Sometimes you take a chance. It’s not quite like the old days when you would stroll through a record store and something would catch your eye: a name, some art. But it’s close, and as I was flipping through the Record Store Drop releases at my local shop I saw the reissue of the sole record from Ann Arbor’s The Rationals. The hype sticker drew me in as much as the colors on the album art: you put the words “Detroit R&B Garage Band” on your sticker and you’re going to hook me. I’m glad it did because it turns out The Rationals delivers precisely on the sticker’s promise: down and dirty rhythm and blues that has a foot firmly in the 60s while calling out to the more rock-centric power the 70s would deliver.
Although they only recorded a handful of singles (including a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”) and the self titled full length, the music found on The Rationals is surprisingly mature and solid in its intent. Songs like the opening boogie rock attack of “Barefootin”” and the second side ballad of “Glowin'” don’t give the impression of a band finding its way at all. A look at credits hints as to why – this is an early band of multi-instrumentalist and singer Scott Morgan, who who soon after the demise of The Rationals form the equally excellent Sonic Rendezvous Band with members of a few other locals band folks may recognize: the MC5 and The Stooges.
I’m not going to go into detail on all the songs, but one of the really cool things that struck me about the album were the segues that bridge each song. Kind of meandering, psychedelic jams with flutes and pianos that I wish would last longer. They’re each about 30 seconds and then may or may not connect into the next main song. I definitely wouldn’t have minded one of them stretching out into a full instrumental exercise. The album ends with a boogie rock cover version of “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah” that sounds like something CCR would have tackled in a rehearsal and then decided nah, best to leet it lie. It’s presented as a bonus track on The Rationals, but I would have vastly preferred the “Respect” cover. The album itself, though? Fantastic, from that opening to the more shuffling grace of “Temptation ‘Bout to Get Me” (realizing just how much the band liked omitting letters in their song titles) and the driving “Guitar Army” this is a welcome surprise to my ears, something that fits right in with a lot of the driving rock and roll that’s come to dominate my listening habits.