Happy Anniversary: The Rascals, Freedom Suite
45 years ago, the Rascals – formerly known as the Young Rascals – unleashed Freedom Suite, the album that provided them with their third and final #1 hit, “People Got to Be Free.”
Freedom Suite, released on March 17, 1969, was the Rascals’ fifth album, and it was definitely a bit of a departure for the band, but coming as it did on the heels of Time Peace, a greatest-hits collection which topped the U.S. charts, it’s no wonder that they felt like they were in a position to experiment a bit with their sound and lyrical content. Clearly, they were successful at tapping into something that caught the attention of the masses, given that the aforementioned “People Got to Be Free,” a song about racial tolerance, topped the charts, and two subsequent singles, “A Ray of Hope” and “Heaven,” were top-40 hits (at #24 and #39, respectively). The album itself, however, was a double LP, and while the first record was consistently strong, the second record – an all-instrumental affair dubbed “Music Music” that was all instrumental and featured only three tracks, two of which lasted for over 13 minutes each – may have been a bit much for the crowds who came looking for more radio-friendly fare.
In 1979, rock critic Dave Marsh wrote in the Rolling Stone Record Guide that Freedom Suite “reflected an attempt to join the psychedelic craze” and “sowed the seeds of the group’s demise.” He may well have been right: it was the start of a trend with the band to focus more on their albums than their singles…and given that they’d been known mostly for their singles up to that point, it’s probably not a coincidence that it also proved to be the band’s last album to enter the top 20. While it might be stretching things to say that “Music Music” has held up terribly well, the 11 songs on that first record are still pretty darned strong.
But, hey, don’t just take our word for it: listen for yourself!