Grand Funk Railroad – Closer To Home (1970)

LPFrontCover1Closer to Home is Grand Funk Railroad’s third studio album and was released on June 15, 1970 by Capitol Records. It was produced by Terry Knight. This album reached RIAA gold record status in 1970, making it the group’s third gold record in one year. The songs “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother” and “Aimless Lady” were later covered by South African group Suck. “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother” was also covered by the band Monster Magnet on their first full-length album Spine of God (1991), by former Dokken guitarist George Lynch on his 2004 covers album “Furious George”, and by Gov’t Mule on their album The Deep End, Volume 1 (2001). The album’s inside artwork shows a live photo of the band performing at Madison Square Garden in February 1970.

In the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen, the song “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother” is featured in the closing credits. (by wikipedia)

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Closer to Home, the trio’s third album, was the record that really broke them through to the commercially successful level of metal masters such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Rather than rushing headlong into their typical hard, heavy, and overamplified approach, Grand Funk Railroad began expanding their production values. Most evident is the inclusion of strings, the acoustic opening on the disc’s leadoff cut, “Sins a Good Man’s Brother,” as well as the comparatively mellow “Mean Mistreater.” But the boys had far from gone soft. The majority of Closer to Home is filled with the same straight-ahead rock & roll that had composed their previous efforts. The driving tempo of Mel Schacher’s viscous lead basslines on “Aimless Lady” and “Nothing Is the Same” adds a depth when contrasted to the soul-stirring and somewhat anthem-like “Get It Together.” The laid-back and slinky “I Don’t Have to Sing the Blues” also continues the trend of over-the-top decibel-shredding; however, instead of the excess force of other bands, such as MC5, Grand Funk Railroad are able to retain the often-elusive melodic element to their heavy compositions. (by Lindsay Planer )

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Personnel:
Don Brewer (drums, vocals)
Mark Farner (guitar, keyboards, vocals)
Mel Schacher (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother 4.50
02. Aimless Lady 3.28
03. Nothing Is The Same 5.14
04. Mean Mistreater 4.25
05. Get It Together 5.07
06. I Don’t Have To Sing The Blues 4.37
07. Hooked On Love 7.12
08. I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) 9.54

All songs written by Mark Farner

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Grand Funk Railroad – Caught In The Act (1975)

FrontCover1Caught in the Act is Grand Funk Railroad’s second live album and was released in August 1975 by Capitol Records as a double album. It was recorded live on tour in 1975 and features “The Funkettes” — Lorraine Feather and Jana King.

Early pressings of the album (including record-club pressings) simply state the band’s name as “Grand Funk” on the front cover and spine, but have the full name on the record labels.

The 2003 re-mastered version of this release has a total time of 79:08, and was squeezed down to one disc. The 2:47 “Introduction” is gone, but “T.N.U.C” and “Gimme Shelter” are lengthened. Audience interaction and applause is shortened throughout to compensate. The missing “Introduction” is included as a hidden track at the end of “Some Kind of Wonderful” on the 2003 re-mastered version of “All the Girls in the World Beware!!!”

By 1975, Grand Funk Railroad had reached a new level of fame and fortune thanks to pop-friendly albums like We’re an American Band and Shinin’ On. However, they had not dropped the turbo-charged rock & roll that built their early success and that fact is TourPoster1975proven by this exciting double-live album. Caught in the Act covers all the highlights of their catalog up to that point, including both the major hits and a generous sampling of album-track favorites. All the songs benefit from the amped-up live atmosphere and several improve over the studio versions thanks to the consistent high level of energy that the band pours into each tune. The best example is the latter phenomenon one-two punch of the albums’ opening tracks: “Footstompin’ Music” leaps out of the speakers with a galloping beat and pulsing organ that effortlessly outstrips its album version, then the band smoothly segues into a barnstorming, revamped version of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul” that tacks an infectious “Nothin’ but a party” chant onto the song’s beginning. Even the hits add new frills that keep them feeling like rote run-throughs: “The Loco Motion” is soulfully fleshed out by the addition of female backing vocals and hard rock muscle applied to “Black Licorice” transforms it into a speedy, fist-pumping rocker. Another big highlight is the atmospheric version of “Closer to Home,” which sports a tighter, more complex arrangement than its studio counterpart and makes an excellent showcase for Craig Frost’s skills on a variety of keyboard (he nimbly recreates the song’s orchestral coda with an elegant performance on the Mellotron). The end result is a live album that is the equal of the studio’s best studio-recorded outings. Simply put, Caught in the Act is a necessity for Grand Funk Railroad fans and may even attract non-fans with its effective combination of energy and instrumental firepower. (by Donald A. Guarisco)

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Grand Funk Railroad’s legions of fans helped make them one of America’s biggest-selling rock bands of the first half of the 1970s, and midway through the decade, they had another chance to experience the band’s on-stage energy on disc. Caught In The Act, GFR’s second live album, made its US chart debut on 13 September 1975.

The band had released their first in-concert disc as early as 1970, when the Capitol set simply called Live Album appeared after the success of the studio titles On Time and Grand Funk. The new album, a double, was recorded on tour in the early part of 1975 and featured some 80 minutes’ worth of Grand Funk’s live extravaganza, which included their backing singers the Funkettes

The set list included both of GFR’s No. 1 hit singles of 1973, ‘We’re An American Band’ and their remake of ‘The Loco-motion,’ along with the ’72 hit ‘Footstompin’ Music’ and earlier favourites such as ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Closer To Home.’

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The disc concluded with Grand Funk’s live versions of the Animals’ ‘Inside Looking Out’ and the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter.’ The latter song was a longtime feature of their concerts, which they had previously recorded in the studio, for 1971’s Survival album.

GFR 1975As ever, the release was greeted with a distinct lack of enthusiasm by many US rock critics, but Billboard’s review of the live album was a more rounded overview. “Production is good throughout, with the instruments, particularly Mark Farner’s guitar and Craig Frost’s keyboards, standing out. Voices come over well, and the addition of the Funkettes backup adds some fun to the project. Excellent duplication here of a Grand Funk concert which displays a professionalism not found on earlier live efforts.”

The album reached No. 21 on the US chart in a ten-week run, and as Billboard’s review concluded: “The critics may rant, but, for what they set out to do, Grand Funk are close to the best.” Their fans wholeheartedly agreed. (by Paul Sexton)

This is one of the best Albums by Grand Funk Railraod … listen to songs like “Footstompin’ Music“, “Some Kind Of Wonderful“, “Inside Looking Out” and of course “Gimme Shelter

And “Rock & Roll Soul” is a killer song … unbelieveable … WOW !

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Personnel:
Don Brewer (drums, percussion, vocals)
Mark Farner (guitar, organ,  harmonica, vocals)
Craig Frost (keyboards, Percussion,  background vocals)
Mel Schacher (bass, background vocals)
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Funkettes Group (Background vocals).
Lorraine Feather – Jana King)

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Tracklist:
01. Footstompin’ Music (Farner) 4-07
02. Rock & Roll Soul (Farner) 4.04
03. Closer To Home (Farner) 7.09
04. Heartbreaker (Farner) 7.32
05. Some Kind Of Wonderful (Ellison) 4.15
06. Shinin’ On (Farner/Brewer) 5.32
07. The Loco-Motion (Goffin/King) 3.22
08. Black Licorice (Farner/Brewer) 4.28
09. The Railroad (Farner) 6.14
10. We’re An American Band (Brewer) 3.39
11. T.N.U.C. (Farner) 9.32
12. Inside Looking Out (J.Lomax/A.Lomax/Burdon/Chandler) 12.25
13. Gimme Shelter (Jagger/Richards) 6.58

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Grand Funk Railroad – On Time (1969)

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On Time is Grand Funk Railroad’s first studio album, released in August 1969 by Capitol Records. It was produced by Terry Knight.

“Time Machine”, the band’s first single release, barely broke the top 50 in the singles charts, reaching #48, however, after the success of their second album Grand Funk (aka The Red Album), On Time went gold shortly thereafter in 1970, one of four RIAA gold record awards for the band that year. The other two albums reaching gold status in 1970 for GFR were Closer to Home and Live Album.

Grand Funk Railroad’s 1969 debut is a wildly uneven affair. Although the exuberant energy and power-trio theatrics that would fuel their 1970s hits are in place, the group’s songwriting and arranging abilities are very much in their infancy. The biggest problems in terms of songwriting are the often-amateurish lyrics: “Anybody’s Answer” is a sincere but muddled attempt at a message song that expends a lot of energy without ever focusing on a particular target and “Heartbreaker” is a love lament that is content to trot out a series of well-worn heartbreak clichés. In terms of arrangements, the band often places an aimless jam where a tight instrumental break should be.

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The standout example of this problem is “TNUC,” a loose-limbed tune that wears out its welcome with an overlong and unstructured drum solo. Despite these problems, there are some strong tunes in the mix: “Are You Ready” is an exuberant rocker built on one of Mel Schacher’s trademark walking basslines and “Into the Sun” is a clever tune that starts as a mellow mid-tempo jam before blossoming into a stomping rocker with a funky guitar riff. Both of these sturdy tunes appropriately became mainstays of Grand Funk Railroad’s live show for many years to come. “Time Machine” is another highlight, a bluesy shuffle built on Mark Farner’s wailing vocals and a catchy, stuttered guitar riff. All in all, On Time is way too patchy of an album to please the casual listener but provides a few hints of and contains enough worthwhile moments to please the group’s fans. (by Donald A. Guarisco)

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Personnel:
Don Brewer (drums, vocals)
Mark Farner (guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals)
Mel Schacher (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Are You Ready 3.28
02. Anybody’s Answer 5.17
03. Time Machine 3.45
04. High On A Horse 2.56
05. T.N.U.C. 8.42
06. Into The Sun 6.29
07.Heartbreaker 6.35
08. Call Yourself A Man 3.05
09. Can’t Be Too Long 6.34
10. Ups And Downs 5.01

All songs written by Mark Farner

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Grank Funk (Railroad) – Survival (1971)

FrontCover1By the time Grand Funk Railroad came to make Survival in January 1971, Cleveland Recording had moved to new quarters, and the group had become a national phenomenon, its last two albums Top Ten million-sellers. They spent a relatively luxurious six weeks or so on the record, and the results showed; Survival was the best-sounding and the best-played album they had yet made. Such assessments are, of course, relative, however. The group’s playing remained rudimentary, especially in the rhythm section, and its sense of song construction was simple and repetitious. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Farner sang in a strained, limited tenor lyrics that yearned for basic satisfactions (“Comfort Me,” “I Want Freedom”), then led the lengthy instrumental passages with either simple guitar patterns or simple organ patterns. The band’s choice of covers, Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” indicated taste (and that they were short of material), but their interpretations were inferior. This may have been Grand Funk’s first real studio album, but they still sounded like they hadn’t quite figured out how the studio differed from the stage and what added dynamics might be necessary to make a recording successful. (by William Ruhlmann)

GrandFunkRailroadPersonnel:
Don Brewer (vocals, drums)
Mark Farner (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards)
Mel Schacher (bass)
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01. Country Road (Farner) 4.22
02. All You’ve Got Is Money (Farner)  5.16
03. Comfort Me (Farner) 6.48
04. Feelin’ Alright (Mason) 4.27
05. I Want Freedom (Farner) 6.19
06. I Can Feel Him In The Morning (Brewer/Farner) 7.15
07. Gimme Shelter (Jagger/Richards) 6.29

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Grand Funk Railroad – Live Album (1970)

FrontCover1Live Album is the first live album by American hard rock band Grand Funk Railroad, originally released by Capitol Records on November 16, 1970. The first single released from the album, “Mean Mistreater”, was released on November 23 and the second, “Inside Looking Out”, was released in January 1971.

The album was originally released as a double album on the LP format.

The raw energy of these live performances was captured without the use of any re-mixing, over-dubs or enhanced audio engineering. This “direct recording” method leaves a bit to be desired from a technical standpoint, but showcases the band in a live environment and never lets up in its effort to convey GFR’s raw power as well as a sense of “being there” at a Grand Funk event.

The album’s gatefold cover depicts a photograph of the band at the Atlanta International Pop Festival during the weekend of the 4th of July 1970, but none of the music was actually recorded there. The album was recorded at several Florida venues during June 1970.

Upon the album’s release, Live Album was panned by the critics, while becoming commercially successful.

GrandFunkRailroad01The reception of Live Album by music critics upon the album’s release were unfavorable. Popular music critic Robert Christgau said of the album “I know they have a great–even grand–audience. But an audience and a live album aren’t the same thing–not the same thing at all”. He then gave the album a C- rating. A modern review of the album by James Chrispell for Allmusic stated the opinion that people either loved or hated the album. Chrispell also gave the opinion that Grand Funk Railroad were the most popular live act of their time and said that the concerts were powerful.

Despite the massive dislike of the album by music critics, Live Album became very successful in the United States, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200 and crossed-over to the R&B Albums chart at #17—the band’s only album to do so. The album was so successful that it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America a week after its release and was eventually certified 2x multi-platinum in 1991. Live Album also became the group’s first and only release to make the top 40 on the UK Albums Chart, peaking at #29. Side 2, in particular, featured their two strongest airplay cuts “Heartbreaker” and “Inside Looking Out”. The barely hidden drug references on “Inside Looking Out” may have not won them favor at Top 40, but, it proved perfect for the new burgeoning FM band where the group also probably benefited from, oddly enough, R&B play taking the album to a prideful #17 on that chart.

GrandFunkRailroad02Personnel:
Don Brewer (drums, background vocals)
Mark Farner (guitar, vocals, harmonica)
Mel Schacher (bass, background vocals)

Booklet1Tracklist:
01. Introduction 2.30
02. Are You Ready (Farner) 3.34
03. Paranoid (Farner) 6.20
04. In Need (Farner) 9.50
05. Heartbreaker (Farner) 6.58
06. Inside Looking Out (J.Lomax/A.Lomax/Burdon/Chandler) 12.22
07. Words Of Wisdom (Farner) 0.55
08. Mean Mistreater (Farner) 4.40
09. Mark Says Alright (Farner/Brewer/Schacher) + T.N.U.C. (Farner) 16.47
10. Into The Sun (Farner) 12.10

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Either you love or you hate it. Live Album by Grand Funk Railroad was a smash when released and those who loved it played it to death. A hard rock phenomenon of the waning days of the Sixties, Grand Funk proved over and over that they were the live performing act of the time, and this album is a testament to their in-concert power. (by James Chrispell)