Tag Archives: Rare Earth

Four records at a time

It took a pandemic for me to listen to a bunch of my records. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go.

Staying home and socially distancing wasn’t too bad until the weather turned cold up here in Wisconsin and really kept us inside. So I just kept dropping record after record onto the turntable. No ripping to digital. Just let it go, man.

Four records make for a nice night of listening while surfing or writing.

Some records take me right back to where I found them, a nice memory.

Some records have startling moments. Those, I’ll circle back on and rip a little something from. Eddie Floyd’s “Down To Earth” LP was the first eye-opener. Then the scorching “Involved” by Edwin Starr. Then “Dreams/Answers,” Rare Earth’s rarely-seen debut LP. Then a couple of alternate Beatles takes from the 2017 re-release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” 

There you have it, four records.

Four records also make for a nice visual presentation when you post to Facebook or Twitter. If you follow me either place, you’ve seen a lot of them, especially this month for Black History Month. Today will make it 23 such posts — 92 records, all by Black artists — over 28 days and nights.

From the Black History Month social posts, some records that’ll get more spins:

— “Young, Gifted and Black” is by far the best Aretha Franklin record in my crates. That was a $1 record. Looked rough, played fine.

— Didn’t know about Johnny Adams, but, man, could he sing.

— Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” has lost none of its punch.

— The instrumentals on “James Brown Plays New Breed (The Boo-Ga-Loo)” really cook.

— Ike and Tina Turner’s early live records are astonishing.

— Definitely going back for seconds on the “Cleopatra Jones” soundtrack featuring Joe Simon and Millie Jackson. That was a $3 record found in a box on the floor at a record show in Indianapolis.

— Timmy Thomas got a lot of mileage out of that syncopated beat on “Why Can’t We Live Together,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Found that at a record store that no longer exists.

There you have it. Eight records, two nights’ worth of listening.

When I spent a couple of nights listening to blaxploitation soundtracks last week, I circled back to the first record I ever wrote about here. I’m talking ’bout “Shaft.”

I was 14 when I bought this record in 1971.

With that, we quietly mark 14 years here at AM, Then FM. Can you dig it?

2 Comments

Filed under February 2021, Sounds

Now playing: Rarest Earth

Last month, I pulled out “Dreams/Answers,” Rare Earth’s debut LP from 1968, and announced on Facebook and Twitter that it was “Now playing.”

“New to me!” Casey said from Kansas.

“Never heard it, but I love Rare Earth,” Mark said from right here in Green Bay.

“NEED!” Vincent said from Maryland.

“I have never seen this or heard it, or heard of it!” Bill said from Missouri.

When I bought “Dreams/Answers” in Madison a couple of years ago, I’d never seen it before, either. One of my record-digging rules is that if I see a record I’ve never seen before, I oughta think about getting it. Glad I did. I’ve never seen “Dreams/Answers” since.

Rare Earth in 1968 consisted of John Parrish (vocals, bass, trombone), Rod Richards (vocal, guitars), Kenny James (organ, piano), Gil Bridges (vocals, sax) and Peter Rivera (vocals, drums). Percussionist Eddie Guzman — a key element of the classic Rare Earth sound — doesn’t join until 1969, after this record.

Bridges and Rivera had been together since 1960, when they formed the Sunliners, an R&B group that played the Detroit club circuit. Parrish joined in 1962 and the others in 1966. The new name came in 1968.

“Dreams/Answers” was produced, arranged and conducted by Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey, young guys who also had been working on the Detroit music scene for most of the ’60s, Theodore as a producer and arranger and Coffey as a great session guitarist. They’ve since worked together for decades, including all of Coffey’s great work as a solo artist.

“Dreams/Answers” appears to be the first LP they ever produced, though by 1968 they’d already produced a handful of singles for local labels. As the Theo-Coff Invasion, they released the soundtrackish instrumentals “Lucky Day” and “Nocturnal Flower” on the Dearborn label in 1966.

“Dreams/Answers” isn’t the powerful Rare Earth sound we all know. It wasn’t a hit, either. Those were still to come. No, this is a hodgepodge of styles — pop and prog and psychedelia and R&B and soul — from a group of young guys trying to find their groove.

This record wraps covers of the Supremes, Wilson Pickett, the Temptations and the Coasters around original songs from Theodore and Coffey, and from singer-songwriter Paul Parrish and Detroit guitarist Ron Koss, for whom their writing credits are their first. (Parrish’s 1968 pop-folk-psych LP “The Forest Of My Mind,” also was arranged by Theodore and Coffey.)

"Dreams/Answers" LP by Rare Earth from 1968

So let’s listen to it as Rare Earth intended for it to be heard.

First, though, here’s their original cover of “Get Ready,” from Side 2.

“Dreams/Answers,” Side 1, Rare Earth, 1968.

“Dreams/Answers,” Side 2, Rare Earth, 1968.

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Filed under October 2020, Sounds

Under the Motown covers

Was there ever a record company better at getting mileage out of its songs as Motown?

One artist would cut a song. Then it would be covered by another, and perhaps another, and perhaps still another. The hit version might not necessarily be the first version. That was Motown’s genius.

Hear, then, three examples of familiar Motown songs covered by other Motown artists. All three were written by the great Barrett Strong and the legendary producer Norman Whitfield.

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“War,” the Temptations, from “Psychedelic Shack,” 1970. The LP is out of print but is available digitally.

This is the original version recorded in 1969, but Motown sat on it, preferring to not piss off the Temptations’ fans with such a political song. It was a No. 1 hit for Edwin Starr in 1970.

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“I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” The Undisputed Truth,” from “The Undisputed Truth,” 1971. The LP is out of print. The song is apparently not available digitally. Too bad. This version cooks.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles recorded the original version in 1966, but Motown owner Berry Gordy didn’t like it. It was a No. 2 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1967. Marvin Gaye also recorded it that year, but Motown didn’t release it as a single until 1968, when DJs started playing it off the “In The Groove” LP. It was a No. 1 hit.

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“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” Rare Earth, from “Ma,” 1973.

The Temptations did the original version in 1971. The Undisputed Truth had a No. 3 hit with it later that year.

Rare Earth’s “Ma” also is featured over on our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, which delivers vintage vinyl one side at a time. Check it out.

3 Comments

Filed under March 2013, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vol. 22

When Rare Earth’s “Get Ready” cracked the Top 10 in the first week of June 1970, it was the first time I’d heard the band.

(It also was the first time I’d heard the song. I had no idea it was a cover of a Smokey Robinson tune done first by the Temptations in 1966.)

But it wasn’t the first time anyone in Detroit had heard the band. It had been gigging around town since 1961, known first as the Sunliners, then as Rare Earth after signing with Motown Records in 1968.

One of the first songs they played as Rare Earth was “Get Ready,” doing so at gigs for a couple of years before recording it in 1969. It started out as a traditional cover, then evolved into a solo-packed, show-closing jam that ran 21 minutes. That — and not the traditional 3-minute cover — is what Rare Earth wanted to put to vinyl. They did just that. “Get Ready” is Side 2 of the 1969 album of the same name.

Motown sought to have the best of both worlds. It cut “Get Ready” back down to a radio-friendly 2:48 and released it in February 1970. “Get Ready” broke first on black radio stations in Washington, D.C., then made its way across America and into the mainstream. It was a smash, reaching No. 4 on the charts and far outperforming the Tempts’ version, which made it only into the Top 30.

So, having said all that … did they play “Rare Earth In Concert” at some of the parties you went to during the ’70s? That’s why I bought it long ago. I’d heard it so often. I bought it especially for the 14-minute version of “(I Know) I’m Losing You” and for …

“Get Ready,” Rare Earth, from “Rare Earth In Concert,” 1971. It’s out of print.

This is the way Rare Earth wanted it heard, at 23 minutes plus.  (It’s been a while since I opened the top of that backpack, but my old vinyl still sounds pretty good.)

(There are some doubts about whether this actually was recorded live — some think the crowd noise was dubbed in — but it’s good enough for me. Hey, even Kiss’ “Alive!” wasn’t completely live.)

3 Comments

Filed under June 2010, Sounds

Long time, indeed

One of the reasons we started our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, was to revive some of the free-form sounds heard on FM radio in the early ’70s.

The tune we have for you tonight is one I remember from that free-form programming, which usually took place after 9 p.m., when listeners and advertisers became scarce. At midnight, at least where I lived in central Wisconsin, they played one album side in its entirety.

“Long Time Leavin'” is off Rare Earth’s classic — and hard-to-find — 1970 album, “Ecology.” It’s on Side 1, sandwiched between two much better-known songs, “Born To Wander” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”

You may not know “Long Time Leavin'” by name. But you may remember its sound from the free-form airwaves of the ’70s.

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“Long Time Leavin’,” Rare Earth, from “Ecology,” 1970. It’s out of print.

If you’re too young to remember the free-form airwaves of the ’70s, head over to The Midnight Tracker. There, you’ll find Side 1 of “Ecology,” and you’ll get some idea of how it all went together. In this case, hit single followed by free-form classic followed by hit single turned extended, freaked-out jam.

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Filed under April 2009, Sounds