Rare Earth

Willie Remembers

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Their fifth album in a three-year span, Willie Remembers, is one of the more refined releases by Rare Earth -- not as spotty as the previous discs that contained their hits and far better than their late-'70s work. Their decision to craft an album of all originals is their undoing, though, because as good as Willie Remembers is, it is still an effort by a mainstream group whose creativity was limited to what became their bread and butter: their reinterpretation of Temptations classics. "Think of the Children" and "Come With Your Lady" are among the very best album tracks by Rare Earth ever, but they pale in comparison to the songs the band put on Top 40 radio. Producer Tom Baird pens "Good Time Sally," and it sounds like a Bachman-Turner Overdrive cover outtake of a similarly titled Grand Funk Railroad 45 rpm that suffered the same fate in 1976 as this single did four years earlier. It didn't get far. It's not that memorable in melody or performance, and though the guys look very happy in the extravagance of the triple gatefold, they weren't as popular (or as inspired) as their contemporaries, the band Chicago. "Every Now and Then We Get to Go on Down to Miami" is OK, but doesn't hold up to repeated listenings. "Gotta Get Myself Back Home" is also decent, but this is stuff Wet Willie and even Creedence Clearwater Revival did a bit better, boogie rock so inoffensive that it becomes redundant, despite the quality playing. "I Couldn't Believe What Happened Last Night" closes out the album with 12-minutes-plus of jamming. It's more precise than the jam on "Get Ready," the unedited long version of their first hit, but so what? It sounds nice enough but goes nowhere. The band wasn't deviant enough to be an enigma and even a well-put-together work like this shows why they were so dependent on hit singles. Motown should have demanded a superb re-creation of a Supremes or Four Tops or Marvin Gaye hit or not allowed this band to release their own artistic endeavors -- it's as simple as that. Willie Remembers is an album of recording group, not record company, excess. Though the band's heart was in the right place, they simply didn't have the ability to pull it off. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is what the Motown execs should have screamed at these guys and producer Tom Baird. Willie Remembers would have been remembered had Norman Whitfield dusted a little of his magic on the project.

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