The gentle genius behind The Young Rascals faced uncertainty at the start of his solo career in the mid-70s. Felix Cavaliere was apparently surprised to learn that the A&R men wanted hits, not rock operas, and wound up at Bearsville making a pop album with Todd Rundgren producing.
In theory, it was the prefect musical marriage, but Cavaliere felt Rundgren was distant from the project and the eponymous 1974 album was, apparently, cobbled together. However, it makes a cheering listen today, with Cavaliere’s uniquely sunny voice in peak form on Future Train and Long Times Gone, the latter a lilting waltz resembling How Can I Be Sure. A High Price To Pay is pure 70s pop and I’m A Gambler sounds like a hot day in Manhattan. The wheels only come off for I’m Free, which is way too Rundgren—that’s OK, but not very Felix Cavaliere.
The following year’s Destiny was self-produced and funkier, and featured guests Laura Nyro, Bill ‘Spike’s Dad’ Lee on bass, and Leslie West. Warm and smart, Flip Flop and Light Of My Life are strong, and even the cod disco of Never Felt Love Before is tolerable. Yet while Destiny is more focused than its predecessor, it lacks spark, the mark of Cavaliere. This twofer is, however, well worth the outlay.
As lead singer and co-writer of a succession of 1960s hits for The Rascals, including Groovin’, How Can I Be Sure and People Got To Be Free, solo fame seemed assured for Felix Cavaliere. But the blue-eyed soul success he had previously enjoyed eluded him, despite the fact his first two solo albums—originally released on Bearsville in 1974 and 1975, and now repackaged on a single CD – were very good. His eponymous debut, produced by Todd Rundgren, was an eclectic if unfocused delight. Cavaliere took over production duties for Destiny, which is much tighter, with soft disco undertones. The title track is first rate while the album’s outstanding track is Never Felt Love Before, a sumptuous stomper much played on BBC London by Danny Baker.
When The Young Rascals, the USA’s best blue-eyed soul band of the ‘60s by some distance, split shortly after 1972’s The Island Of Real, Cavaliere, lead singer and co-writer of many of their hits, recorded these two albums for Bearsville. Co-produced with Todd Rundgren, ‘74’s Felix Cavaliere is a lot better than its artist believes, puzzled as he was by his co-worker’s procedures. After a strong opener, A High Price To Pay, other highlights include the lightly Latino Summer in El Barrio and Everlasting Love, bursting with a Rascals-reborn vitality. 1975’s Destiny seems less willing to experiment but thus has a more unified feel. The funky Flip Flop, touching I Can Remember and tougher Hit And Run are among its stand-outs as Cavaliere’s melodic warmth anchors all. Good playing throughout both albums, but a star’s been taken off because, despite arriving shrinkwrapped, the CD occasionally, yet very annoying, skips. Tsk.