Rare Earth – In Session – 1970 – Past Daily Soundbooth

Rare Earth
Rare Earth – Blue-Eyed Soul from Motown.

– Rare Earth – The Show – NET-TV – February 8, 1970 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Rare Earth in session for The Show – from NET-TV, recorded and broadcast on February 8, 1970.

Straight up – the sound isn’t really good on this one – a “land-line” broadcast with limited frequencies, pretty typical of the pre-Public Broadcasting Service, National Education Television – and even though their hearts were in the right place, capturing Funk and Soul and a balls-out Brass section was a bit more than the technology at hand was able to pull off. So apologies for this one, but I had to run it because it’s a rare broadcast from one of the very few all-White acts Motown signed in the late 1960s.

Rare Earth’s music straddled genres and defied categorization, slipping seamlessly between the two seemingly disparate worlds of classic rock and R&B. This careful balancing act is a rarity even now, and was a near impossibility in the color-segregated 60s when Rare Earth began their journey. Groundbreakers and pioneers, this post-racial band should have been the first of many. Instead they remained one of a kind.

In the beginning they were The Sunliners, a teenage garage band. And, frankly, they were kind of square. They formed in 1960 and gigged around Detroit for eight years; they were local heroes, but had yet to make an impact outside the city. Then, in 1968, the ‘dawning of the age of Aquarius’ hit. And The Sunliners decided it was time for a change. They changed their name, choosing Rare Earth because it sounded significantly ‘with it’. The change worked, and the band were soon signed to Verve Records who released their debut album, Dreams/Answers, in 1968. The album flopped, but Rare Earth’s reputation as one Detroit’s preeminent live bands continued to grow.

The band got to work on their first album for Motown at the legendary Hitsville USA studios. The result was 1969’s Get Ready, a masterpiece of gritty, bluesy dance music that included covers of Traffic’s Feelin’ Alright and the Nashville Teens’ stomper Tobacco Road, and was anchored by the ecstatic title-track, a 21-minute, ode-to-joy jam on Smokey Robinson’s Motown classic that took up the whole of side two.

Initially, much like the band’s first album, Get Ready stalled at the gate. “The record didn’t do anything for the first six months, and we thought, ‘Uh-oh, we’ve got a dud on our hands.’ And then all of a sudden a black DJ in Washington DC spun the record. At that time, ‘album-oriented radio’ was just coming out; it wasn’t just three-minute singles any more, the DJs could play longer songs and they had the choice of what they wanted to play.

Rare Earth never returned to the hit making status they enjoyed in their early-70s heyday, but they never stopped filling rooms or rocking crowds either. Although Bridges remains the sole original member, most of the current line-up, including guitar player Ray Monette who joined the band in 1971, have been with him for 20 years or more. In 2008 Rare Earth self-released A Brand New World, their first album of new material in over 30 years. A true-to-form collection of R&B-tinged rock, the album won the band critical acclaim and has quickly become a fan favorite.

As a reminder of the early days, here is a session with Rare Earth as they were heard in 1970.

If the sound wasn’t terrible I would say crank it up – but . . .just have a listen instead.

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