Rare Earth should not be so rare…

Finally, I am back to writing about vinyl. This album came to me by way of my new friend Dave.  Dave said I could keep all his vinyl if I transferred them to CD’s for him.  I have been working on that project steadily over the past few months.  I have other albums he brought to me that I intend to blog about too, but I have more ideas than I have time to blog.  Anyway, thanks Dave for this very cool record!

This new post is about the first all white band to sign with Motown Records; Rare Earth.   Motown decided in 1969 that they wanted to start a new label that would be dedicated to only white performers.  They wanted to create a label that would be equally branded as the Motown label was for black performers.  Rare Earth was the first band signed under this new marketing effort.  They were a local Detroit band and had already been recorded by Verve Records, but that album had not sold well.    The title of this record is “Ecology”This was Rare Earth’s third LP and and their second one released on the Motown owned “Rare Earth” label.   It was released in 1970.  The record label is pretty cool and 70’s looking.  The members of Rare Earth actually named the label for Motown executives.  The Motown A&R guys asked the band members what they thought the label should be called and they jokingly suggested their own band name.  Later they were stunned to find out that Motown took  them up on their idea!  That’s how they came to record on a label named after their own band.  I think this may have been an all time first in Rock-n-Roll history.  Here are some pictures of the album and label:

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This album came about in an unusual way. The second Rare Earth album “Get Ready” was very successful and the title cut was a cover of the great song by the temptations.  The Temptations.  But The Temptations version only made it to #29 on The Billboard top 100.  Rare Earth’s version peaked at #4.  Because of the success of this record Hollywood came calling.  They wanted the band to contribute songs to a movie called “Generation”.  The movie starred David Jannsen and Kim Darby.  Once the movie was a hit then Motown was going to release a movie soundtrack.  Unfortunately, the movie flopped.  There would be no soundtrack.  So several of the songs on “Ecology” were from the failed movie.  The album has 7 cuts because two of the songs are fairly long.  There is a 11 minute cover of The Temptations song (I know) I’m Losing You and a 6 1/2 minute version of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”.  (I think it would be cool to do a blog on the best and worst Beatles covers of all time.  Maybe I will do that on in the future?)

Here we go with SIDE 1:

Born To Wander

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This song was a minor hit for the band and it appears on “Greatest Hits’ and/or “Best of” compilations of the band’s music.  It’s a great opener and it is very typical of their R&B style.  I really like the flute in this song.

Long Time Leavin’

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This is a very bluesy number. One interesting thing about this group is that the lead singer was the drummer. Pete Riveria had a great, soulful voice.  He was a huge part of why I loved this band.  Great organ solo by Kenny James. This song also has a very jazz influenced Coda.

(I Know) I’m Losing You

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I love this version of this song. There is also a great cover of this song by Rod Stewart on his great album “Every Picture Tells A Story”. But I really like the echo on the voice, the fade in beginning and the fuzz ladden guitar. It’s just a great extended version of a classic Motown song.

Side 2

Satisfaction Guaranteed

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Side 2 begins with a band and Satisfaction is Guaranteed! This song has the attitude of Detroit Motown soul! I can hear this song being done by any number of Motown artist successfully. “You gotta trust me baby… you gotta believe me…”

Nice Place To Visit

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This song has a real “Funk” feel to it. Great guitar solo by Rod Richards.

No. 1 Man

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This song has kind of a far eastern intro and then emerges with a cool bluesy guitar sound.  The chorus is kind of catchy isn’t it?  I kind of want to sing along “I wana be  your No. 1 Man…”  Then the great guitar work of Rod Richards returns.  A Rockin’ good time!

Eleanor Rigby

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So the previous song fades out and the next sound we hear is this A Capella chorus performing a fairly complex round that is eventually joined by a string orchestra.  It’ s a very interesting attempt to give a blues/almost gospel treatment to this classic Beatles song.  You’ve got to admit that they make it their own.  I think it’s kind of a cool version.  Ray Charles tried the same thing with better results.  A great closing track.  Notice the fade out fade back in at the very end of the song. Very Beatles like…

So what happened to Rare Earth?  Well, technically, they are still around.  They have a website www.rareearth.com.   The only original member is Gil Bridges.  He plays flute, Tambourine, and sings.  Rod Richards left the band over business differences.  Kenny James left next because he was tired of touring.  They replaced the band members and had a couple of more hits (I Just Want To Celebrate, Hey Big Brother) but they never had another hit after 1971.  When Motown decided to relocate from Detroit to Los Angeles, John Persh decided not to move with the rest of the band.  He died in 1981 of a staph infection.    In 1974 Pete Riveria left the band after having major business differences with their manager.  The other band members sided with Management, so Pete walked out and started another band.  was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends On Line Hall of Fame.  In 2011 their song

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About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
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