Archive for April 2009

Rare Earth’s rare album

April 30, 2009

Work has worn me out this week. Hard to say why. Tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker is just what’s needed to recharge my batteries.

I came across “Ecology” by Rare Earth while crate digging last year. I snatched it right up. It wasn’t until later that I realized how hard it is to find these days.

Rare Earth, of course, is the R&B/funk/soul band long wrongly thought to be the only white act on a Motown label. According to the band’s official history, Motown signed other white acts, but Rare Earth was the only successful one, having honed its chops by covering Motown tunes as a Detroit bar band in the ’60s.

Tonight, we have Side 1 of “Ecology.” It’s a bit of a departure for us because it has just three cuts, and I’m sure you know two of them. We usually don’t go with such familiar stuff. In this case, it’s interesting to hear those familiar cuts as they were laid down on the vinyl almost 40 years ago.

The ones you know — “Born To Wander” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” — are sandwiched around “Long Time Leavin’,” which I remember from those long-ago nights of free-form FM radio.

I never get tired of Gil Bridges’ sweet flute and Eddie Guzman’s laid-back congas on “Born To Wander,” which was written by producer Tom Baird. Nor do I get tired of Kenny James’ Hammond organ solo on “Long Time Leavin’.”

Side 1 ends with a cover of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” Rare Earth’s scorching 10-minute-plus jam has it all — driving wah-wah and trippy slide guitars by Rod Richards, echoed vocals, extended high-hat drum breaks by Pete Rivera, killer conga lines and some cookin’ Hammond organ.

That tune was produced by the great Norman Whitfield, who also produced the Tempts. The single edit of Rare Earth’s version reached No. 7 in the pop charts in the summer of 1970 … one spot higher than the Tempts’ version at this time of year in 1966.

Enjoy the trip back.

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“Born To Wander,” “Long Time Leavin'” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” Rare Earth, from “Ecology,” 1970. It’s out of print. Side 1 runs 18:36.

Rare Earth is still touring, with Bridges still leading the band. However, he’s the only one in the current lineup who also played on “Ecology.”

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