The Rascals

Freedom Suite

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If 1968's Once Upon a Dream, was the Rascals' first reach into uncharted territory, the double length Freedom Suite released a year later, was off the map. The band dug in and wrote a single LP's worth of solid tunes including a quartet of fine singles. Foremost is "People Got to Be Free"; it spent five weeks at Number One on the pop chart (and hit number 14 on the R&B one as well). Then there's easy summer soul and gospel groove on "A Ray of Hope," which may have only gotten to number 39, but is among the most enduring cuts in the Rascals legacy. The track "Heaven," which closed the first disc of Freedom Suite, was also wrapped tightly in urban gospel. The first LP contains 11 more or less conventionally written Rascals songs. While the four previously mentioned cuts stood out, there wasn't any filler on the first platter. Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere wrote all but three songs on it, and were requisitely tight. Gene Cornish wrote a pair as well, including the killer piano soul-jazz and rock number "Me and My Friends." Arif Mardin co-produced with the band and arranged and conducted the string and horn sections. Disc two flips outis a flip out. It begs the quesation--at first--if this is the Rascals at all. There's the jazzed up (think Ramsey Lewis Trio groove) "Adrian's Birthday," which was downright funky with popping bass by Chuck Rainey, fuzzed out stereo-effects guitar from Cornish, that feels more like a basement jam than a Rascals cut, especially with the gutbucket tenor break from David "Fathead" Newman. But it is a portent of things to come with the two nearly side-long cuts that follow. First is "Boom" a 14-minute, Dino Danelli drum solo. Then there's "Cute." Running over 15 minutes, it's a jam. Beginning with Cavaliere's Hammond B-3 and Danelli's popping snare , Cornish digs deep into his soul-jazz trick bag. The track sounds more like a Prestige date by Jack McDuff up until a third of the way through when one of the three session bassists pulls out the stops and drives the trio. At five minutes it slips into improvisational territory. For most rock acts this would be the death knell, but not these guys. They let it wander for a minute or so, bring the groove back, and let it wander and come back some more. Danelli takes too long a drum break though. The track works for most of its length because the grooves are dirty and heavy with cracking breakbeats and organ and guitar vamps galore. The excesses overreach though, making the second disc somewhat superfluous. Freedom Suite reached number 127 on the chart; it would be the second to last Rascals album to produce any Top 40 singles.

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