Tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker, my friends, represents a little bit of what free-form FM radio used to play.
The Detroit-based R&B/funk/soul band Rare Earth was at its peak when the “One World” LP was released in the summer of 1971. It followed 1969’s “Get Ready,” with its epic-length Temptations cover as the title track, and 1970’s “Ecology,” with its long jam cover of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”
Those records, and the live double LP that followed “One World” later in 1971, summon the sound of a band at the top of its game.
Emerging from the blue haze of time, we have this proof for you.
“What’d I Say,” “If I Die,” “Seed” and “I Just Want To Celebrate,” Rare Earth, from “One World,” 1971. This is Side 1. It runs 17:27. It’s out of print, apparently never released on CD, either.
It all starts with a long jam, a Ray Charles cover full of sizzling guitars (even a “Day Tripper” riff), guitars vs. horns, guitars vs. Hammond organ, call-and-response vocals, Ed Guzman’s scorching percussion and a funky minute-long percussion outro. “If I Die” is a deep cut from those free-form FM nights. Finally, we count off the beat — “one … two … three … four” — and there is a smash single that was full of more sizzling guitars, a trippy bridge and more of Guzman’s scorching percussion. Throughout the four cuts, Pete Rivera’s vocals make it clear this record is being made by men, not boys.
Rare Earth, of course, is 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 as a Motown cover band in the ’60s.