Rare Earth first came to the attention of the world as somewhat of an anomaly. Whereas a number of white acts spent the 50s stealing hit blues and soul songs and sanitizing them for pop audiences, Rare Earth largely made a career out of taking hit Motown songs and giving them an even funkier rock sound - and doing it as Motown's first major white act.
Formed in Detroit in the mid 60s by drummer Peter Rivera, saxophonist Gil Bridges, bassist John Parrish, guitarist Rod Richards and keyboardist Kenny James, Rare Earth was playing the local bar scene and had released one minor album (Dreams/Answers) when they were signed by Motown. Berry Gordy and company had enough faith that they created a Rare Earth label around the group.
Rare Earth scored a surprise first hit on its Motown debut with an infectious, rocked-out version of the Temptations' "Get Ready." The single and the accompanying album hit the Pop and Soul top twenty. The group went back to the well again the next year with its album Ecology and the hit remake of "(I Know I'm) Losing You," another cut from the Tempts catalog. The group's third album yielded perhaps its most popular single, the Dino Fekaris composition "I Just Want to Celebrate," a fantastic blend of bar rock and funky soul that hit the top 10.
Rare Earth remained pretty prolific over the next several years, but the members' own compositions didn't click with audiences as their remakes had. After a few more albums on Motown they moved to the Prodigal Records label for a handful of discs, but failed to generate much interest.
The group split in the mid-80s and Rivera began years of touring singing the Rare Earth catalog. He now lives in Southern California with his wife of over 30 years and most recently toured with the Classic Rock All-Stars. Bridges formed a new version of Rare Earth and attempted a comeback with the album Different World in 1993. The group, now with a lineup of Bridges, Ivan Greilick, Randy Burghdoff, Mike Bruner and Floyd Stokes, still plays around the US and internationally. They've recently self-released The Rare Earth, a disc of new recordings of some of their biggest hits that is available through their website. They're also working on their first new music in a decade and a half, A Brand New World, slated for 2009 release.
by Chris Rizik