Rare Earth – The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Rare Earth (2001): On Second Thought

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Sounding like a bodacious blend of psychedelic-attired Temptations, Grand Funk Railroad, and Three Dog Night, Rare Earth enjoyed much popularity in the early 1970s, having seized the support of underground radio as well as Top 40 stations.

The Detroit, Michigan band’s debut album, Dreams/Answers, appeared on the Verve label in 1968. Sales were lean, but mighty Motown Records quickly nabbed the group and signed them to their newly minted subsidiary, which had yet to be christened. The band suggested the imprint be named after them, and so the Rare Earth roster was born.

Comprised of material from 1969-73, The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Rare Earth (Motown Records) is obviously not for completists, considering the band went onto produce further fine material and still performs today. Focusing on Rare Earth’s most successful period, the disc documents a time and place in history when artists were encouraged to spread their wings and regularly dispatched message-worthy missives. An era clogged with social issues, rock music proved to be an important mode of communication, prompting people to listen, learn, and react.

Rare Earth’s first two hit singles were songs previously recorded by one of their biggest influences, the Temptations. Grasping the No. 4 spot in the spring of 1970 was a remake of “Get Ready,” followed by “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” which cracked the No. 7 slot on the nationwide charts. Heard on The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Rare Earth are the elongated album versions of these songs, not the tracks slimmed down for commercial airplay.

Rocking and roaring with intense force, “Get Ready” courageously slides into jazzy improvisational frills, while the frustrated urgency of “(I Know) I’m Losing You” also captures the band’s skill for depositing hard and heavy jams. Muscular vocals, booming with direction and desire, sit perfectly with the brash and bold instrumentation.

Peaking at No. 7 in the summer of 1971, “I Just Want To Celebrate” blazes with the kind of excitement and optimism experienced at a church revival. Foot-stomping rhythms and a towering chorus fire the catchy song. The powerhouse pull of “Hey Big Brother” additionally exudes a spiritual, call-to-arms type feel, and then there’s a galloping cover of “What’d I Say” featuring a totally different, not to mention novel arrangement than the original recording by Ray Charles.

Aside from the bevy of blistering guitars and streams of sailing keyboards bulldozing through the songs, shimmering flutes, smoking hot brass, and shaking congas figure into the repertoire. Bolted tight with energy, electricity, and penetrating grooves by the pound, The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Rare Earth stands firm as a candid snapshot of a band whose convergence of blues, acid rock, soul, and gospel immediately clicks. Rare Earth is a group any true fan of rock music should pour praise on.

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