The Rascals – ‘The Island of Real’ (1972): Forgotten Series

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From 1966-69, the Young Rascals – who reduced their name to simply the Rascals in 1967 – released a series of great hit singles, prompting them to become one of the most popular bands of the era.

Among the songs that placed the New York-based group into the major leagues were “Good Lovin’,” “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “Groovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “People Got to be Free” and “A Ray of Hope.” Equipped with an instinct for partnering various soul styles with catchy pop-rock aspirations, assisted by regular side trips into jazz and psychedelia, the band brandished an astute understanding of the music they played.

Since forming in 1965, the Rascals boasted a stable line-up until 1970 when vocalist Eddie Brigati left the band, while the following year marked guitarist Gene Cornish’s departure. Vocalist and keyboardist Felix Cavaliere and drummer Dino Danelli, the remaining two members of the group, then roped in an assortment of new musicians – including credible folks like guitarist Buzz Feiten, saxophonist David Sanborn and bassist Robert Popwell, along with Annie Sutton and Molly Holt on background vocals – and carried on as the Rascals.

The Island of Real, the revamped ensemble’s first and only album, not only kept the sterling reputation of the original Rascals intact, but injected a freshness into the proceedings. Inspiration reigns supreme on every level, from the harmonious singing to the attentive musicianship to the clean and sharp arrangements.

“Lucky Day,” the opening track, shines brightly with classic Rascals moves. Scripted of cheery lyrics proclaiming how good it is to be alive, matched by buoyant melodies, the punchy soul-slanted pop tune sets the tone for the positive energy electrifying the album. Switching the dial to the funk station, the smoking-hot “Jungle Walk” revolves around a needling riff that is impossible not to bump and grind to, and “Time Will Tell” features a juicy jam burning with purpose.

Bubbling with reggae and calypso strokes, the title cut from The Island of Real (Columbia Records) conveys a warm and sunny tropical vibe, while Annie Sutton handles lead vocals on the breezy jazz flavored “Echoes” and “Saga of New York” blends hard-rocking verve with gutsy soul fixings to affirmative effects. Elsewhere, there’s the chirpy bounce of “Hummin’ Song” and “Brother Tree,” a stirring ballad.

Dotted with shaking congas, twittering flutes and steamy horn workouts, The Island of Real produces a nice cosmopolitan groove. Merging gritty street sounds with studio polish, the collection filters such ingredients into a commercially acceptable context. Yet sales were weak, and the album was to be the last recorded piece of evidence bearing the Rascals’ moniker.

An overlooked gem, The Island of Real promises joy and happiness to all those giving it a spin.


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 [email protected]
Beverly Paterson
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