Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Rascals

  • See [Atlantic, 1969] A-
  • Search and Nearness [Atlantic, 1970] B+
  • Peaceful World [Columbia, 1971] C+
  • The Island of Real [Columbia, 1972] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

See [Atlantic, 1969]
Admittedly, the Rascals have severe limitations, but so does rock itself, and this album apprehends and utilizes those limitations, with all of the annoying pretensions absent and the pleasant ones retained. A-

Search and Nearness [Atlantic, 1970]
Talk about acid casualties--these guys are victims of psychedelica even if they never touched the stuff. But those who ignore the atrocious title and listen to the songs are in for a surprise, because this is no Freedom Suite. In fact, it may be their most consistent regular-release LP--only one waste cut per side. If the Rascals are spouting universalist truisms, so is every other soul band these days--usually without coming up with anything as original or unpretentious as the warmly tongue-in-cheek "Right On." The only problem is that that's the high point--no new classics for Aretha to cover. Special surprise: Dino Danelli's modal jazz instrumental "Name." B+

Peaceful World [Columbia, 1971]
I was impressed at first by the effortlessness of Felix Cavaliere's evolution from white punk r&b to white cosmic jazz. Only the Beach Boys have changed so much with so little apparent strain. Yet in the end the jazz musicians he's signed on--Fathead Newman, Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, Ron Carter--aren't especially well-suited to popularize Coltrane and Pharoah and Sun Ra. And even if Felix were singing enough, he wouldn't be singing very good stuff--composition has never been his strength, and lately he's been thinking about other things. C+

The Island of Real [Columbia, 1972]
You can hear Felix trying to get back as side one begins--he sings "Feel good to be alive" as if the phrase had just occurred to him. On "Saga of New York" he goes into high gear--catchy, funny, sexy, simple-minded--and he holds his own against "Be on the Real Side." But as Buzzy Feiten starts tricking up his own "Jungle Walk," you wonder whether jungles are coy. And then you realize that there's a pink horse on the cover for a reason. B-