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)
BackCover1Tracklist:
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)

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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)