The Joup Friday Album: The Young Rascals

The Rascals

Every respectable rock band needs to know some cover songs. It is a dated concept perhaps but if you think about all the great live shows you have ever been at I will be willing to bet the band whipped out a great cover song and it either made you love them more or it made you re-think a song you may not have known or not have appreciated before. Some artists can’t write a song so they rely on ace in the hole songwriters to keep their vehicle moving. Anyway you want to look at it cover songs are standard practice by most working bands and in a lot of cases if the song is played well it could actually launch a band to a higher appeal. When I was a younger drummer I learned relatively quickly that a great cover song could change your live set for the better and give the audience a better view on to where you are coming from musically to some degree. The familiarity of a great cover song breaks the ice and much like offering somebody a beer or cocktail at a party it sends the message of…“You are one of us. You can like us. We like you. We have a common thread. Do you like to have fun”? Once the walls of awkwardness and skepticism come down people tend to cut loose and have a better time. Look at music history and you will find that all the best musicians in the world played other peoples music at some point and or continue to do so.

The Young Rascals 1966 self-titled debut album is a collection of covers (minus one track “Do You Feel It”) that resonated with me from the moment I heard it because it is very punchy rock and soul record plus drummer Dino Danelli’s style is impeccable. Danelli is one of the most underrated drummers in rock and roll he can actually play a song on drums, not just the beat to the song but the actual song itself. I always loved the Rascals hit songs, “Lonely Too Long” is a big one for me but their first album showcases the bands soulful powerhouse live set in a studio recording which is hard to capture sometimes. This band came right from the East Coast dance hall circuit and cut a record that has the same energy level and sound to match. I seriously thought they were a black R&B group when I heard them as a child. My parents only had the 45’s of their music so I did not know what they looked like because there was no artwork or pictures of them for me to know they were a bunch of white boys from New Jersey. The Rascals were an extraordinary band from their vocal capabilities to their musicality. Felix Cavaliere was a concert-trained pianist, songwriter and sang like a croaking Sam Cooke. Eddie Brigati was the lead vocalist that had the voice of a angel and was a driving force as a songwriter on their later records co-writing such hits as “How Can I Be Sure” and “A Beautiful Morning” to name a few. Guitarist and vocalist Gene Cornish was the glue to the band because The Rascals had no official bass player so Cornish would play a doubled up rhythm guitar style and Cavaliere would also play the bass keys on his Hammond organ or some kind of piano bass which was a technique that was later used by the Door’s keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Did I mention Dino Danelli?

From out of the gate the barnburner song “Slow Down” shows you these guys are a shit hot live group. The song is three minuets and ten seconds of rock and roll frenzy. The sheer tempo and power of the song swings the needle off the record. “Baby Let’s Wait” is a thoughtful and soulful tune that could make you cry or dance the best slow dance ever. “Good Lovin” was a smash single off the record along with “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” which is a personal favorite of mine because it has the swagger of their up-tempo songs but it is a slow number with a sort of reflective vocal style “ Yeaaaaaa…..I admit you have the biggest brown eyes and you know how to part your lips to tantalize…..Yeaaaaaa”.

In 1966 every band in the world wanted to be the Beatles. West coast folk rockers like The Byrds went as far as to buy the same guitars and clothes as the fab four. Rock writers compared the Rascals to the Beatles and the band liked the Beatles a lot but they did not have to copy the mop tops because they were their own band. The Rascals had more of a soul and R&B angle on their music where as the Beatles were more poppy sounding. Guitarist Gene Cornish is quoted in the liner notes of the album saying, “We want to be leaders not followers”. His statement holds true if you listen to the dusty grooves of this amazing Hi-Fi because there was never a band like the Rascals before and honestly I have not heard or seen one like them since. Trust me. Put this record on while you are primping to go out tonight and I guarantee it will put you in the mood and give you the coolest attitude as you stare back at yourself in the mirror. Let’s kill a Friday night!


Sonny Vitkauskas 11/23


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