(March 25, 2019). When Felix Cavaliere, the longtime lead singer and songwriter for the Rascals (formerly the Young Rascals), joyfully recalled the unusual No. 1 chart run of their signature song “Groovin’,” specifically that it spent two weeks at No. 1, fell to No. 2 for two weeks, then rose again to No. 1 for two more weeks, he failed to mention the soulful little tune that had briefly interrupted his band’s chart dominance during that spring and early summer of 1967.
It was none other than their Atlantic Records label mate: the late Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” the No. 1 song for two weeks in June of that year.
Cavaliere, however, could be forgiven for not mentioning the Queen of Soul’s connection to his bit of chart trivia, especially since he and his band brought plenty soul of their own with a performance that not only included the Rascals’ major hits, but paid homage to some of the greatest soul classics of the 60s by other artists as well.
Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals, as they’re currently billed, performed at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL this past Friday night to a very appreciative crowd of about 1500 nostalgic, ‘60s-blue-eyed-soul lovin’ music fans.
Fronting a nine-member band that featured a 3-piece brass section (sax, trumpet and trombone), plus a drummer, bassist, rhythm guitar and keyboardists, Cavaliere and his partner (and original band mate) Gene Cornish poured through hit after hit, turning many of them into long jam sessions and infusing them with snippets of old soul classics by the likes of fellow ‘60s legends and Rock Hall of Famers like the Temptations, Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett.
Cornish, who was seated during the show’s entirety, recently recovered from a health scare after collapsing onstage in Billings, MT last September, so seeing him perform in Aurora six months later was certainly a blessing.
For instance, who could imagine hearing “Groovin’” without his famous harmonica notes during the easy-going song’s chorus. Cornish provided that and more as the band transformed their classic into a medley of No. 1 hits including the Temptations’ “My Girl” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).”
It wasn’t the only medley of the night.
Earlier, the band had embellished their song “Come On Up” with Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” turning the two-song medley into a ten-minute jam session.
After that, they played a Rascals B-side: the tune “Mustang Sally.” As told by Cavaliere, songwriter Mack Rice often thanked him for including his song on the back of what would become the Rascals’ first No. 1 single, 1966’s “Good Lovin’,” particularly for the considerable royalties it paid to the songwriters on either side of the record.
Then Cavaliere, Cornish and Co. turned “Mustang Sally” into another long jam that included the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” Pickett’s “Land Of 1000 Dances,” and the Temptations’ “Get Ready.”
Later, the Rascals seamlessly morphed “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” into the Temps’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” creating yet another surprising turn of musical events for those like myself who’d perused their set lists online before coming to the show…set lists that gave no hint of the classic song medleys that awaited us.
But not every song needed appending.
Rascals goodies like “A Beautiful Morning,” “It’s Wonderful,” and personal favorite “How Can I Be Sure” stood well enough on their own, as did the No. 1 classics “People Got To Be Free” and the set’s crowd-pleasing closer “Good Lovin’.”
There was one surprise non-performance for those of us who’d peaked at the online set list before attending the night’s performance. The previous night’s show had included a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” as the encore closer. There was no such luck on this night.
I guess Cavaliere, Cornish and the boys felt we’d had enough Pickett and enough soul for one sitting.
With the overall satisfying experience this version of the Rascals gave us, he certainly would have been justified in his thinking.
In the final analysis, it was a great showing by a band who proved it could still do authentic soul with the best of them!
Rascals set list for the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL on March 22, 2019:
- Do You Feel It?
- A Beautiful Morning
- What is the Reason
- A Girl Like You
- Love is a Beautiful Thing
- You Better Run
- It’s Wonderful
- I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
- A Ray of Hope
- Medley: Come on Up/Higher and Higher
- Mustang Sally (Sir Mack Rice cover – mixed w/ Its Only Rock and Roll (by Stones); Land Of 1,000 Dances by Wilson Pickett; Get Ready (Temptations)
- (I’ve Been) Lonely Too Long (interspersed with Ain’t Too Proud To Beg)
- Groovin’ (intermixed with “My Girl”; “Just My Imagination”)
- How Can I Be Sure
- People Got To Be Free
- Good Lovin’
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.