Got The Fever

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Rare Earth

No excuse. No excuses at all. None.

There’s no reason whatsoever not to feel the vibe right down to the blackened, hardened crust lining your liver as you listen to these cuts.

Quick story: I used to work with this guy – back in the music distribution/warehouse days of my youth, name of R.A. A tall and wide brother so black he was almost blue-black. Anyway, RA would relay countless tales of being in Dee-troit (he always pronounced it that way) during the early 70’s, and one of them was when the brothers and he would be crawlin’ the streets at night, listening to the open window sounds of music. Of course, being Dee-troit, Motown was the lining of the airways. Coming out of the windows, as told to me, were many songs he remembered vividly - including the two tracks highlighted today by Rare Earth.

He went on to say that it wasn’t until a year or two from first hearing Rare Earth that he and the homeboys were stunned to find out that the members weren’t black at all – they were white! They paraded one night to the local vinyl store just to check out if the album covers would have pictures of the band. He swore that no white dudes could sound like that.

Truth is told. Amen.

Rare Earth was indeed at the time, the only white band signed to Motown. Little wonder when you hear the blood pulse and pound of what they were putting out. Actually, there’s a little more to it than that. Motown signed them up, but were looking for a new label name to put them on. The band, audaciously, said why not call the label Rare Earth? Damned if they didn’t.

Evidence One: Smiling Faces Sometimes

Starting out with acoustic guitar and a Spanish speaking man who laughs like a crazed gnome, you don’t really know what to expect, and hey - is this really what I think it’s supposed to be?

But the plaintive wail of the singer and the banter of the sax, guitar and piano bopping really squirt the setting gel on it. Then the ‘Amens’ come in and the track further picks up integrity.

With the wah-wah teasing, incessant piano that will not be trodden upon, drum permeating demanding an individual identity, sax as the perfect spoonin’ partner, and that voice – that voice asking “can I get a witness (yea, yea, yea)”, it’s no wonder that this is one of those rarities of cover tunes whereby the cover may indeed be better than the original.

If you can translate whatever he’s saying at the beginning, post it.

Evidence Two: Big John Is My Name

Big John may be its name, but Funk with a capitol F is its middle name! Thunderous and in your face, this is the perfect ying to the yang of the previous track. Utterly free with its hip rumbling beat and that voice – that voice again - stating, “I like what I do, and I do what I like”.

Some of my friends ya’ll, smoke a little dope
Some of my friends, sniff a little coke
Different strokes for different folks.
But, me? Playing funky music all night long
Hey - That’s what turns me on

The bass that sucks you in – and you do go willingly let me tell you - absolutely devours the rhythm track with a ravenous reverberation that demands even more track recognition.

Do not mistake that by downloading “Big John Is My Name”you’re getting something “nice and easy”. They ain’t leading the party for the erudite, chic or ‘getting a taste of the other side’ wanna-be’s who timidly come and pah-tee politely, no, no, no.

This is a growling, unsentimental, most of the lights danglin’ and swayin’ from the ceiling are missing bulbs, the AC is broken, sweet sweat rubbing against salty sweat, slippery hands clutching half-full cheap beer bottle, crowd bumping into each other, moist, gummy floor, clothes clinging to my skin, music blaring in and through both ears, costume malfunctions and no amount of shouting is gonna get me heard above that band kind of gathering!

And all you sophisticated folks
We get it on every night at nine
Don’t look for no fancy car
With a flashing neon sign
I must warn you there’ll be whole a lot of folks there
Drinkin and sweating
And some cursin’ - and the folks in the back room close the door

You can almost hear nascent rap going on in here and you’ll be the better to listen to the rumblings created from deep within this masterpiece of funk. If anybody tells you different, remember that they’re the sole dismal dissension in a wide world of certainty.

Don’t forget to check out their back catalog and be amazed at just how many tracks by label mates (The Temps and many others) the band covered. These guys knew how to do it right.

Sure – we could’a featured a few other of their gleaming gems like the unparalled “I Know I’m Losing You”, “Warm Ride” or the full force of “Get Ready”, but I say once more, if you don’t know me by now …

Rare Earth: Smiling Faces Sometimes
Rare Earth: Big John Is My Name
From: Ma [1973]

Admin note: I’ve been reading that a lot of posters to Blogger have trouble posting an image, not just me. So, no pictures on this site for a while. No big deal, let the music do the talkin’.


  • Digging the ToP and Rare Earth. Nice work.

    (And glad you've enjoyed Booty Traps, as well.)

    By Blogger Deezy, at 3:24 PM  

  • any comments on later-period Rare Earth LPs?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:37 PM  

  • Sure - I'm a big believer of the band-following mentality. By and large, if you're a fan of any band - especially a fanatical fan - you're gonna like a large portion of what that band is putting out. Case in point, any number of 'retro' band that tour consistently year after year still pull in the crowds and sell a marginal amount of new output.

    Same with Rare Earth. If you dig their sound, no amount of dissin' by anyone is going to stop you from enjoying latter output.

    Me, and more than a few music fanatic friends of mine (Mark comes to mind, as does Ed) don't give the proverbial rat's ass what you and I like, they're gonna buy and listen to what they like regardless of how (supposed) good or bad the latter/current stuff is.

    By Blogger wzjn, at 4:33 PM  

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