Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Grand Funk Railroad - Live Album

This first live album from GFRR was actually credited to simply Grand Funk on the front cover, as they did on their Red Album, for some unknown reason (unknown to me, anyway). This is the power trio at their rawest and wildest, with numbers from their first few records, before they became a slick hard-rock band with added keyboard. Here the three men - Mark, Don & Mel - appear in all their natural glory with no overdubs or editing, just pure energy with incredible audience reactions.

Their is a relatively long introduction from a sound man who is trying to calm the crowd down and keep them from crushing each other before the group slams into their high-octane "Are You Ready" - this is Detroit high energy as much as the Stooges, MC5 or any of the rest! Hardly stopping for a breath, "Paranoid" crunches out next - you just gotta love Mark overdriven, fuzz-and-wah-wah-drenched guitar tone! Obviously a huge influence on the grunge sound, as well as any trash rocker to follow. After more exaltations to the audience they move into "In Need", Mark's ode to false friends, with Mel's fuzz-bass moving to the forefront as Mark takes a harp solo and then a psychotic, screaming guitar lead and an insane, rave-up ending! A fine reading of one of my faves, the minor-chord, moody "Heartbreaker" (no relation to anyone else's song of the same name) with yet another crazed, ravin' ending.

Mark's "Words of Wisdom" is an anti-drug warning before they move into the quiet ballad "Mean Mistreater", with Farner on electric piano. Brewer's drums introduce "Mark Say's [sic] Alright" - basically an instrumental jam, but a rockin' one! Ending with ear-splitting squeals of feedback, then then hit on Don's drum solo number, "T.N.U.C.", which I named my GFRR cover band after! Drums solos were mandatory at the time and this is a good one, but still, kinda tedious after a bit. There's no let-up as they do their amazing take on "Inside Looking Out" (previously probably best known from the Animals' version). This is another extended jam, but with enough different sections that it remains interesting - and loudly, noisily rockin'! The proceedings close with their classic epic "Into the Sun", another extended version - this took up the entire final side of the 2-LP vinyl set - that maintains its bite and zeal throughout, with the crowd going crazy.

This 1970 release came towards the beginning of the classic live album sets and this one is right up there with Kick Out the Jams and Black Oak Arkansas' Raunch'n'Roll as one of the most excellently over-the-top noise-fests - wonderfully loose and almost sloppy (in a fantastic way) and not afraid to shriek at you from time to time. This might even be one of those times that a live record could be a good introduction to a band. Seek it out one way or another!