Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On my turntable: The Rascals - See

For the past 20 or so years The Rascals' Once Upon A Dream (1968) has been one of my must-have 'desert island' albums, and I expect that it will remain in my Top 20 for as long as I'm alive.  I have loved the song "See" since my mp3 days when I was scouring the internet for new music, and have owned the See album for a couple of years, but it didn't officially blow my mind until yesterday.

Yesterday on the way home from work I stopped at one of my record stores and found a sealed original Atlantic copy of See for $5. It was flawless, and I couldn't pass it up. Listening to a virgin copy of this record really made my ears perk up, and I noticed for the first time what a diverse and masterful collection it is.  If Once Upon a Dream is the Rascals' Sgt. Pepper, then See is the band's White Album.
Love is really everywhere, to see it is to fly...
~"See"
The title track kicks things off with the rollicking, dirty sound of Felix Cavaliere's organ, followed by words of love & hope that convey the LP's overall message. Musically the album is all over the place (hence the White Album comparison), with rock, R&B, gospel, and eastern Indian styles.  One thing that is noticeably not all over the album is Eddie Brigati, who's songwriting credit is limited to one song ("I'm Blue"), which he co-wrote with Cavaliere.  In contrast, guitarist Gene Cornish penned two songs on the album, including "Remember Me" which is so bubblegummy that it could have easily been recorded by The Archies (and I mean that as a compliment).
Know if you seek you'll find
Love
Be a star up in the sky
Close your eyes begin to fly
Let your body flow away
Feel the truth yourself today
Be with everyone
Love is everyone
~"Stop and Think"
"Stop and Think" is easily one of my favorite tracks on this album. Most bands in the late 60's experimented with Indian music (following The Beatles' lead), but too often it came off sounding disingenuous and trendy. The Rascals always managed to sound sincere with their musical experimentation, and "Stop and Think" (as well as "Nubia" which opens side 2) is a good example.

It is easy to look back at the late 1960's as one big love-in of peace, flowers, and sunshine.  I know I am sometimes guilty of romanticizing this musical era as more than it really was (in my defense I was only three when this album came out).  The reality of the late 60's was far less glamorous, with wars in Vietnam, riots on college campuses, and fighting in the streets. Young people were trying to create a new reality in response the hatred, misunderstanding, and discourse in the world. For a while, in the earliest days of the hippie movement it seemed as if they were really on to something, but the drugs became heavier and "flower power" was snatched up by popular culture and advertisers.  By the beginning of the 70's the movement had burned itself out.

Sometimes I wonder if we are on the verge of another "love movement" in reaction to the hatred we're seeing in the world right now. In Minnesota, as you may know, a bill was just passed to put gay marriage rights on the 2012 ballot. At a rally held this past Sunday the overall message was that we must counter all of the hate and lies with love, compassion, and understanding. It won't be easy, but I think there's a lot of logic in not responding to hate with hate.

With all that's happening regarding the human rights of folks such as myself, it makes sense that See has resonated so much with me at this moment in time. I've always been a believer that music can sometimes connect with us when we need it most. Sounds sorta cosmic, but it has been my experience more than once. Regardless, I'm grateful that this record connected with me this week when I needed to experience its message.

Peace to y'all.  Stay strong.

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