Rare Earth: Ma (1973)

Smack dab in the middle of the BLM societal upheaval is probably exactly the wrong time to dredge up Rare Earth... but, what can I say, it came up on my shuffle play and I'm like, damn, haven't listened to Rare Earth in a long time.  So here we are.

One of the few all-white acts on Motown, Rare Earth offered up a series of surprisingly decent R&B and funk albums in the late 60s and early 70s; they were pretty reliant on covers (mostly fellow Motown acts, but also Traffic, the Beatles, and others), all given a funky spin -- so, yeah, total cultural appropriation (Gil Scott-Heron dissed 'em for it), but they got the job done.

I'm partial to Ma because it's their funkiest record, totally nailing my sweet spot for swampy early 70s wah-wah pedal pornosonic grooves. (Also, how can you resist that cover art? Ok, maybe not so much...) The songs are all written by legendary Motown producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield (with a few co-written by fellow Motown legend Barrett Strong). The band thus act primarily as a house band bringing life to Motown's writing talent, but they undeniably do it justice.

The title track takes up the whole side one of the original LP, and it's a jaunty little jam, a blazing funk riff that somehow manages not to overstay its welcome as each of the band members takes the opportunity to show off their chops. The second side offers four more modest numbers -- upbeat groovers "Big John Is My Name" and "Hum Along And Dance," a faithful remake of the Temptations' "Smiling Faces Sometimes" (with a slower, jazzy pulse), and the spacey, psychedelic, bedroom moans of "Come With Me," which sounds like one of Pink Floyd's early 70s soundtrack contributions, if the film in question had been a porn flick. (Need I say, it's awesome with headphones?)

Get your 70s funk jam on, folks.

Here's a vinyl rip of the epic title track:
Here's a more recent iteration of the band performing "Big John":
...and some creepy, porny visuals for "Come With Me":