Wednesday, 14 September 2016

"Grand Funk" by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD [featuring Mark Farner] (2002 Capitol 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"…Inside Looking Out…"

With their debut “On Time” released only months earlier in August 1969 (a slow burner that eventually charted in October and rose to Number 27) – their second platter simply called "Grand Funk" followed only months later at the tail end of December 1969 – days away from the beginning of the new decade. Capitol Records saw their investment in Michigan’s finest deliver a Number 11 placing on the Rock LP charts – and hearing its heavier than lead-piping tunes in 2015 (a mere 45 years after the event) - it’s easy to hear why ”Grand Funk” with its garish 'red' cover was both lauded and derided in equal measure (much like the band itself really in certain quarters). But I’d argue if you want gutsy Hard Rockling American Rock ‘n’ Roll – then there’s a lot to love about GRAND FUNK RAILROAD. And featuring two rather excellent Bonus Tracks with sympathetic 24-bit Digital Remastering - this still-as-cheap-as-chips CD remaster is a fantastic way into this most American of Boogie bands. Here are the hard-hitting details…

Released November 2002 – "Grand Funk" by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD on Capitol 5393812 (Barcode 724353938123) is an ‘Expanded Edition’ and plays out as follows (59:46 minutes):

1. Got This Feeling On The Move
2. Please Don’t Worry
3. High Falootin’ Woman
4. Mr. Limousine Driver
5. In Need [Side 2]
6. Winter And My Soul
7. Paranoid
8. Inside Looking Out
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 2nd album "Grand Funk" – released January 1970 in the USA on Capitol SW 406 and February 1970 in the UK on Capitol E-ST 307

BONUS TRACKS (both Previously Unreleased):
9. Nothing is The Same (Demo)
10. Mr. Limousine Driver (Extended Version)
Track 9 (along with most of the album) was recorded on 20 October 1969 and is an early attempt at a song that would eventually surface on their 3rd LP “Closer To Home” in June of 1970. This early-take features a different arrangement and Don Brewer on vocals in the middle section.
Track 10 is a 2002 Remix with Alternate Guitar and an Extended Ending

The 12-page booklet is a rather visually pleasing affair – a centre-page spread of Ticket Stubs, Fillmore East Posters and Hand Flyers, uber rare Japanese 7” Single Picture Sleeves and even Studio Track Sheets. Beneath the see-through plastic tray is a picture of their 2nd-only British 45 for “Inside Looking Out” in its Capitol Records label bag. It was belatedly released in good old Blighty in January 1971 on Capitol CL 15668 with “Paranoid” as its B-side (I believe it played at 33 1/3 because of its lengthy playing time). The informative, witty and affectionate liner notes are by STEVE ROESER feature interviews with the band’s main men MARK FARNER (who wrote all the songs) and DON BREWER.

GRAND FUNK were:
MARK FARNER – Guitar, Piano, Harmonica & Vocals
DON BREWER – Drums And Vocals
MEL SCHACHER - Bass

The CD remaster on all of their early albums was always going to be tricky – notoriously recorded with no sense of audiophile – but every sense of 'how it feels'. This is down 'n' dirty American Rock with hiss levels that takes no prisoners. EVREN GOKNAR has 24-bit remastered from original tapes and while the hiss is still there – he’s given more muscle to the overall sound. These tracks come at you with renewed power – not dampened down – but allowed to breath. The all-over-the-place vocals are there – as are the guitar/drum combos – and keyboard interludes – but with more punch. It’s well done.

It opens with the “baby let the good times roll” of “Got This Thing On The Move” – a funky groover with a huge Bass Line and fuzzed-up guitar. Things slink into Free territory with “Please Don’t Worry” with Brewer’s cymbals and drum kit way up in the mix. Capitol put out the double-boogie-commercial “High Falootin’ Woman” as the flip of the equally catchy “Mr. Limousine Driver” on Capitol 2691 in November 1969 – weeks before the album’s late December release (it scraped the Top 100 at Number 97). The audio on both tracks is wickedly good even if the solo guitar separation on “Mr. Limousine Driver” is pretty harsh.

The near 8-minute “In Need” has always been a fave of mine sounding not unlike the Faces circa “Long Player” (dig that natty little Harmonica/Bass battle half way through followed by great grunge guitar). The Funksters get a bit Bluesy on “Winter And My Soul” – even if the vocals let the vocal down somewhat. Another near 8-minute chugger comes in the shape of “Paranoid” where our boys notice “men outside...come to take you away...” (and with the amount of drugs they were doing – that was probably true). It ends on the 10-minute monster “Inside Looking Out” which features the best vocal on the album.

The Bonus Material may seem lean at only two cuts – but they’re both worth owning. “Nothing is The Same” is an early version of a track that would eventually surface on album No. 2 “Close To Home” in June 1970. Audio and structure-wise it feels pretty much the same as the album material – guitars harshly in the left while the drums and vocals linger on the right and centre. The extended “Mr. Limousine Driver” adds on another minute at 5:29 duration and sounds incredible – much cleaner and just as driving with that great guitar boogie in the left channel. That same guitar goes into wild soloing towards the run out...

So there you have it. "Grand Funk" won’t be everyone’s cup of Darjeeling for damn sure but that’s the nature of 'awkward' bands. Derided by critics and beloved by fans in equal measure – Grand Funk Railroad were huge back in the day – and on the evidence of this cool little reissue – it’s easy to hear why…

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