Rare Earth (band)
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Rare Earth in 1969, as depicted on the cover of their album Get Ready
|Also known as||The Sunliners (1960-1968)|
|Origin||Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|Genres||Rock, funk rock, hard rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, psychedelic soul|
|Labels||Rare Earth, Motown|
Randy "Bird" Burghdoff
Floyd Stokes Jr.
|Past members||See Members|
Rare Earth is an American rock band affiliated with Motown's Rare Earth record label (which was named after the band), who prospered in 1970–1972. Although not the first white band signed to Motown, Rare Earth was the first big hit-making act signed by Motown that consisted only of white members. (The Rustix were signed before them and were an all white act, but did not have any hits.)
The 1960s 
The group formed in 1960 as "The Sunliners" and changed their name to "Rare Earth" in 1968. After recording an unsuccessful debut album, Dream/Answers, on the Verve label in 1968, they were signed to Motown in 1969. The band was one of the first acts signed to a new Motown imprint that would be dedicated to white rock acts. The record company did not have a name for the new label yet and the band jokingly suggested Motown call the label "Rare Earth." To the band's surprise, Motown decided to do just that.
The main personnel in the group included: Gil Bridges (saxophone, flute and vocals ), Peter Hoorelbeke a.k.a. Peter Rivera (lead vocals and drums), John Parrish a.k.a. John Persh (bass guitar, trombone and vocals), Rod Richards (born Rod Cox, guitar, vocals) and Kenny James (born Ken Folcik, keyboards). The group's recording style was hard-driving.
During 1969 the group contributed music to the movie Generation that starred David Janssen and Kim Darby. But a proposed accompanying soundtrack album was canceled after the movie bombed at the box office and many of the songs ended up on the band's next album, Ecology, in 1970.
Rare Earth had a number of Top 40 hits in the 1970-1971 period, including covers of The Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You" (which was used in the documentary video It's Time) and "Get Ready". Both were more successful than The Temptations' originals, with "Get Ready" being their biggest hit, peaking at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. This disc sold over one million copies and received a Gold record awarded by the Recording Industry Association of America. The group gained a bit of notoriety when it was mentioned dismissively in the lyrics to Gil Scott-Heron's 1970 poem, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", which included the line, "The theme song [to the revolution] will not be written by Jim Webb, Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Engelbert Humperdinck, or the Rare Earth."
In late 1969 Edward "Eddie" Guzman (congas and assorted percussive instruments) was added to the group.
The 1970s 
In 1971 Richards left after musical differences and James, weary of their increased touring schedule, split as well. Ray Monette (guitar) and Mark Olson (keyboards, vocals) joined to replace them.
Other hits in 1971 were "I Just Want to Celebrate", which peaked at #7 on the pop charts, and "Hey, Big Brother", which peaked at #19. They did not chart significantly after 1971. Nevertheless the band continued to record into the 1990s.
By 1972 Motown had decided to relocate from Detroit to Los Angeles and Rare Earth soon followed suit. Persh, however, decided not to make the move and was succeeded in the band by Mike Urso (Persh later died from a hospital staph infection on January 27, 1981).
Rare Earth was the opening act at California Jam festival in Ontario, California on April 6, 1974. Cal Jam attracted over 250,000 fans, and the band appeared alongside 70's rock giants Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple, Earth, Wind & Fire, Seals & Crofts, Black Oak Arkansas and the Eagles. Portions of the show were telecast on ABC Television in the US, exposing the band to a wider audience.
In 1974 the group divided after Hoorelbeke had severe personal and business disagreements with their manager, Ron Strasner, and departed after the other members sided with Strasner against him. Mike Urso left the group along with Hoorelbeke and they formed a new outfit, HUB, with Rare Earth's 1970-1972 co-producer, Tom Baird, using the initials of their surnames (Hoorelbeke, Urso and Baird). HUB went on to record two albums for Capitol Records but came to a sudden end in November 1975 after Baird was killed in a boating accident.
The others (minus Olson who left to join the backup band for Jennifer Warnes) decided to continue as Rare Earth and brought in new players: Jerry LaCroix (vocals, sax, harmonica, formerly of Edgar Winter's White Trash and Blood Sweat and Tears), Paul Warren (guitar, backing vocals), Bartholomew ("Frosty") Eugene Smith-Frost (formerly with Sweathog and Lee Michaels, drums), Reggie McBride (ex-Stevie Wonder, bass) and Gabriel Katona (keyboards).
The new lineup put out Back to Earth in 1975 and went back on the road. However, both Paul Warren and Frosty left during this tour and new drummer Chet McCracken (who would go on to join the Doobie Brothers) was hired to finish out their '75 tour. The band then recorded Midnight Lady (minus Katona and McCracken), which was released in 1976. Frank Westbrook replaced Katona on keyboards, whilst McCracken was not replaced, instead session musician Ollie Brown handled percussion duties for Midnight Lady. But neither of these releases sold in the big numbers the band had been used to and they soon found themselves bogged down and unable to tour when they brought a lawsuit against former member Hoorelbeke, falsely claiming that he'd tried to make off with the group's name and retirement monies. The lawsuit was eventually settled in Hoorelbeke's favor and he was given a settlement.
In late 1976 a former Motown bigwig and vice president, Barney Ales, an earlier champion of Rare Earth, returned to the company to head up one of their new offshoot labels, Prodigal Records. He made an offer to the group to reunite with Peter Hoorelbeke. So the 1972-1974 lineup of the band (Hoorelbeke, Bridges, Urso, Olson, Monette and Guzman) were slated to gather together to record a new album on Prodigal. However, Monette & Olson did not agree to the reunion's terms and decided to sit out. Session players Dan Ferguson (guitar) and Ron Fransen (keyboards) were brought in instead to play on Rarearth, which was produced by James Anthony Carmichael (who would go onto huge success with The Commodores and Lionel Richie). It was released in 1977, but it failed to live up to expectations.
Later in 1977, the group assembled again with Chicago based producer John Ryan (who'd worked with Styx and others) to begin work on two new albums. This time Monette & Olson agreed to join in and the results were Band Together and Grand Slam, both released in 1978 and featuring more of a late 70s disco sound, with the former providing the Bee Gees penned hit "Warm Ride", which peaked at #39. Other than the one fluke hit, neither album was a big seller and the band soon found themselves without a home. Gap Band bassist Robert Wilson contributed to some of the tracks on Band Together.
In June 1979 Urso left the band again. On Urso's recommendation, and after hearing several bass players, the group recruited bassist Ken Johnston, who joined the group's road tours for two years until June 1981. Johnston had just completed a stint with jazz singer Maxine Weldon and had rejoined Las Vegas comedian/songster Kenny Laursen. He interrupted his tour with Laursen to join Rare Earth in Florida.
The 1980s and 1990s 
Former Motown writer Dino Fekaris, who'd penned the band's hits "I Just Want to Celebrate and "Hey Big Brother", was next to step back into the group's life in 1980. He'd just come off back to back successes with Gloria Gaynor and Peaches & Herb and had won a Grammy for Gaynor's huge hit "I Will Survive". RCA expressed interest in the band's new project and gave them an advance to go ahead and start recording. The project was originally to be titled King of the Mountain, with the title track slated to be the theme of a 1981 movie of the same name that starred Harry Hamlin. But the movie people passed on the song, and when the record was done, RCA was not happy with Fekaris' production, so they passed as well. This album, retitled Tight & Hot, saw a very limited release in 1982 in Canada only.
By the summer of 1981, Mike Urso had returned to Rare Earth after a two-year absence, but he left again in mid-1983, and has not returned to the band since then. Tim Ellsworth was then brought in as new bassist/vocalist in September 1983. By the tail end of that year, Peter Hoorelbeke was gone from the band as well after disagreements with Gil Bridges (Hoorelbeke went on to form The Classic Rock All-Stars in 1992). Drummer Tony Thomas replaced Hoorelbeke on drums. After Hoorelbeke's departure, Ellsworth and Olson took over lead vocals. By that time most of the members of the band had moved back to Detroit and the group continued to tour playing mostly clubs despite the lack of a recording contract.
Personnel shuffles abounded in the mid-80s: In September 1984 Bob Weaver took over the drum throne and played with the group until spring of 1986. He was temporarily succeeded by Bob Brock, whose professional name was Bobby Rock (not Bob Rock, the famous Hard rock/Heavy metal producer from Canada), who was subsequently replaced by Jerry LeBloch in April 1986. Also in September of '84, Andy Merrild replaced Tim Ellsworth as bassist until the end of June 1985. Ellsworth then returned and toured with the group until the end of August of '85. The group's road manager, Randy "Bird" Burghdoff, took over as Rare Earth's bassist in September 1985, and has remained in that position ever since. Mark Olson was let go in 1986 after increasing personal and substance abuse troubles (Olson died on April 14, 1991, at the age of 41, from liver disease). Rick Warner was then rolled in as the band's new keyboardist and Wayne Baraks, who was brought in in 1987 on rhythm guitar, took over much of the lead vocals as well.
In the late 80s and early 90s the musical chairs slowed down somewhat as things stabilized and the band found itself in demand to play on "oldies" bills with other acts of the 60s and 70s.
Drummer Dean Boucher replaced LeBloch on drums in 1990 and RE signed with the small label Koch International and began work on a new album. The result was Different World (released in February 1993) which was a collection containing a few covers of older songs and new material. It was mostly overlooked by the public.
On July 29, 1993, the band suffered the loss of another member when long time percussionist Eddie Guzman (age 49) died at his home in Howell, Michigan after complications from diabetes and alcoholism.
The group kept going, though, and brought in new drummer Floyd Stokes Jr., who also took over for the departing Boucher, and took on lead vocal duties too after guitarist Baraks pulled out of the group in 1994.
Other than Mike Bruner's succeeding Rick Warner in January 1998 and Ivan Greilich's filling in for Ray Monette for five years (beginning in 2004), then Ray Monette came back around 2010 the lineup has been stable overall during the last decade or so.
Rare Earth continues to perform at corporate events and on the oldies circuit. Bits from their recordings have been used as samples on recordings as diverse as Beck's "Derelict", UNKLE, and DJ Shadow's "GDMFSOB (feat. Roots Manuva - U.N.K.L.E. uncensored version)", Black Sheep's "Try Counting Sheep", Peanut Butter Wolf's "Tale of Five Cities", Scarface's "Faith", NWA's "Real Niggaz Don't Die" and Eric B. and Rakim's "What's Going On".
2000 and beyond 
Their hit "I Just Want to Celebrate" has been used in major national advertising campaigns by Ford Motor Company and AT&T Corporation. It appeared in the final episode of the TV show Six Feet Under and has also been prominently featured in the movies Arthur, Three Kings, A Knight's Tale and Land of the Lost, as well as in the trailer for the movie Tropic Thunder an in the . 'The Expendables 2' Theme Song and in the end credits music in episode 24 ("One Day in the Valley") of Entourage. It was sampled in the opening song, "Sirens", on the 2007 Little Brother album Getback and was done as "We Celebrate" on the new Ghostface Killah album The Big Doe Rehab.
- Current members
- Gil Bridges – saxophone, flute, lead vocals (1960–present)
- Ray Monette – lead guitars, vocals (1971–1976, 1977–2004, 2009–present)
- Randy "Bird" Burghdoff – bass, vocals (1985–present)
- Floyd Stokes Jr. – drums, lead vocals (1993–present)
- Mike Bruner – keyboards (1998–present)
- Former members
Released in 1970 as a single from Get Ready.
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Studio albums 
|1975||Back to Earth||59|
|1982||Tight and Hot||-|
|2008||A Brand New World||-|
Live albums 
|1971||Rare Earth in Concert||29|
|1974||Live in Chicago||-|
|1989||Made in Switzerland||-|
|2004||Rock 'n' Roll Greats RARE EARTH In concert!||-|
|2008||Rare Earth Live||-|
|1969||"Generation, Light Up the Sky"||-|
|1970||"(I Know) I'm Losing You"||7|
|1970||"Born to Wander"||17|
|1971||"I Just Want to Celebrate"||7|
|1971||"Someone to Love"||-|
|1971||"Any Man Can Be a Fool"||-|
|1971||"Hey Big Brother"||19|
|1972||"What'd I Say"||61|
|1972||"Good Time Sally"||67|
|1972||"We're Gonna Have a Good Time"||93|
|1973||"Hum Along and Dance"||110|
|1973||"Big John Is My Name"||-|
|1975||"Keepin' Me Out of the Storm"||-|
|1975||"It Makes You Happy"||106|
Compilation albums 
- 1975 Masters of Rock
- 1976 Disque d'Or
- 1981 Motown Superstar Series, Vol. 16
- 1988 Get Ready/Ecology
- 1991 Greatest Hits & Rare Classics
- 1994 Earth Tones: Essential
- 1995 Anthology: The Best of Rare Earth
- 1996 Rare Earth featuring Peter Rivera
- 1998 The Very Best of Rare Earth
- 2001 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rare Earth
- 2004 The Collection
- 2005 Get Ready and More Hits
- 2006 Best of Rare Earth
- 2008 Fill Your Head: The Studio Albums 1969-1974