Grand Funk Railroad

Capitol, 1971

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Coming off the success of the very good Closer To Home and Live album, Grand Funk Railroad entered the studio without a plan and without much new material. The result is a dull mess of an album that ranks as the weakest of the original trio’s output.

Exhaustion was surely a factor, but so was the death of the hippie dream and the need for something new. As such, the seven songs here are as follows: two covers, two songs about God, two yearning for simple comforts and a grumpy song of betrayal and fake people. It’s the most personal Mark Farner had ever been on record to that point, which is about the only thing that makes the record interesting.

The covers of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” and the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” are fine, never touching the originals but filling the space. Tellingly, these are the only two songs that ever make hits compilations, even if they never rise above bar band cover status. There is nothing dramatic like “Closer To Home,” nothing along the lines of “Inside Looking Out” or “Mean Mistreater,” and nothing resembling later rock stomps like “Footstompin’ Music” or “Some Kind Of Wonderful.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other five songs are padded with extended, simple jams and other ephemera to fill the space. “I Can Feel Him In The Morning,” one of the religious paeans, starts with a minute and a half of little kids talking about their views on God, while “I Want Freedom” begins with almost two minutes of false starts and studio chatter. The closing section of “All You’ve Got Is Money” is a slow bluesy jam with some decent soloing and, for no reason, background screaming that goes on and on and ruins your mood. It fits the theme of the song, though, which rails against those who only pretend to be your friend or care about you as a person just so they can consistently ask for money.

Being blue-collar Flint boys from the same mold as MC5 and the Stooges, if hardly as revolutionary or shocking, Grand Funk can bring the hard rock as well as anyone. Yet the simple riff of “Country Road,” the forgettable “I Want Freedom” and “Comfort Me” never rise to the occasion of past or future heights, seeming instead like simple studio jams concocted to fill time and meet a recording obligation. Sure, it’s played well and the recording is slightly better than the waterlogged first three albums, but it’s in service of mostly plodding, repetitive music.

Farner’s lyrics, aside from “Money,” seem to focus less on the universal (stop the war, love your brother) and more on the personal, whether he is yearning for God or asking for simple creature comforts like country life, freedom and peace. It’s legitimate fodder for a thoughtful album and a lyrical bent that artists like the Eagles, Jackson Browne and James Taylor would take up in the next couple of years. But the music does not keep pace, so it’s difficult to recommend to all but the most ardent Grand Funk fans.

This is one of those forgotten albums between Closer To Home and We’re An American Band, and with good reason. The two covers are available on a decent hits collection, so there’s really no reason to revisit this one.

Rating: D+

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