Next week, Collectors Choice Music will be reissuing the original Atlantic Records catalog of the Rascals (originally the Young Rascals). This is something of a boon for record collectors and other music purists, as the seven albums comprising the so-called "Atlantic Years" — which are agreed by most to represent the pioneering sixties blue-eyed soul band's peak — have never before been reissued in versions which include the original, superior mono mixes, in addition to the usual stereo remix jobs.
These original seven albums not only saw the band evolve from what was essentially a white, sixties R&B cover band (albeit a great one), to a band who wrote some pretty great songs of their own ("Groovin'," "A Beautiful Morning," "How Can I Be Sure," "People Got To Be Free," etc.).
On later albums, the band (who by this time had dropped the "Young" from their name and shortened it to the hipper, more "serious" sounding moniker of the Rascals), did what most bands did back in the sixties. They grew beards, dabbled in eastern mysticism, and started putting out records that featured things like sitars and various "psychedelic" studio effects.
In doing so, the newly serious Rascals managed to alienate much of their original, mostly teenybopper audience, while failing to attract the hipsters of the day who couldn't get past the "bubblegum" image of top forty hits like "Good Lovin.'" Lenny Kaye, who would later produce the classic garage rock anthology series Nuggets, and play guitar in the Patti Smith Group, probably summed it up best when he said in a Rolling Stone review of the Rascals final Atlantic album, See, that he wished the group would ditch the lofty concepts and concentrate again on those hit singles.
But before their ill-advised descent into bad psychedelia, the Rascals were a near unequaled hit machine, cranking out one great record after another. They were also arguably the very first truly great blue-eyed soul group of the golden rock era of the sixties.
Oh sure, there was the Righteous Brothers before them. But despite the great voices of Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, those guys really only had two bonafide classics — and at least one of them, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," had as much to do with Phil Spector's sweeping production as it did with the Righteous Brothers themselves.
The Rascals on the other hand were a self-contained band, and a damned great one at that. On early hits like "Good Lovin'," the Young Rascals summoned the garage rock vibe as well as anybody around at the time. But when they did the R&B cover thing on songs like "Land of 1,000 Dances," they could sound as "authentic" as the house band on any number of classic R&B records of the day by people like Aretha or Sam & Dave.