We're An American Band

Grand Funk

Capitol Records, 1973

http://www.grandfunkrailroad.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/15/1997

A few months ago, Grand Funk graced these pages - and I promptly ripped their release E Pluribus Unum to shreds.

Two albums later, less one overbearing manager and plus one keyboardist in the person of Craig Frost, Grand Funk released We're An American Band, undoubtedly their strongest album of their career. How this band could do such an about-face in less than two years is amazing.

Now, I admit a touch of bias here. When I was growing up, an aunt of mine had this album and listened to it a lot when I was at my grandmother's house. When she moved out, she let me pick through her record collection, and I promptly snagged this one. It's not in too good of shape anymore - the title track skips way too much - but its essence is there.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Mark Farner and company get a helping hand in the form of one Todd Rundgren. Rundgren does more than produce the band here; he revives them. The overall sound is vastly improved, and the addition of Frost on keyboards injects some new blood into the sound. No more just a noodling of guitar, bass and drums, the sound is much fuller.

Likewise, the songwriting is vastly improved. Songs like "Creepin'", one of the "long" tracks that normally tend to get on the listener's nerves, seem to fly past. The bluesy feel of this one locks you into a groove that refuses to let go. Similarly, "Stop Lookin' Back" shows off Don Brewer's drum work, especially the ending flourish. I especially liked the slight echo on the vocals.

There are two well-known tracks on We're An American Band. The lesser-known, "Walk Like A Man," is an okay track, but tends to be one of the only two weak performances on the album. I just don't think there was enough attention paid to this one; it could have been developed into a much stronger track. The title track, on the other hand, is one of the songs that will forever define '70s rock. Maybe Frosts's keyboards could have risen past the "dit-dit-dit" rhythm in the chorus, but the song is well written and performed. Farner's guitar solo is simply electrifying.

No, I haven't forgotten about Mel Schacher; it's just that his bass work, with the exception of on "Black Licorice", tends to play a lesser role in the songs. This is okay; maybe Schacher saw his role on this album to be an anchor to the rhythm section. Whatever... it works.

The only other weak performance here is the closing track, "Loneliest Rider," which seems to take itself a little too seriously. Its portrayal of the American Indian is decent enough - though I can't think of any song with this theme that stands out as awesome in my mind - but, like "Walk Like A Man," needed a little more development.

We're An American Band is almost 25 years old, but it doesn't sound like it's aged a day. Grand Funk definitely hit the high point of their career with this album, and is one that belongs in every true rock fan's collection - in my case, with my almost worn-out copy, it may be time to update it to CD.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.