I was preschool age when I first encountered Rare Earth. This was back in the days of daytime talk shows that followed the late night format: a monologue followed by chatting up a few guests and then a musical guest. My mother parked me in front of the television while she finished the housework, so as a youngster I watched a lot of Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore alongside shows like Match Game and Beat the Clock.
A lot of my earliest music memories come from those shows: Johnny Nash singing “I Can See Clearly Now,” Sammy belting “Candy Man,” the Fifth Dimension ushering in the “Age of Aquarius,” Blood Sweat & Tears grooving to “Spinning Wheel.”
But man, nothing compared to Rare Earth. They were too damned cool for daytime television, and drummer Peter Rivera was also their lead singer. Come on! I was maybe four years old. I couldn’t walk and talk at the same time, and here’s this guy with total body independence—each arm and leg doing its own thing and his head rocking the verse at the same time.
And yes, even at the young age I was blown away that a band that funky could be white. I may not have know what funk was, but my primitive little brain knew that Rare Earth sounded more like a black band than a white band.
What I didn’t know until many years later was that Rare Earth was the first band signed to Motown’s new label for white artists, Rare Earth Records, which you may have guessed was named for them.
The band’s chart run was unfairly short, only about three years. 1971’s In Concert captures them at their peak, with extended jams on classics like “Get Ready,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” and “I Just Want to Celebrate,” which unfortunately is fucked out due to overexposure in commercials.
It’s a solid album and not at all rare, so you can pick up a copy for 5-15 bones. If you’re in it just for the music it’s available as a legal download and there’s also an out of print CD floating around, but you’d be a sucker to skip the vinyl copy.
In Concert is a great piece of graphic design. The sleeve is designed to look like an army surplus backpack. Rather than sliding the albums (it’s a two record set) out of the sleeve, one opens the top like an old backpack flap. It’s a nice package, worthy of a place in your stacks. Happy hunting.