Soul Serenade: The Rascals, “A Ray of Hope”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

By late 1968, the Rascals string of hit singles was coming to and end, but there was still a lot of great music to be heard from the blue-eyed soul legends.

The Rascals - A Ray of HopeWhen it comes times to write this column every week, I never know where the inspiration is going to come from. The same can be said about all of my writing. Sometimes the idea will come from hearing a song on the radio. Other times I’ll see a mention of a certain artist in a story, in print or online. This week, inspiration came from Twitter.

A number of the people that I follow on Twitter like to post about what they’re listening to at a given time. I like that because in many cases I’m following those people because I have respect for their musical taste. Last week I was sitting around trolling on Twitter when I noticed a tweet from my friend Dennis Corrigan (@irishjava), which said that he was listening to “A Ray of Hope” by the Rascals on Rdio. Inspiration!

The first thing I did was to listen to the song myself, and I was reminded once again of how great it was. I wondered how I had managed to forget such a great song for all of these years. After all, I was a major fan of the Rascals back in the day, and they’re still not far from my turntable much of the time. But that’s the joy of talking about music with my friends — rediscovering music that I love.

In my opinion, the Rascals made three great albums, their first three. The greatest of them all, Groovin’ (1967), was also the last of them. That in no way implies that they didn’t make some great music after that, but my interest waned just a tiny bit after that. It seemed to me at the time that they were moving away from the blue-eyed soul that I loved, and toward a more experimental, jazz-tinged sound. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. I just didn’t want to go there with them.

I suppose that’s why I had managed to forget about “A Ray of Hope,” and other great songs from the Rascals post-’67 output. Perhaps it’s time for an overall reappraisal of a band that remains one of my favorites of all time.

“A Ray of Hope” was released by Atlantic Records in late 1968. The song was written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, despite the fact that by that time Cavaliere had started taking on more of the songwriting responsibilities. The team of Cavaliere and Brigati had written many of the band’s early hits, and Brigati’s absence in the most of the songwriting credits at this time was one indication that some fractures were starting to appear in the band. The legendary Arif Mardin produced the record with Cavaliere, and the equally legendary Tom Dowd was one of the recording engineers.

“A Ray of Hope” was a decent-sized hit for the Rascals, reaching #24 on the Billboard singles chart, and #14 on Cashbox, but they were near the end of their awesome run of hit singles. The song was later included on the 1969 Rascals double album Freedom Suite. And speaking of Freedom Suite, here’s another song that appeared on that album. “People Got To Be Free” was a gigantic hit for the Rascals in the summer of 1968, and their last #1.

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