By the end of the 1960s, the extremely successful pop quartet The Young Rascals had changed its name to just The Rascals and dropped ranks to two members – keyboardist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere and drummer Dino Danelli. Where The Young Rascals had scored big on the singles charts with tunes such as the energetic “Good Lovin’” and the mellow “Groovin’ (On A Sunday Afternoon),” the latter Rascals ventured deep into R&B, funk and jazz. The music was sort of a combination of The Fifth Dimension, Sly & The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis goes electric.
The last two Rascals’ albums – Peaceful World and Island Of Real – were remastered and repackaged as a two-fer earlier in 2008 by the British label BGO Records. As usual, BGO did a superb job with the sound and liner notes for these very important but often overlooked records.
On the surface, Peaceful World and Island Of Real bubble with Age of Aquarius enthusiasm and optimism, but once you really dig into the music, there’s a giant world of sound to discover. The arrangements are amazing, with fantastic horns, lilting flute and an array of percussion that create a deep groove, sometimes approximating what would later be called “world music.” Cavaliere sings with passion and Danelli’s drumming is extraordinary. And Cavaliere and Danelli are backed with a blue-blooded group of session musicians who seem intimately tuned into the vision. Guitar wiz Buzz Feiten is called on to play everything from Syd Barrett-like slides to Larry Carlton-esque jazz lines. His gritty solo on “Jungle Walk” is just one of many six-string highlights found on these two discs. Bassists Gerald Gemott and Robert Popwell throw down some incredible grooves, driving the tunes with unfaltering swagger. Danelli anchors it all. His timing, touch and versatility are uncanny – you get the sense he could play anything and make it musical. As well, check out Alice Coltrane’s harp and Ron Carter’s bass on “Little Dove,” or Molly Holt’s soaring vocals on the glorious “Peaceful World.”
Like most great albums, these two take a while to sink in and reward repeated listening. Great cover art, too. A fantastic reissue from BGO.