If ever an American band went through a more startling transformation than the Rascals did during the six years the original band recorded for Atlantic, let them show their colors. Here was a young east group who from the jump had complete creative control over their recordings, publishing, production, and packaging -- something unheard of then -- and issued over 15 Top 40 singles, three Top Ten albums, and two more that cracked the Top 40, most of which were issued without critical acclaim at the time. This six-CD retrospective of the band's entire tenure on Atlantic (there were two more recordings afterwards, issued on Columbia with a splintered version of the band), documents their complete studio output of eight albums over four and a half discs, and devotes a disc and a half to singles, A- and B-sides, alternates, and different versions of hits. For those familiar with the hits, it's difficult to imagine that the Rascals ever rocked as hard as they did on their first two albums, The Young Rascals and Collections. On the debut, tracks like "Slow Down" and "Baby Let's Wait" have an urgency to put the needle in the red right from the jump. On their sophomore effort, with the singles "Come on Up," "Lonely Too Long," and "Love Is a Beautiful Thing," the Rascals were entrenched in the soul and R&B groove, but not enough to leave out screaming rockers such as "Land of a Thousand Dances" and "Mickey's Monkey." With Once Upon a Dream, the textured, layered psychedelic pop and soul continued with "Rainy Day," "Please Love Me," "My Hawaii," and "It's Wonderful," all intercut with random sound effects à la the Beach Boys, but more organic and less removed from the context of the music itself. The band's center of gravity began to shift with Freedom Suite, with its stunning single, "People Got to Be Free," which captured the spirit of the late '60s as well as -- if not better than -- any rock song. Here, placing it at the last half of disc three, after Time Peace, reveals the album as a narrative of hope and innocence without a shred of naïveté. Here was a band striving to integrate its music and politics (right about this time the band refused to perform on bills where there wasn't a perfect division of black and white acts) on songs such as "People Got to Be Free," "A Ray of Hope," "Any Dance'll Do," "Look Around," and others. While the pop hooks were plentiful, so was the experimentation and risk-taking with the mixes and instrumentation, with more making it into the mix -- from accordions to pipe organs to brass bands and Indian instruments. With the issue of See in 1970 and Search and Nearness in 1971, the band was being pulled apart at the seams creatively, financially, and historically. Nonetheless, despite excesses on both albums, their fine, tight rock and pop songs still dominated the proceedings, especially on See, where the band tried to capture their rock & roll roots. The longer tracks on Search and Nearness revealed that at the very end the band was traveling in a direction that took the R&B edge to groove jazz extremes, with circular moves and dense textures running through the middle of repetitive grooves and riffs. This is a long-overdue retrospective for a band who is enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and whose perfect marriage of rock, soul, and R&B has influenced more acts than anybody would ever care to admit. This set is a necessity to be sure for anyone obsessed with the history of rock & roll.