Collector’s Choice Music
Collector’s Choice has recently re-released most of The Rascals collection, and I recently commented on their landmark album “Groovin'”, which pointed the band toward the psychedelic age with its long songs and complex melodies that became the trademark of the ’60s FM radio sound. “Freedom Suite” wraps up that era with their last big hit, “People Got to be Free”. It also mirrors what was happening musically by 1969 – just as “Groovin'” reflected the aftershocks of the The Summer of Love, “Freedom Suite” captured the mindset of the Long, Hot Summer and the 1968 Democratic Convention. There’s more social consciousness, calls for tolerance, and change, all set to a whiter shade of Motown beat. Songs like “A Ray of Hope” or “Any Dance Will Do” show a definite Berry Gordy influence, while “Look Around” sets a preachy lyric over a backdrop of guitar, drum, and police sirens. Can you smell the New Idea infusing America? Maybe rock and roll CAN change the world.
The first half of the collection emphasizes pop music as the soundscape of a corroding urban landscape, but the second highlights the band’s fall into self indulgence. The original two vinyl discs are squeezed on to one CD, with disc two featuring self indulgent drum solos and a gratuitous copy of “Happy Birthday”. I’ve heard my share of album-long drum marathons, and these are particularly annoying. The 13-minute “Boom” and its even longer B-side “Cute” pad “Freedom Suite” from greatness to something less. Stuff like this made the extended drum solo the joke of rock and roll.
Overall, “Freedom Suite” and “Groovin'” are an excellent overview of how rock and roll shifted in the late ’60s. Social consciousness, use and abuse of the album format, and the repackaging of black music for white youth all mix to make The Rascals one of the truly important bands of an era.
Collector’s Choice: www.collectorschoicemusic.com