The Rascals – Complete Singles – A’s & B’s

5 Top Five hits, including three #1’s.

The Rascals rarely get the accolades they deserve. The New Jersey quartet practically invented “blue-eyed soul” with songs like “Good Lovin,” “People Got to Be Free,” and “Groovin.” But, as a new compilation from Real Gone Music, The Complete Singles – A’s & B’s, makes very clear, the Rascals had a lot more than just those three songs.

While the band has been compiled several times before, this is the first where the focus is placed on their singles, both the A and B sides. Plus, everything is presented in the original, hit single versions, which means mostly the hard-to-find-mono mixes. At 47 tracks, it’s also the most expansive of their collections.

Disc one leads with the band’s debut single, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.”
This mid-tempo rocker always sounded lousy in stereo, with the vocals panned hard to one side. Here, the mono mix gives the whole song more punch. The single’s flipside is a surprisingly scorching version of Larry Williams’ “Slow Down.”

“Good Lovin’” is hands-down one of the finest singles of the 1960’s. The performance still carries an uncanny energy to it – the perfect blend of gritty soul and rock n’ roll. Plus, Felix Cavaliere’s lead singing is right up there with the top R&B vocalists that were also on Atlantic Records. The b-side was their cover of Sir Mack Rice’s “Mustang Sally,” not yet recorded by Wilson Pickett (although, the rumor is that he stole it from the Rascals).

There were singles that just should’ve been bigger, like the dark rocker of “You Better Run,” that Pat Benatar revived in the early Eighties, or “A Girl Like You,” which sounds like a hybrid of Atlantic soul and Burt Bacharach. The single version of “Groovin’” is significant, as it features a different musician playing the famous harmonica part from the more-common stereo-mix.

The real highlight here is a focus on their lesser-known, latter years. In fact, disc one features all of their key hits, leaving disc two for the more obscure tracks. This doesn’t mean there isn’t good stuff here. Felix basically carried on without most of the other members, but he steered things toward more pure soul and funk, with satisfying results.

Some highlights of disc two include the b-side, “Baby I’m Blue,” which has some gritty guitar, and “Carry Me Back” that borders on Gospel. “Lucky Day” is a slight rewrite of “A Beautiful Morning” yet the tape sounds mangled. “Love Letter” is excellent soul/funk with Cavaliere really commanding the show – it ends is a big jam at the end.

Two discs packed with top shelf blue eyed-soul. —Tony Peters