The Rascals “Once Upon A Dream”
After releasing three classic garage blue-eyed soul records, the Rascals felt a need to expand their sound, become a bit more ornate, and take in the influence of psychedelia. In early 1968 they released Once Upon A Dream, a vague concept lp inspired by recent albums Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s. The concept is a bit unclear to me but I believe each track is supposed to represent a different dream. The group’s vocal arrangements were some of their most ambitious to date and where the previous three albums had been excellent collections of album tracks and singles, Once Upon A Dream hangs together quite well as an album – a finished product if you will.
Once Upon A Dream opens up with a fairly well known track, Easy Rollin’. Easy Rollin’ is one of the mini classics on this album and stands out from previous Rascal outings in that it’s more roots influenced with edgy acoustic guitars, harmonica, and B-3. The production on this song is remarkable: one can hear birds chirping in the background and the band itself seems to have more space and breathing room. Other tracks like the dreamy Silly Girl and zany Rainy Day are psychedelic pop songs that have strings and horns in the mix. These sweet, confectionery treats give way to harder edged psych rockers Please Love Me and It’s Wonderful. Please Love Me harks back to the band’s mid 60s garage soul period but has wonderful flute and swirling fuzz guitar effects. Other great songs are the soul-blues of Singin’ The Blues Too Long which has a clear Ray Charles influence, and the great, overlooked blue-eyed soul classic, My World. My World is notable for including female backup singers as well as the Rascals’ own excellent vocal arrangement.
The Rascals would release other good albums after Once Upon A Dream but few pop records from the time are as instantly memorable and sophisticated as this. At the time, the album’s production and sound were considered a triumph. This is a true classic and should be part of any serious rock n roll collection. There are a few cd reissues of Once Upon A Dream currently available while the original Atlantic lp is fairly easy to find.