The day the Beatles broke up in 1970, my favorite active band became the Rascals, formerly the Young Rascals, out of Garfield, New Jersey.
Vocalist/tambourine player Eddie Brigati and his fellow Rascals Felix Cavaliere (organ/vocals) and Gene Cornish (guitar/vocals) were once part of Joey Dee and the Starliters of “Peppermint Twist” fame. (David Brigati, Eddie’s brother, was in an earlier incarnation of the Starliters, and sang occasionally with the Rascals.) The Rascals’ drummer was Dino Danelli.
Felix and Eddie were the primary songwriters. In 2009, Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I had, and have, all of their albums, save for the first one, on vinyl.
When the Rascals, proponents of what was dubbed “blue-eyed soul”, left Atlantic Records and signed with Columbia Records in the early 1970s, and segued into a jazzier mode, Eddie and Gene left the band.
Thanks to the efforts of Steven Van Zandt, the Rascals got back together in a multimedia showcase in the past few years.
My personal favorite 20 Rascals songs in the Atlantic era, though only the top six are inflexible:
20. Away Away, from the See album (S). B-side of See, 1969. It’s the drum pattern in the verse, versus the harmony vocals on the chorus. It’s also the best song Gene Cornish wrote for the group; he’d get one song per album, rather like George Harrison with the Beatles.
19. Mustang Sally, from Young Rascals album (YR). B-side of Good Lovin’,1966. The Young Rascals performed a lot of covers, and this was my favorite. Well, except for the song I didn’t know was a cover.
18. A Beautiful Morning, from the Time/Peace album. #3, 36 rb in 1968. This is was the only new song on their greatest hits album, at the point they dropped the “Young” from the group name.
17. I’ve Been Lonely Too Long, from the Collections (C) album. #16, #33 rb in 1967. I loved the Collections, er collection, starting with the cover.
16. Come On Up, (C). #43 in 1966. The Rascals sound was heavily defined by that B-3 Hammond organ that Felix played, though this also has a nice guitar solo.
15. Find Somebody, from the Groovin’ album (G). The guitar line by Felix that bounces back and forth is hypnotic and vaguely psychedelic.
14. I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore, (YR). #52 in 1966. It was all there in the first single. Especially the great vocals, led by Eddie, and that organ.
13. What Is the Reason, (C). B-side of Come On Up, 1966. Especially like the little drum solo in the outro.
12. See, (S). #27 in 1969. The Rascals were deep in their love and peace mode.
11. Love Is A Beautiful Thing, (C). B-side of You Better Run, 1966. The shared vocal in some ways feels like the purest Rascals song.
10. It’s Wonderful, from the Once Upon a Dream album. #20 in 1968. For some reason, this became a song that my sister Leslie and I used to jog around the living room to.
9. People Got To Be Free, from the Freedom Suite album (FS). #1 for five weeks, #14 rb in 1968. One of its pluses: it starts right away, giving DJs of the day no opportunity to talk over an instrumental intro. It’s almost sappily optimistic. But is that so bad? Plus, I’m a sucker for train symbolism, e.g., the Impressions’ People Get Ready.
8. Sueno, (G). B-side of Groovin’, 1967. This is your basic psychedelic-pop-flamenco tune.
7. Ray of Hope, (FS). #24, #36 rb in 1969. Odd thing: for years, I thought this song was just OK. But, for some reason, around MLK Day 2015, it came to mind and stayed there. I hadn’t even heard it for quite a while. But I could hear in my head the wonderful detail of the vocal modulations, and I developed a newfound respect for the song.
6. A Girl Like You, (G). #10 in 1967. From the start, it brought me joy. The call and response vocals. The orchestration, with the horns; is that a harp?
5. You Better Run, (G). #20 in 1966. This is a song that was old enough to have appeared on the earlier Collections album in 1966 but did not. It occurred to me that the rhyme is extremely simple in the verse. Line, same line, a rhyming couplet, the first line. Yet powerful for that.
4. Groovin’, (G). #1 for four weeks, #3 rb in 1967. For DECADES, I thought the line, “Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly” ended as “you and me and LESLIE.” Since Leslie was my father’s name and is my sister’s name, I thought it was them picking a clever gender-non-specific name. But it’s a lovely song.
3. Good Lovin’, (YR). #1 in 1966. From Songfacts: “It was originally recorded in 1965 by The Olympics, a Novelty/Doo-Wop group…[The Young Rascals] recorded the song…, and although the group did not like the outcome, famed producer Tom Dowd loved the rawness of it, and that version was released, becoming a huge hit.” Yes, I love the garage-band vigor of the song.
2. How Can I Be Sure, (G). #4 in 1967. I mentioned earlier in the year that this was a waltz, which surprised some folks who obviously had never danced around the living room to this. Feel like I’m in Paris, with the accordion plus the trumpet and strings.
1. It’s Love, (G). B-side of A Girl Like You, 1967. Lives on the bass line and that Hubert Laws flute. Plus lyrics: “Oh, what a wild sensation, Multiple revelations.”