Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Grand Funk Railroad - On Time and Grand Funk (the Red Album)

Long before they were boasting of being an American band, and way before they starting doing the loco-motion, GFRR was one of the wildest, craziest, noisiest bands to come out of Detroit. They could hold their own along with the other motor-city maniacs from the time, like the MC5, Stooges, Alice Cooper, the Amboy Dukes, etc, etc…. their fuzz-drenched wall of sound influenced many, many bands to come and was certainly the basis for the 90’s Seattle “grunge” sound.

Their first album – On Time – is by far one of their best and certainly one of the most over-the-top r’n’r albums ever released! “Are You Ready” is more of a demand that a question and it practically knocks you over when it leaps out of the speakers at you! Loud, fast, raw and obviously recorded live in the studio (there are only a few overdubs on the whole record), they sound pissed, but they also sound like rock’n’roll is their lives.

There are lots of cool tunes on this record, and it also contains some of their most timeless and best known songs of their early years. TNUC (spell it backwards) isn’t one of the best, but it was Don’s drum solo song and the title is funny as hell, and I even used it as the name of my GFRR cover band!

But then there is the incomparable “Into The Sun’. Nice, melodic intro followed by a power-chord riff, and away we go! Super catchy, high-energy song, bitchin’ wah-wah lick into a noisy, fuzzed-out lead. Everything about this song is great!

From there is right into “Heartbreaker” – yes, the title has been used many, many times since then, but it’s a helluva song, anyway! Mark sounds truly melancholy as he sings this. Several parts to this song, also, and at the end there is a rave-up with positively massive fuzz-chords – too good!

The second album, titled (for some strange reason) Grand Funk, is widely known as the “red album” for obvious reasons. This record came out within months of the first one and sounds as if it could have been recorded at the same time – certainly not a bad thing!

It opens with the blockbuster “Got This Thing On The Move” – starting with a power chord riff moving into dueling guitar and bass lines, this is another classic opener! A cool breakdown with Mark’s soulful singing over the bass & drum lick goes into another change for the solo! It all makes sense as it goes along and it all rocks!

I think there may be a little more variety on this record – even though it is extremely intense all the way through – with tunes like “Please Don’t Worry”, “High Falootin’ Woman” and the hilarious “Mr Limousine Driver” in which Mark begs his driver to “let her in the door and don’t look back her no more cuz she says she loves me and that’s a fact”! Pretty much epitomizes early 70’s rockers!

Man, so much great stuff on here! “In Need” talks of Mark realizing that some old “friends” only care about his money, not about him. “Winter and My Soul” is a moody rocker with a cool groove. All the melancholy is blasted away by the ultra-heavy opening chords of “Paranoid” – the grunge bands all WISH that they could’ve created a sound like this!

The album culminates in a fantastic version of the blues tune “Inside Looking Out”, with a minor lyric change for the fans – “spending my time making up nickel bags”! Really superb jam – this one song was their entire set on a 1970 TV showing of a Cincinatti Rock Fest – and a high-energy ending for a terrific record!

People who have only heard the hits have no concept of what these cats were capable of! Anyone who loves high-energy, heavy r’n’r needs these records!


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