Monday, 11 February 2013

1969 Grand Funk Railroad - Grand Funk



Grand Funk Railroad, 'Inside Looking Out', 1969

Info: Grand Funk Railroad hailed from Flint in Michigan and consisted of Mark Farner on vocals and guitar, Don Brewer on drums and Mel Schacher on bass in their original line-up in 1968. The group were seen by music critics as the antithesis of what a rock group should be in the late-sixties / early-seventies, maybe reflected in one of their lyrics; 'Please don't worry, 'bout no jury, there's so many, of us anyway'. This derision came mainly as a result of the bands simplistic lyrics and straight-forward playing style, at a time when the music scene was rife with innovators such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, GFR were seen as lacking substance, but music fans, it seemed, were not following the script. A combination of having a great publicist and manager in Terry Wright (who took out a giant billboard of the band in Times Square) and appealing to the American blue-collar worker, led to Grand Funk Railroad selling 4 certified golden albums and finding themselves in massive demand on the touring circuit. As Sara Farr notes in 'The Little Black Book of Music', the band's 1971 concert in Shea Stadium broke The Beatles record by selling out the venue in 71 hours, a record that still stands today. The group seemed to appeal to those who liked hard rock while having a few beers in a dark and dingy bar 'way out west'. I picture a scene of sawdust on the floor and bearded Hell's Angels kicking back to Grand Funk, every song contains thumping drums, thumping bass, howling vocals and long guitar solos. Named after the Grand Trunk Western Railroad near their home town, the band have mainly been described as a poor man's Cream, but I would go closer to a poor man's Blue Oyster Cult, that by no means should take away from the enjoyment of listening to this album and also their debut from the same year, On Time.

While they may have been considered naff back in the day, I think Grand Funk have gained slightly more credibility with the passage of time, musically anyway. I'm personally very fond of this album, I can't even remember how I first came across the band a couple of years ago, it's almost as if they magically appeared in my Music folder, but I find myself regularly in the mood for their heavy hitting tunes and long guitar solos, in the above video if you skip to 3:51, you'll know what I mean. The album can be split into two halves in a way, short and snappy for the first 4 tracks, followed by 4 tracks each over 6 and a half minutes long that feel like a very enjoyable improvised jam at times. It's hard for me to pick favourites because I think as an album each song very much runs into the next as a whole, but pushed to choose I would go for opener, 'Got This Thing On The Move', the groovy 'High Falootin' Woman', 'Mr. Limousine Driver' and the above video, 'Inside Looking Out'. Although they were hugely successful during their hey-day and sold over a million copies of their debut and this album, Grand Funk, Grand Funk Railroad seem to be largely forgotten and overlooked nowadays, which is a pity. A quote by a music fan on www.rateyourmusic.com colourfully sums things up when he says; 'I could eat the bass on this album. There's no physical way to do it, of course, but if I could - I would. I'd eat the whole fucking thing'.

Track Listing:

1. Got This Thing On The Move
2. Please Don't Worry
3. High Falootin' Woman
4. Mr. Limousine Driver
5. In Need
6. Winter and My Soul
7. Paranoid
8. Inside Looking Out

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