" The Complete Singles A’s & B’s "
In various configurations these “Young Rascals” and latter day “Rascals” have been often compiled. This two-disc set includes forty-seven tunes offered in (mostly) chronological order. As far as I know; this is the first time that any Rascals’ reissue commingles Atlantic Records sides with their concluding Columbia singles. The unnumbered twenty-eight page booklet is excellent and is authored by Ed Osborne’s superb liners that include current day interviews with the original band-members: Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish, and Dino Danelli. The liners also exhibit thorough track listings with useful specifics including; songwriting credits, recording dates, release year, label name and catalog numbers, and more; but there aren’t any individual track-times.
DISC ONE – contains twenty-six tunes starting with the Sawyer-Burton classic “I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Anymore,” followed by the driving and appropriately named “Slow Down,” and the hi-paced classic “Good Lovin’.” Sir Mack Rice’s “Mustang Sally” incorporates a bluesy soulful edge that’s a perfect fit for these (still) Young Rascals. We get our first glimpse of the songwriting prowess of Cavaliere and Brigati on their punching “You Better Run,” the writers readily reconnect with their sophisticated “Love is a Beautiful Thing.” Cavaliere’s (all by himself) authors the scorching “Come On Up,” that’s followed by (Cavaliere-Brigati) lighthearted “What Is the Reason,” and a simmering “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long.” All four band members collaborate on the unusual “If You Knew,” which leaves a lot to be desired. Ah but anyone who was alive around 1967 had to be mesmerized by the Cavaliere-Brigati masterpiece “Groovin’,” but I always felt their “Sueno” was misguided, though the songwriting duo recovers and slams it out the park with their captivating “A Girl Like You,” and hypnotize with their “It’s Love.” It’s kind of fun having Spanish and Italian versions of “Groovin’,” obviously punctuating how the Rascals had elevated their worldwide international prowess, but how many times will many of us will re-listen? Cavaliere and Brigati crafted the elegant “How Can I Be Sure” engineered by the great Tom Dowd with Arif Mardin’s splendid arrangements, Gene Cornish scores with “I’m So Happy Now,” with (again) arrangements and engineering by Mardin and Dowd. The trippy “It’s Wonderful” by Cavaliere and Brigati is also arranged by Mardin has a Sgt. Pepper’s touch; ain’t it groovy… “Of Course” lands closer to the ground but is off-course, though “A Beautiful Morning” recalls “Groovin’” like roots with a few more twists and a mildly forceful driven bassline. “Rainy Day” sounds dated, but “People Got to be Free” jumps with optimism and Mardin’s punctuating and soulful horn arrangements. The majority of these first-disc tunes were penned by Cavaliere-Brigati though “My World” falls flat, though the positive resources return on “A Ray of Hope,” as the infectious and danceable “Any Dance’ll Do!” concludes disc one in fine fashion.
DISC TWO – includes twenty-one tunes starting with the late 1968 Cavaliere authored “Heaven” with Mardin’s superb arrangements, followed by additional Cavaliere songs “Baby I’m Blue (also recorded late ’68) falls flat, but Felix’s “See” (from early 1969) is passionate, trippy and potent. Gene Cornish’s “Away Away” isn’t memorable, Cavaliere and Brigati reunite on “Carry Me Back” and even with the uncredited kicking horn-chart; it’s just okay, as the band feels like they might have reached their zenith and are having a difficulties achieving their (previous) string of chartbusting hits. That being said Cavaliere’s “Real Thing” sounds like it was a struggle to write, Felix’s “Hold On” is herky-jerky, his “Believe” is lightweight fluff, completing Cavaliere foursome of tunes in a row is “Glory Glory” also misses the mark as it seems that his creative songwriting hit-makers are harder to mine. Cornish’s attempt to resuscitate the Rascals with his “You Don’t Know” but I know this isn’t working. Ten of the concluding eleven songs were all written by Cavailere (no more collaboration’s with Brigati) were recorded from 1970 to 1972 and aren’t convincing. Though I enjoyed Felix’s poppy “Lucky Day” which has a mild Latin tinge, and his jazzy “Love Letter” that also offers a James Brown like bassline and heady (uncredited sax solos) though quite rare for a single a tasty and percolating jam that emerges for a relatively long stretch of time. In 1971 The Rascals (with just Cavaliere and drummer Dino Danelli) moved to Columbia Records and were exclusively produced by Cavaliere. Felix’s Rascals hired top-shelf studio musicians; Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, Joe Farrell, David Sanborn, Ralph MacDonald, plus many others, and even incorporated John Coltrane’s wife Alice for a tune. Replacing Brigati and Cornish; hotshot guitarist Buzzy Feiten and Crusaders bassist Robert Popwell became (brief) Rascals band-members, but these (new) Rascals infuriated Columbia President Clive Davis who wanted another string of hits like they had at Atlantic, but that wasn’t to be. They had a minor hit with his “Saga of New York” in 1972, though Felix’s “Hummin’ Song” feels like it was lifted from the Jackson Five and is pretty lame. Long story short (though in many ways the Rascals albums were fascinating,) their Columbia era for these newest Rascals just didn’t connect with their audience. To make matters worse their four-album million dollar deal was a financial flop for Columbia Records. (Note: Their four sided double-LP for Columbia Records “Peaceful World” readily comes to mind as one of my favorite Rascals recordings.) That said the last single concluding this two-CD set is written by Buzzy Feiten’s “Jungle Walk,” grooves and punches mightily with horns, but you’d be hard-pressed (ever) guessing this would be included on any Rascals record.
Hard to believe that over fifty years have passed since the Young Rascals had the music-world in the palms of their hands, (I even saw them perform at my high-school auditorium at LaSalle Academy, not far from the Fillmore East on 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street.) But like many bands before and after; they had internal struggles that complicated sustaining distinction and fame. Through it all; it was a magnificent Rascals’ ride and it’s all documented here on this fine two-disc set of The Rascals’ Complete A’s & B’s singles. Enjoy the blasts from the past.
For 17 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal with his Sounds of Blue radio show. Hear new Homegrown Sounds of Blue internet radio shows: http://soundsofblue.com/radioshowsmp3.htm
Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com & www.MakingAScene.org Bob was also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at: BobP@SoundsofBlue.com