by Brian Smith
These Ann Arbor working-class dandies had a penchant for Brit invasion and Yankee soul that even foreshadowed town-mates the Stooges on the rock 'n' roll tip, and, to a certain extent, the hugely mainstream Rascals on the national soul-pop tip. The Rationals simultaneously embraced, and then smashed, the veneer of Carnaby Street-attired rocker 'n' rollers (bowler hats, natch!); their gloriously unkempt 'dos and harmonies had the perfect sexual tension for little girls while the blue-eyed, twin-guitar soul kicked out the noisy template to make boys shout.
See, the Rationals had it all, from scorching spins of Brill Building pop ("Hold on Baby") to Detroit-via-the Who ("Leavin' Here" — Pearl Jam's take, it's said, is based on this version) to Otis Redding ("Respect" – which, you'll note, predates and slays the Aretha version) to self-penned, shoulda-been hits ("Someday"). But having it all and pop stardom are most often mutually exclusive (just ask band head Scott Morgan), and aside from a lone regional hit, these teen hullabaloos floundered in relative obscurity.
But an increasing international Rationals fanbase of crate diggers, songwriters, DJs and music lovers has lived long enough without a Rationals collection, and this lovely, anecdote-rich two-disc set has them creaming. It documents with sharp-eyed precision the band's most productive four years (1965-1968) on A Square, Cameo/Parkway and Capitol. The set is primed with the glorious singles, the outtakes and the B-sides, cutting off before the band's only LP. Think Rational! is essential din then for any fan of blue-eyed soul, pure rock 'n' roll and garage, much less aficionados of Mitten-made music.
Scott Morgan plays the music of the Rationals on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-8555. Morgan's band will feature Jeremy Wheeler of the Bang!, Chris "Box" Taylor of Powertrane, Eddie Baranek of the Sights, Dave Shettler of SSM, and Jim Diamond of Ghetto Recorders. Doors at 9:30 p.m.
Brian Smith is the features editor of Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.