Wednesday, 14 September 2016

"Survival" by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD [feat Mark Farner] (2002 Capitol 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry

"…I Can't Get Along With Society…"

With three studio efforts - “On Time” and “Grand Funk” in 1969, “Closer To Home” and the double “Live Album” (both in 1970) under their Capitol Records belt – GRAND FUNK RAILROAD finally delivered what most feel was their best 'studio' album ever – “Survival” (credited simply as GRAND FUNK). It comes complete with the band literally looking like society outcasts and not-to-be-messed-with Neanderthals on the front cover. And with 5 cracking bonus tracks actually worthy of inclusion – this cheap-as-chips CD remaster is a fantastic way into this most American of Rock bands. Here are the cave men details…

Released November 2002 – "Survival" by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD on Capitol 5417252 (Barcode 724354172526) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and breaks down as follows (73:14 minutes):

1. Country Road
2. All You’ve Got Is Money
3. Comfort Me
4. Feelin' Alright
5. I Want Freedom [Side 2]
6. I Can Feel Him In The Morning
7. Gimme Shelter
Tracks 1 to 7 are their 5th album “Survival” – released April 1971 in the USA on Capitol SW 764 and June 1971 in the UK on Capitol E-SW 764
BONUS TRACKS (all Previously Unreleased):
8. I Can’t Get Along With Society (2002 Remix)
9. Jam (Footstompin’ Music)
10. Country Road (Unedited Original Version)
11. All You’ve Got Is Money (Unedited Original Version)
12. Feelin’ Alright (Unedited Original Version)

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.

“All You’ve Got Is Money” sounds like Ten Years After unleashed and wild. Once again it’s rough and raw production is the song’s making – this is gritty unapologetic American Rock and is very much the better for it. The remaster lifts up the great duet vocals between Mark Farner and Don Brewer on the near seven-minute ”Comfort” (even if it is hissy) – an unusually ‘soft and melodic’ song in many ways for GFR and one of Side One’s highlights. We hit the album’s first single – their cover of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” (Capitol Records 3095 in April 1971 – reached No. 54). Written by Dave Mason – its staggering Soulful-Rock crossover potential was spotted almost instantly and covered by a slew of huge artists in a very short period of time – Joe Cocker, David Ruffin, Lulu, Rare Earth, Three Dog Night, The Chairmen Of The Board and even Jazzers Hubert Laws and Wade Marcus all had a go. Grand Funk start the song out slow but build into that fantastic groove with Don Brewer’s drums shining throughout.

The near two-minutes of in-studio pissing about at the beginning of the Side 2 opener “I Want Freedom” sounded cool back in the day but irritates now. Better is when the actual song kicks in with Farner’s keyboards to the fore and that cross-speaker drum thing at the end sounding just great. “If you’re bad…you’ll die when you die…” echoes after children explain God and what it means to be ‘good’ at the beginning of “I Can Feel Him In The Morning”. It’s a fabulously over-the-top track but next to their wild finisher – one of my favourites. Speaking of which – their fuzzy-up manic guitar version of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” is Grand Funk Railroad” in full sway – boogieing like mad men – to hell with the critics – damn the musical torpedoes.

But what puts this CD into special is the quality of the Bonus Material. “I’ll tell you mister you’d better watch your mouth or you’ll get busted by the police…” Farner sings on the Alternate Mix of the censorship song “I Can’t get Along With Society” which features a more prevalent upfront guitar. “Jam (Footstompin’ Music)” is an early version (they re-recorded it for the “E Pluribus Funk” album in late 1971) and it’s a five-minute fast boogie with a driving Bass line. But the real prizes for fans are three-in-a-row newly reassembled 2002 mixes. First up is “Country Road” which restores the 2nd verse, middle eight and a Guitar solo edited out of the released version (now runs to 7:38 minutes). “All You’ve Got Is Money restores a Guitar solo, harmonica parts and several extra verses pushing the tune to nearly eight and half minutes. The “Feelin’ Alright” extended versions restores the third verse and features an Alternate Vocal on the first verse (it now stretches to just under six minutes).

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 reissue – it’s easy to hear why…

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