March Through Time: The (Young) Rascals

“Blue eyed soul” is the term we used to employ to describe The Young Rascals (later simply The Rascals). But that problematic term fails to describe what really made the group special: an ability to put its exuberance and sophistication across without sacrificing one or the other. I’ve interviewed Felix Cavaliere a couple of times, and was fortunate to see the reunion tour back in 2013 or so. And I treasure those LPs.

  • The Young Rascals (1966) – Silly costumes aside, this is a great r&b-flavored party record. Nearly all covers, but hey: what covers.
  • Collections (1967) – The band starts to write its own songs. The glorious originals “What is the Reason,” “(I’ve Been”) Lonely Too Long” and “Love is a Beautiful Thing” make this a nonstop wonder. Be sure to listen to the stereo mix.
  • Groovin’ (1967) – Suddenly, they’re writing all their own material. And it’s great. The title track and “You Better Run” are the most well-known, but it’s all solid.
  • Once Upon a Dream (1968) – All originals, and more mature, ambitious approach. A very sophisticated record designed to be experienced as a whole, it didn’t focus on hit singles.
  • Freedom Suite (1969) – A double album from the era in which many made them. Overblown and too long but scattered with superb tracks. And of course “People Got to Be Free.”
  • See (1969) – The balance that characterized the group had shifted; Felix Cavaliere was leading the way by this point. The high had come and was on its way out.
  • Search and Nearness (1971) – The band was in the process of splitting, and the record is uneven as a result.
  • Peaceful World (1971) – This will have confused longtime fans. New band, new label, new sound. Moving away from their signature sound, The Rascals made an excellent record. Trouble was, there wasn’t an audience for it at the time.
  • The Island of Real (1972) – If you can view it on its own merits – and not as part of the Rascals canon – it’s quite impressive. Far more in a jazz vein, and with a very different lineup, it’s an emotionally immersive record.