Friday, October 10, 2008

Grand Funk Railroad Live, the 1971 Tour

Man, what a CD! These cats made their name by doing live gigs and this is a wildly powerful, high-energy testament to their talents!

I’ve raved about their first two albums previously and a number of these songs are from those records, so you can see how much I love the tunes themselves. But these live recordings are even more intense – heavier, louder, faster (in some cases) that the fantastic studio versions. The sound is pretty amazing, as well, due to the fact that these shows were recorded in preparation for the live album that they released at the time. Because they recorded live in the studio for much of those first few albums these arrangements are not super different, but you can tell that they are playing off of their adoring audiences!

Opening with “Are You Ready” (first song off of their first record) at a breakneck speed, you know that these guys are at their peak and are having a blast! A perfect opener! One of my favorite songs is their jam, “Footstompin’ Music”, which shows off Mark Farner’s skills on the organ – really cool, funky groove – which he plays almost simultaneously with the guitar! Very hip!

Their own “Paranoid” (nothing to do with Black Sabbath’s tune) is rocked up and sped up as Mark trades vocals with drummer Don Brewer before kicking into a fuzz and wah-wah drenched guitar rave up! One song that does vary from the studio version is “I’m You’re Captain/Closer to Home/Hooked on Love/Get it Together”, just because they don’t have the strings and studio effects. Mark & Don sing together in super harmony throughout while Mel Schacher’s bass playing is phenomenal. Nice keyboards at the end of this, as well – Mark could easily have been an organ player in any band at the time – a talented dude!

The salacious “T.N.U.C.” is just impossibly rockin’ here – so fast and high-energy that you can’t keep still! I’m not thrilled about drum solos in general, but the “song” part of this is terrific! The drum solo does kinda plod on, unfortunately. I’m sure it was fine in a live setting, but on record, it’s a bit dull…

GFR “steals” from the Animals for their take on “Inside Looking Out”, but totally make it their own and make it an ode to marijuana, as well! Mark even dedicates this to “everyone who smokes marijuana”! Kind of an easy sell at one of their concerts! The solo/jam on this one is quite varied from the studio take, though they also go back to the touchstones of the song. Mark can truly make some beautiful noise with his guitar! Creative and excellent r’n’r!

For the encore they do “our generation’s national anthem” (?), “Gimme Shelter”. A fantastic song that Don sings with an incredible intensity – GFRR damn near create punk’n’roll with this version. Definitely wilder than the Stones’ also-great original!

Before the last encore, the announcer has to beg for the return of Mark’s fuzz/wah pedal that someone stole! He claims they will get it back after the show! Don’t know if that actually happened, but pretty damn funny and the audience member does give it back. I know how that is – I had a rare pedal stolen from stage but it was never returned (but I never offered to let anyone keep it, either).

Anyway, one of my all-time fave songs finishes the set – “Into the Sun”. I rant about this in the other review, but this is a hyper-speed version – they are ready to rock! The bulk of the song follows the studio arrangement but then they move into a locomotive-driven jam at the end. Superb rave-up and a perfect ending for the set!

Any fan of wild, Detroit-energy, punk’n’roll should get this great document of a crazed r’n’r band at their height!