The Rationals

When serious collectors compose lists of the top shoulda-been-bigger bands of the '60s, The Rationals are often among them. Coming out of the same Ann Arbor, Michigan scene that gave birth to the MC5 and The Stooges, the group's forte was a sort of garage band take on blue-eyed Soul, built around the fine R&B-hued vocals of front man Scott Morgan. Their mid-'60s singles however, didn't break in many areas outside of Michigan, where they had some big local hits, and by the time they got to record an album, they had long passed their peak.

The Rationals actually predated the MC5/Stooges by quite some time, both chronologically and stylistically. When they began recording for the local A2 label in 1965, they were, like many garage bands, heavily influenced by the British Invasion, although they gave their material a more soulful flavor than most similar units. "Gave My Love" was a chart-topper in Ann Arbor and a hit in Detroit, as was a follow-up single of "Respect", which predated Aretha Franklin's version. Picked up for national distribution by Cameo/Parkway, it nudged into the #95 spot on Billboard's Hot 100 as well.

Similar distribution of follow-up singles by Cameo and Capitol, which found them pursuing a more blue-eyed Soul oriented direction on cuts like "I Need You" and "Hold on Baby," followed the same story: big success in Michigan, nothing doing elsewhere. Morgan turned down a spot in Blood, Sweat And Tears, and The Rationals finally got an album out on Crewe Records in early 1970. By that time though, their moment had passed. Their best work was behind them, and attempts to modify their energetic Pop/Soul approach for the Psychedelic album market were ill-fated.

The Rationals broke up in the Summer of 1970. Morgan continued to build his cult credentials over the next twenty-five years on sporadic recordings with Sonic's Rendezvous Band (which also featured the MC5's Fred Smith), The Scott Morgan Band, and Scott's Pirates. Licensing hurdles, unfortunately, kept their batch of fine '60s singles for A2, Cameo/Parkway, and Capitol from being reissued on a coherent anthology, although some have dotted obscure compilations. This is a shame, as their sole album, and a more recently released live CD of a show from late 1968, are unrepresentative of the band as they sounded at their best. In 1995 a live recording of a 1968 Rationals benefit concert entitled "Temptation 'bout to Get Me" was finally released. The Big Beat record label issued "Think Rational!", a two-CD anthology of the mid-1960s phase of The Rationals' career, in July 2009. In 2010, The Rationals were voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame.