Thursday, August 20, 2009

the rationals - "get rational"

for someone who's been geeked on this '60s dee-troit (well, ann arbor) band since i stumbled on their one self-titled album -- recorded for noo yawk-based crewe records in 1969, when they were on their last legs, just like the zombies' odessey and oracle -- in a bargain bin for a buck when i was 14, this is a wish-fulfillment release just like rhino's stooges funhouse sessions and easy action's sonic's rendezvous band box were, and smog veil's peter laughner box hopefully will be, whenever it finally appears.

big beat's double cd comp doesn't include anything off that album, but it does include all their early singles (released on manager/svengali jeep holland's a-square, allen klein's cameo-parkway, and capitol labels, which is part of the reason it took so long for this to come out), as well as the demos and alternate takes from their hideously rare (only two copies were pressed), widely-bootlegged "fan club album" from 1966, when the rationals were voted the most popular band in detroit in a radio station contest while they were still in high school.

sure, some of this stuff has been compiled elsewhere, but it's nice to finally have it all in one place, and this marks the first legit release for fully half of the set's 34 tracks. the way things break down, the first disc includes all their brit invasion-influenced stuff -- there's a pic in the booklet of drummer bill figg holding a copy of the first small faces album, which i'll betcha jeep ordered for 'em on his day gig at discount records -- while the second concentrates on their classic soul (influenced as much by slick, sweet, vocal harmony-driven northern soul as it was by the sweatier southern variety) and incorporation of west coast psych influences.

it's fascinating to hear them start out aping the zombies and kinks (gtrist steve correll was a master of the patented dave davies eruption-solo), then transform through the looking glass of jeep holland's record collection (he used to give them the keys to his apartment so they could go up to his crib and spin some sides while he was working) into bona fide blue-eyed soul brothers (the young rascals were their pals), with correll's throaty squall serving as the david ruffin to scott morgan's smoother eddie kendricks. by the end, they were copping influence from east west-era mike bloomfield, moby grape, and the buffalo springfield. from alpha to omega, bill figg and bassist terry trabandt were yr patented shit-hot motown riddim section.

the previously unheard demos provide fascinating glimpses of the rats learning to sing, and make clear just how much holland molded them, coaching them in the studio and even (according to alec palao's liner notes) directing them from offstage on gigs. for my money, their most sublime moment here is the slow "i need you" (altho the rats' cover of the kinks song of the same name still rips), followed by the demo versh of the knight bros. "temptation 'bout to get me" (my fave cut from the crewe album). there are demos of "sunset" and "ha ha" from the album as well, showing that the rats continued developing as musos after leaving holland's tutelage ca. '68, altho they kinda floundered in search of a direction for the remainder of their existence (the live grande ballroom set from around that time that alive released as temptation 'bout to get me kinda sucks for that reason).

as great as frontman scott morgan undoubtedly is -- he went on to cult hero-dom with sonic's rendezvous band, the scott morgan band, scots pirates, dodge main, the hydromatics, powertrane, and the solution -- the unsung hero of this set is steve correll, who sang as much of the rats' material as fred smith did in sonic's rendezvous band's early days, but never seems to get credit for his vocal prowess (he's at least the equivalent of, say, leslie west in his vagrants days as a tonsil-tearing shouter). it's curious that morgan's doing cd release shows in michigan with none of the other ex-rationals (who last reformed in the early '90s) on board.

the rationals were unique among 'meercun garage-snot outfits in that they never made a bad recording. the evidence is here. they musta been hellacious live. this brit import is pricey, but i got it off amazon for around $25. there are much worse ways to spend your money.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a Rationals fan from back in the day. I saw them at a small hall in Mansfield OH, 1966. They had just released "Respect" and after the song they pitched buttons in the audience that stated "think rational"/
I was sure overjoyed to hear Scott Morgan this month at the Beachland Ballroom Tavern in Cleveland and to hear he still is in great voice.
Thanks for a great show Scott and for those who missed the heyday of the Rationals, there is that new CD to purchase!!!

2:57 PM  

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