Posted tagged ‘Rare Earth’

One side, one song

March 12, 2013

There are few things more quintessentially ’70s than an album side with one song on it.

One band that leaps to mind for doing so is Rare Earth. They did it three times in five years. “Get Ready” was that song twice, on the 1969 LP of the same name and on “Rare Earth In Concert,” the 1971 live LP. Both times, it was Side 2.

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have the third one.

Almost 40 years ago, in April 1973, Rare Earth released “Ma.”

Critics and fans loved the record because Motown legend Norman Whitfield’s influence was all over it. He produced it and wrote or co-wrote with Barrett Strong all five of its cuts.

Yet Rare Earth lead singer and drummer Peter Rivera doesn’t share that enthusiasm. He saw Whitfield’s involvement as the beginning of the end for the band. In a fine interview with music writer Ray Shasho last fall, Rivera explained why:

“When (the) ‘Willie Remembers’ (LP) came out (in 1972), it didn’t get any promotion at all, and that’s when they said the only way to save a dying ship was to bring Norman Whitfield in.

“Motown thought the only redemption to our career was Norman Whitfield because he had, ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,’ ‘Ball Of Confusion,’ ‘Just My Imagination’ and he was Norman Whitfield of Motown. Norman was a great guy, a great producer, and rest his soul, but the political side of it back then was … they just didn’t trust anybody except in their own stable of people. So Norman came in and we did the ‘Ma’ album. I always called it the Norman Whitfield album played by Rare Earth. And you didn’t get the essence of Rare Earth. As a result, ‘Ma’ got just a little bit of attention but nothing serious, and we didn’t have the hits, so things just started getting worse. So after ‘Ma’ came out that was pretty much it. man.”

Later in the interview, Rivera added this:

“I think where Motown made a mistake, was when they panicked and they brought in Norman Whitfield, and once you’re not selling records with the company, it’s like nobody wants you anymore. And then we were having internal problems with jealousy and there were drugs involved and stuff like that, and everybody was acting crazy and it just kind of went away.”

“Ma” produced three singles — the title track, “Hum Along And Dance” and “Big John Is My Name,” but none broke the Top 100.

“Ma” the album-side-length title track features Rivera’s tremendous vocals and the muscular jamming we long ago came to expect from Rare Earth. But as always, you be the judge.


“Ma,” Rare Earth, from “Ma,” 1973. This is Side 1. It runs 16:42. The CD is still in print, but this cut isn’t available digitally.

Peter Rivera is billed on the LP under his real name, Peter Hoorelbeke.

IIIIIIIIIIII just want to dig this one

July 31, 2012

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.

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.


“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.”