The Young Rascals
The context: Though The Young Rascals started as a down-and-dirty garage-rock band with an R&B fringe, by 1967, bandleaders Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, and Gene Cornish—like the rest of their songwriting generation—were looking to push pop into the psychedelic era, while loading it up with some of the sophisticated elements that had charmed their parents decades earlier.
The greatness: Groovin' has its heavy side—dig "Find Somebody," a fuzzbox special with trippy vocals and a stomping chorus—but what makes the album so delightful are its many bright, effortless pop songs, like Cornish's bongo-fied ballad "I Don't Love You Anymore," and the wistful Brigati/Cavaliere collaborations "How Can I Be Sure" and "Groovin'." Groovin' even finds room for one of The Young Rascals' grittiest garage songs, the hit single "You Better Run." It isn't some ungainly concept album, just a compact collection of catchy, rhythmic Top 40 fare, crafted with heart and skill.
Defining song: The album-opener, "A Girl Like You," sets the tone for Groovin', moving easily from elegant piano and creamy orchestration to a chorus that bops and swings like the best Motown single, topped with one of Cavaliere's most joyous, expressive lead vocals. It's the very essence of "pop."