The Rascals – The Ultimate Rascals (1986): On Second Thought

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From 1965 to 1969, the Young Rascals – who eventually slimmed their name down to simply the Rascals – racked up an impressive total of 13 top 40 hit singles. Comprised of Felix Cavaliere on vocals and keyboards, Gene Cornish on vocals and guitar, Eddie Brigati on vocals and percussion, and Dino Danelli on drums, the New York band not only cut great records, but their live shows were something to behold as well.

A 20-track collection, The Ultimate Rascals (Warner Special Products) focuses strictly on the band’s best-known efforts. Initially gaining prominence via a rollicking, danceable version of the Olympics’ “Good Lovin,’” which is naturally included here, the Rascals actually did not need to rely on outside material to make the grade, as they quickly proved to be exceptional songwriters on their own terms.

Putting a premium on the positive, the band’s catchy and memorable tunes, promoting peace, love and understanding, struck a universal chord. A winning combination of super-sized hooks and staggering harmony arrangements further magnified the group’s supremely architected songs. Suffusing sharp soul moves with compact rock rhythms, the Rascals were the East Coast’s response to both Motown and the British Invasion. But there’s no argument they were highly original, with many a musician referencing them a serious influence.

Streaming with gloss and polish, tunes such as “It’s Wonderful” and “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” are balanced by dashes of engaging breaks. Powered by drive and determination, “Come On Up” and “You Better Run” expose a rough and ready garage rock band edge nestled within a radio-ready pop finesse. Supported by dizzy tempos and dramatic vocals charted of a crooning nature, the gracefully gorgeous “How Can I Be Sure” produces a jazzy effect, while the properly titled “Groovin’” grooves back and forth with swaying motions recalling a lazy summer day kind of feeling.

A tribute to the recently assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, “People Got To Be Free” hammers political awareness to peppy pop melodies and merry choruses with appealing results, while the kaleidoscopic sheen of “Find Somebody” buzzes forth with psychedelic innovation. Lit by layers of honey-kissed vocals, mobs of mouth-watering melodies and herds of happy vibes, “What Is The Reason,” “A Girl Like You” and “It’s A Beautiful Morning” flicker and shine with pure pop bliss. Quaking with excitement, “Carry Me Back” rocks steady to a stately gospel bent, and “Easy Rollin’” exerts a swampy, blues type tenor.

Choir boy-styled singing, the deep rumbling hum of an organ, cool drumming and compelling licks cement every song on The Ultimate Rascals. The interaction between raw energy and a stunning sense of sophistication remains absolutely priceless. Hearing these tunes, it’s no surprise the Rascals were so successful. Although the disc is hardly comprehensive, it does paint a mighty attractive picture of the magic the band performed.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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