The Complete Singles A’s & B’s
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Only those listening to their tinny transistor radios in the mid- to -late ’60s will understand the power and exhilaration of hearing the Rascals’ blast out of their speakers. While the NYC-based quartet hasn’t been given the historical respect of contemporaries like the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys or even the Four Seasons, the Rascals sound was every bit as driving, rollicking and joyous as those bands, if perhaps not as artistically forward looking.
But hearing Felix Cavaliere count off “1-2-3” as the drums, organ and guitar of “Good Lovin”” blasts off, was akin to Joey Ramone’s iconic “1-2-3-4” intro to so many great Ramones songs. The Rascals may not have been the first blue-eyed soul men on the musical block but they were the best and, for about five years, the most prolific and popular outfit churning out rollicking R&B for the masses.
Like the Fab Four, the Rascals had palpable chemistry; Dino Danelli was a crackling drummer who took his cues from Gene Krupa, guitarist Gene Cornish was an underrated but tasty player who could burn with the best of them, singer co-frontman Eddie Brigati had a voice suited to both ballads, like the sweet “How Can I be Sure,” as well as rave-up,s and Cavalieri’s triple-threat talents as a top-notch organ player, roaring soulful singer and, often along with Brigati, a terrific songwriter, are well established.
Similar to the Stones and Beatles, the Rascals’ earliest sides were covers of tunes that, like “Good Lovin’” and 1966’s debut “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” they made their own. But once the Cavalieri/Brigati songwriting partnership got cranking with “You Better Run,” they were an unstoppable hit machine. The band churned out 13 top 20 tracks in just over five years. And even in 1971 when they left the Atlantic label which produced most of their best known music (for a short, ultimately unsuccessful two-album stint with Columbia with a revised lineup), Cavalieri was writing superb material that, for the most part, went unheard.
As its title makes clear, this 47-track double disc presents all of the Rascals’ singles, both sides, with the early ones in original, pounding mono mixes. Interestingly, some of the band’s better tunes were never released as 45s. So gems such as “Easy Rollin’” and their gutsy version of “In the Midnight Hour,” both of which appear on most of the other less comprehensive Rascals collections, are M.I.A. here. Those who already own Rhino’s excellent 1992 Anthology (also a double, but at 44 tracks a little shorter), can probably pass on this since most of the material is the same. Still, with fresh liner notes that include new interviews with three of the four members, rare picture-sleeve photos, remastered sound and full chart information, this is a classy, unique and long overdue addition to the Rascals’ catalog.
Even though, like many compilations, the song quality starts to wane as the second platter heads into its final third (one track isn’t even sung by a group member) and the approach got jazzier, most of this remains as potent, melodic and soulful as when it was made. Those new to the Rascals experience are encouraged to take the plunge and old fans can reignite their memories of one of the finest ’60s acts with a package that truly does this classic group’s somewhat overlooked legacy justice.
This article has been amended from its original version, which incorrectly listed the drummer as Eddie Brigati.