will have to have it - casual buyers, however, should stick to the "Best Of". And Hip-O should offer an immediate refund and replacement copy for the offending mastering mistake on Disc 1... 

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