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Music Review: Rare Earth – The Best Of Rare Earth

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Every once in awhile I pull something at random off the shelf and pop it into the old stereo system. And so we come to The Best Of Rare Earth.

Sometimes you have to wonder what Barry Gordy was thinking. By the end of the 1960s he had built the Motown label into a music empire. Not content with dominating the soul and rhythm & blues market, he decided to branch out into white rock ‘n’ roll. The first all white band signed to The Motown Label was Rare Earth. When Gordy and company could not think of a name for their new subsidiary label one of the group members jokingly suggested that it be named after them and so the Rare Earth label was born.

While the group would remain with Motown throughout the seventies, 1970-1972 would prove to be their most fertile period as they would produce five hit singles. Despite personal changes they are still active as a band and have released fifteen studio albums during their career.

The Best Of Rare Earth is comprised of seven tracks from 1970-1973 which includes all of their best known material. Please note that the sound is very seventies and the original production was average at best.

One thing Rare Earth was known for was long songs and extended jams. “Get Ready” would be their biggest hit and would outsell the original version by The Temptations. Their single release would clock in at less than four minutes but here the 21 minute version is presented intact.

It begins with a drowsy sax and slides into their well known vocal treatment. Each member of the group then takes the spotlight in turn for some improvising on their respective instrument. It’s all very seventies and much too long. It made me wish for my old 45. Likewise the extended version of “(I Know) I’m Losing You” is also included which again plays away from the strength of the catchy, shorter version.

The two most enjoyable tracks are the funky “I Just Want To Celebrate” with its odd guitar distortion and unusual melody and “Born To Wander” which is more of a jam than a cohesive song but has a nice flute sound which ties it all together.

The final three tracks are “Hey Big Brother,” which was an anthem type hit single, a sax laden interpretation of “What’d I Say,” and “Ma” which was the group’s attempt to move beyond the niche they had created for themselves.

Rare Earth would quickly fade into the musical mists. Their music was pleasurable at times and interesting every once in awhile but not essential. Today they are an oldies group remembered for a few hit singles and The Best Of Rare Earth is a random experience.

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