Rare Earth

Rare Earth [Prodigal]

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This first of three albums for the Prodigal imprint of Motown Records had no hits, but is more cohesive than the two albums that would follow, Grand Slam and Band Together. A slick funky sound has replaced the earthy rock /R&B that was the band's trademark. "Is Your Teacher Cool?" was co-authored by four songwriters, including Anna Gaye. It's very clever and sounds tailor-made for Earth, Wind & Fire or Kool & the Gang, both groups in their prime at this point in time. Another Anna Gaye co-write, "Foot Loose and Fancy Free," owes much to the Commodores and their "Brick House," which was out at this exact moment in time. It would be remiss to not mention that Rod Stewart had a huge album with the same title in 1977, indicating the "new" Rare Earth was watching the hitmakers and restructuring the music. This material might have been suitable for the hotel circuit and dance set, but it has little of the charm of "Get Ready," when the group could take a Temptations song and reinvent it for the rock & roll crowd. Interesting, though, is that despite missing the thing that brought the band fame, as a complete album the focus is even more unified than the group's earlier successful discs, with Peter Hoorelbeke (the former Pete Rivera) at his best on a song he co-wrote with Tom Baird, "When I Write." It's quite the paradox. Gloria Jones delivers two co-writes that work well for the group, "Share My Love" and "Tin Can People," and if the style is culture shock for those who expect "Born to Wander," at least the album is highly listenable and well crafted. The problem is, again, that Rare Earth's success was always in transferring one genre to another. Here the group moves into and embraces the territory that it was once so good at reformulating. Though far and away the best of the three Prodigal discs (even though Rare Earth's final hit would be on the Band Together LP), the move to funk is too blatant, and feels too calculated. A Berry Gordy co-write, "I Really Love You," is one of the highlights. An interesting twist in the career of this group that always seemed to be a few quarts away from hip and one step out of time.

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