Based in the Motor City (Detroit, MI, USA), hometown to such (in)famous rockers as The MC5 and The Stooges to name but two, psychedelic influenced rhythm and blues rockers Rare Earth were notable on at least three accounts. First and probably most importantly they were the first white band signed to Berry Gordy’s prestigious Motown label, receiving their own eponymous imprint, Rare Earth Records. Second, the band’s front man and lead vocalist was their drummer. Finally, the band’s repertoire consisted almost entirely of cover versions.
During the 5 year period, 1969-1974, they were one of the hottest acts in the land (the USA), releasing 6 albums (5 studio and 1 live), as well as a string of 5 hit singles (followed by a few near misses) that ensured the band lots of Top 40 AM radio time, as well as extended album cuts that garnered the band airplay on the newly emerging FM radio market. As a result Rare Earth consistently scored highly on the Billboard charts, albums and singles alike, and achieved this despite a rather limited repertoire of original material. In fact, all of the songs the group was best known for, and continues to be remembered for, were cover versions and this occurring at a time when original material was deemed absolutely essential to success in the ever burgeoning rock market. Being a huge fan of Rare Earth as well as a rock historian I invite you to join me on this adventure, tracing Rare Earth’s musical life (5 years worth anyway) by way of the tracks released during the period, documenting my journey along the way.
The band’s self-produced, heavy rocking rhythm and blues debut LP “Get Ready” entered the Billboard pop charts on 6 December 1969, peaking at #12 and remaining in the Top 200 albums for an impressive 77 weeks. The group featured on the album was comprised of Pete Hoorelbeke aka Rivera (drums and lead vocals), Gil Bridges (saxophone, flute, percussion and vocals), John Persh (bass, trombone and vocals), Rod Richards (guitar and vocals) and Kenny James (organ and keyboards). The album yielded a sizable hit single with its title track (written by William “Smokey” Robinson of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles fame), edited to just under 3 minutes from the LP version’s 21 minute plus run time.
The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart on 14 March 1970, peaking at #4, charting for a respectable 20 weeks and outperforming The Temptations’ original release for good measure. Rod Richards’ fiery, psychedelic guitar is featured on the heavy, rhythm and bluesy sound the band created, although Bridges’ saxophone and flute or Persh’s trombone added a jazzier, breezier element to the music.
by Kevin Rathert, 2015
1. Magic Key (Gil Bridges, Kenny Folcik) - 3:59
2. Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk) - 6:18
3. Feelin' Alright (Dave Mason) - 5:05
4. In Bed (Lynn Henderson, Tom Baird, Wes Henderson) - 3:00
5. Train To Nowhere (Kim Simmonds, Chris Youlden) - 3:24
6. Get Ready (William "Smokey" Robinson) - 20:05
*John Persh - Vocals, Bass Guitar, Trombone
*Pete Rivera - Vocals, Drums
*Rod Richards - Vocals, Guitar
*Kenny James - Vocals, Organ, Electric Piano
*Gil Bridges - Vocals, Saxophone, Tambourine
1968 Dreams/Answers (2017 audiophile remaster)
1969-74 Fill Your Head (three cds box set, five studio albums plus outtakes and alternative versions)
1971 One World (2015 audiophile remaster)
1971 In Concert (2017 Audiophile)
1972 Rare Earth - Willie Remembers (2017 audiophile)
1974 Live In Chicago (2014 audiophile remaster)
1976/78 Midnight Lady / Band Together (2017 digipak remaster)
1975/77 Rare Earth - Back To Earth / Rare Earth (2006 remaster)