Sunday, 8 May 2016

"Original Album Series" by THE YOUNG RASCALS/THE RASCALS (2011 Rhino/Atlantic 5CD Mini Box Set Remasters in Stereo) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Groovin' On A Sunday Afternoon..." 

Forever associated with two huge 60ts anthems - "Good Lovin'" and "Groovin'" - The Young Rascals started out as a straight-up raucous R&B outfit in 1966 with good vibrations in their hearts, Atlantic and Chess Records in their Souls and the occasional flower stalk in their hair. By the time they'd reached December 1969 - they'd shortened the moniker to THE RASCALS and released six studio albums and one 'Greatest Hits'. En-route they'd become increasingly more sophisticated in their output (ending up sounding like WAR on Freedom Suite's funky workout "Cute") and vocal in their wish to see the USA buck up and move on from all that was tearing it apart socially at the time.

And that's what this dinky little 5CD box set in the "Original Album Series" inadvertently proves. The Rascals were so much more than a rapid-fire happy-wappy hits group and a Summer of Love phenomenon - but an evolving musical force trying to get heard. But as the Sixties closed – like The Monkees - less and less were listening let alone buying their records making a lot of this music in 2016 almost unknown to the average listener. Time to rectify that oversight. Here are the details...

UK and Europe released October 2011 (August 2013 in the USA) - "Original Album Series" by THE YOUNG RASCALS on Atlantic/Rhino 8122 79834 8 (Barcode 081227983482) is a 5CD Card Slipcase housing 5 x 5” Mini LP Repro Sleeves – and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (36:15 minutes):
1. Slow Down
2. Baby Let's Wait
3. Just A Little
4. I Believe
5. Do You Feel It
6. Good Lovin' [Side 2]
7. Like A Rolling Stone
8. Mustang Sally
9. I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore
10. In The Midnight Hour
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "The Young Rascals" - released March 1966 in the USA on Atlantic 8123 (Mono) and Atlantic SD 8123 (Stereo) and in the UK on Atlantic 587012 (Mono) and Atlantic 588012 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used. It peaked at No. 15 on the US LP charts.

Disc 2 (33:13 minutes):
1. What Is The Reason
2. Since I Fell For You
3. Lonely Too Long
4. No Love To Give
5. Mickey's Monkey/Love Nights
6. Come on Up [Side 2]
7. Too Many Fish In The Sea
8. More
9. Nineteen Fifty-Six
5. Love Is A Beautiful Thing
6. Land Of 1000 Dances
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 2nd album "Collections" by THE YOUNG RASCALS - released January 1967 in the USA on Atlantic 8134 (Mono) and Atlantic SD 8134 (Stereo) and in the UK on Atlantic 587060 (Mono) and Atlantic 588060 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used. It peaked at No. 14 on the US LP charts.

Disc 3 (34:39 minutes):
1. A Girl Like You
2. Find Somebody
3. I'm So Happy Now
4. Sueno
5. How Can I Be Sure
6. Groovin' [Side 2]
7. If You Knew
8. I Don't Love You Anymore
9. You Better Run
10. A Place In The Sun
11. It's Love
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 3rd album "Groovin'" by THE YOUNG RASCALS - released 31 July 1967 in the USA on Atlantic 8148 (Mono) and Atlantic SD 8148 (Stereo) and in the UK on Atlantic 587074 (Mono) and Atlantic 588074 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used. It peaked at No. 5 on the LP charts.

Disc 4 (37:28 minutes):
1. Intro/Easy Rollin'
2. Rainy Day
3. Please Love Me
4. Sound Effect/It's Wonderful
5. I'm Gonna Love You/Dave & Eddie
6. My Hawaii
7. My World [Side 2]
8. Silly Girl
9. Singin' The Blues Too Long
10. Bells/Sattva
11. Finale: Once Upon A Dream
Tracks 1 to 11 are their fourth album "Once Upon A Dream" and the first credited to THE RASCALS - released February 1968 in the USA on Atlantic 8169 (Mono) and Atlantic SD 8169 (Stereo) and in the UK on Atlantic 587 098 (Mono) and Atlantic 588 098 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used. It peaked at No. 9 on the US LP charts.

Disc 5 (65:54 minutes):
"Freedom Suite"
1. America The Beautiful [Side 1]
2. Me & My Friends
3. Any Dance'll Do
4. Look Around
5. A Ray Of Hope
6. Island Of Love [Side 2]
7. Of Course
8. Love Was So Easy To Give
9. People Got To Be Free
10. Baby I'm Blue
11. Heaven
"Music Music"
12. Adrian's Birthday [Side 3]
13. Boom
14. Cute [Side 4]
Tracks 1 to 14 are the 2LP set "Freedom Suite" (record one is called "Freedome Suite" - record two "Music Music") - released March 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD 2-901 (Stereo only) and in the UK on Atlantic 588 183 (Stereo only). It peaked at No. 17 on the US LP charts.

As with all of these releases you get 5 x 5" card sleeves that repro the front and rear US LP artwork for the Stereo versions - and how cool is it to see these increasingly hard to find album covers. Ok you might need a magnifying glass to read the details (there are none on the last two) - but at just about two quid per album - who’s complaining.

From what I can hear these are the BILL INGLOT/DAN HERSCH Rhino remasters and (excessive hiss of the first album aside) - each sounds great. And once again I can't overstate how good these albums are. Let's get to the underrated music...

Quite apart from Gene Cornish's garage-guitar rocking throughout the self-titled debut like a beast on a boozy mission – the group was also possessed of three Lead Vocalists (out of a four-piece band). Felix Cavaliere handled most of the bigger tunes whilst laying down that groovy organ - Gene Cornish wielded his choppy axe and sang too - Eddie Brigati provided voice number three whilst playing Percussion – and all the while Dino Danelli laid down the backbeat on the Drums. The debut is top heavy with R&B and Soul covers - least not of all the opening blaster "Slow Down" - a hit for Larry Williams in 1958 and explored by The Beatles on their "Long Tall Sally" EP in 1964. Even their take on Bob Dylan's perennially overdone song "Like A Rolling Stone" is better than most. Also dig their chugging guitar/organ groove on Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour". The Beau Brummels had a hit with "Just A Little" in 1965 (Autumn Records 10) – The Rascals slow it down to an almost Bluesy pace (bit hissy this track). Overall a great start...

The 2nd LP opens with two almost lounge-room organ grinders - "What Is The Reason" and the the slighty creepy "Since I Fell For You". Things improve a bit with "Lonely Too Long" where Felix Cavalieri is accompanied by what sounds like a Motown set of backing singers. The sappy "No Love To Give" with its cello and oboe is hard to take truth be told - better is another dancer - Smokey's "Mickey's Monkey" doubled up a very Tommy James and The Shondells rendition of "Love Lights" - great and the first sign of any real life on the album. It's obvious why "Come On Up" was chosen as a 45 - a great groover that should have done better chartwise. We're back to Motown dancers with a hectic cover of The Marvelettes 1964 hit "Too Many Fish In The Sea". But this is ruined by a cheesy organ-take on "More". Luckily that is obliterated by the album's secret weapon - a blistering and hooky "Nineteen Fifty-Six" where Gene does his best Little Richard impression on the vocals as he goes all wild Chuck Berry on his guitar. We hit a run of two that make up for much of the dreck - "Love Is A Beautiful Thing" is a Cavalieri/Brigati penned winner that grooves at times like GLORIA by Them. The record finishes with that Chris Kenner crowd-shouter "Land Of 1000 Dances". Not as good as the debut but it still has those moments that make it so worth it...

Even now I find it shocking how good the whole of the "Groovin'" LP is. While I can live without the poppy (and hissy) "A Girl Like You" – the Link Wray guitar rumble that opens "Find Somebody" that then continues in an equally cool Byrds-jangle - is fantastic 60ts Rock. Both the acoustic based "I'm So Happy Now" and "Sueno" have that Summer of Love joy imbedded in them (not cloy or clinging). Most people will likely know "How Can I Be Sure" through Dusty Springfield on Philips and David Cassidy on Bell rather than by The Young Rascals on Atlantic. And it just doesn't get more sublime than the album's title track "Groovin'" – their 2nd No. 1 in May 1967 on Atlantic 2401. The production values for "I Don't Love You Anymore" are much improved over the rest of it – while the trippy flute of the neck-jerking finisher "It's Love" gave it a honorary place on the 2001 CD compilation "Right On! Volume 3" that trawled Atlantic's labels and vaults for forgotten shakers to appeal to now kids.

The last two albums in this mini box set represented a new phase. Now just THE RASCALS - they'd grown up and wanted to take their audience with them. The gatefold sleeve isn't repro'd here (reduced to a single, front and back cover) - but you do get a sense of change from just looking at the cryptic cover of rifles, bird cages and telephones covered in what looks like plaster-of-paris. The music isn't as catchy as before and bluntly feels overblown in some places. Once past that hissy intro - the jaunty "Easy Rollin'" comes on like The Lovin' Spoonful on some friendly mushrooms - but "Please Love Me' just doesn't seem to work while the single "It's Wonderful" has a touch of The Beatles Mystery Tour in it. "I'm Gonna Love You" and "My Hawaii" sound like "Smile Sessions" outtakes with their brass bands and strange synth and strings.  "Silly Girl" is good but like much of the album is drenched in hiss. Better is "Singin' The Blues Too Long" and the sitar hippy-trip that is "Sattva"...

After the disappointment of "Once Upon A Dream" - the double-album "Freedom Suite" is an altogether better beast. Imbibed with all that was affecting American ("so much hated and confusion") - the positive message of 'unity' comes through on so many of the excellent songs. There are touches of the old Rascals in "Any Dance'll Do" but the marching boots of "Look Around" return to the bigotry themes right quick. "A Ray Of Hope" feels like The Temptations on a falsetto vocal trip while there's a great funk to "Of Course". The production values on "Love Was So Easy To Give" are superlative - a song about lost youth - while the anthem "People Got To Be Free" is a social call to arms that felt like it would work. The drum solo that is the near fourteen-minute "Boom" tests your patience while the 15-minute organ boogie groove of "Cute" goes a long way to salvaging the set (an extended jam that works - probably my fave on the whole double - dig that guitar solo too).

So there you have it - it's not all genius by any means (the excellent December 1969 "See" LP is missing from this box set) - but the good stuff is (if you'll forgive the pun) groovin'. 

Check out The Young Rascals...who morphed into The Rascals...and enjoy...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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