Grand Funk Railroad
August 26 - September 2, 2018
Year of Release: 1969
Are Your Ready
High On A Horse
Into The Sun
Call Yourself A Man
Can't Be Too Long
Ups And Down
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Grand Funk Railroad's debut album from 1969, On Time is this week's review, and GFR is one of those bands where you cannot just own a Best
Of/Greatest Hits compilation. Of course, there are compilations of them with unreleased tracks (most particularly, the B-side to their version of "The
Loco Motion," -- "Destitute And Losin'" found on their 2-disc anthology Thirty Years Of Funk.) However, their original albums are
worth looking into, because of their deep album tracks. How these cuts were never heavily played back when they were released. My guess is the fact that
these tracks were over four minutes in length, and on most stations, preferably AM stations, did not play these long versions. I'm sure some various
underground FM stations did, but those underground stations were mostly unheard, and were named as "pirate radio stations."
Deep album cuts are the best way of describing this debut by GFR. I had owned this album on vinyl, (actually, it was one of many vinyl albums that
my older brothers would pass along to me). "Are You Ready" was the leadoff track, and one song I vividly remember. A great rocking track, just
as another one, "Time Machine." (Again, how these songs got away from being huge hits (like "We're An American Band" and "The Loco
Motion" and even "Some Kind Of Wonderful" were overlooked.
As I listen decades later to this album, it's amazing that I, myself, didn't play this album regularly, back in my youth. And, playing some of
these tracks when I was DJ'ing shows in my room. ("Time Machine" was one of them, but there should have been more played.) "High On A Horse"
is just as great as "Time Machine." And as mentioned, the deep album tracks, such and "Ups And
Downs" were as exceptional.
T.N.U.C." is another classic, as with "Time Machine,"; but what confused me was while I was listening to this on CD, the drum solo
was clearly faded out throughout. Drummer Don Brewer had always been an exceptional drummer, and showcased his drum solos in their concerts. (I'd have
to dig out their live album, as they included this song there.) Maybe being the CD was a Japansese import, and as I looked on Amazon, I think this album
was never really reissued on CD, and given its remastered edition. However, most of their original albums are avaialble on CD at Amazon, and at affordable
"Heartbreaker" was another track I had remembered, and again, it's another great album track, and one of those songs that is more than four
minutes in length. Things wind down a bit (musically) with "Can't Be Too Long," and its done in a great way.
As I was growing up, Grand Funk Railroad's music was not in my collection as it should be. Sure, we all remember "We're An American Band,"
and their #1 remake of Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion" (produced by TOdd Rundgren). Other than On Time and their Live Album, I did
have, and a Best Of collection, I never really played their music alot, and never looked into their other original album releases. The B-side of "The
Loco-Motion," was "Destitute And Losin'" and if you've never heard it, it's a great song, and I had waited for years for it to get the CD
laser beam, on their 30-year anthology. Another huge FM hit that was heavily played (and I did have the original album it was from), was "I'm Your
Captain (Closer To Home)" (Closer To Home was the title of their 1970 album). Now that I look back, I can often wonder how those other lost
and deep album tracks there were on their other original albums I didn't have: Grand Funk (1969), Survival (1971), E Pluribus Funk
(1971), Phoenix (1972), We're An American Band (1973; produced by Todd Rundgren); I really thought that album reached #1, but it didn't.
Shinin' On (1974; also produced by Todd RUndgren), All The Girls In The World Beware (1974), Born To Die (1976), Good Singin,
Good Playin' (1976). The 1980s saw two studio albums: Grand Funk Lives (1981) and "What's Funk? 1983). They released 4 live albums:
Live Album (1970) (which I had), Caught In he Act (1975), Bosnia (1977), and Live: The 1971 Tour (later released in 2002).
Not counting the endless Best Of/Greatest Hits packages, I can only recommend their 30-year anthology, which includes unreleased tracks.
Another highlight to mention about Grand Funk Railroad, was back in the early 1980s, when rock bands were jumping on the Disco bandwagon, and recording
new songs with a Disco feel (The Rolling Stones' "Miss You" was one of them) -- bandmember Mark Farner told the press that they would never, ever,
jump on the Disco train. I had seen this on one of the music documentaries. Mark was furious about it; he felt that their music and style would never fit
Disco, and most likely would be a shame for the band, and their fans.
However by 1976, tensions would flare with the band, as they still recorded new albums, yet they didn't have any huge hits since 1974. Although
they were produced by Frank Zappa in 1976, there were no hits, and the band disbanded. Mark Farner pursued a solo career in the late 1970s, with two albums.
The other bandmembers formed the band called Flint (named after their hometown in Flint, Michigan). They recorded one album, and yet had plans for a second,
it was never released. GFR reunited in 1981, however, it was not the original members who would reunite. The original members were Mark Farner (guitar,
vocals), Don Brewer (drums, vocals) and Mel Schacher (bass). Craig Frost was the new bassist, but when they were to record again in 1981, Frost was
replaced by Debbis Bellinger. Farner, Brewer and Bellinger recorded two albums in the 1980s. After disbanding again in 1983, Farner continued as a Christian
artist, and Brewer joined Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band as their drummer. 1996 saw another reunion (original members) and played 14 shows in
three months. The result of these concerts, which included a full symphony orchestra, conducted by Paul Schaffer, resulted in a live album Bosnia.
The 2-disc concert also included Peter Frampton on guitar. Afterwards, Farner left to return to his solo career.
They were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. They have yet to be inducted in Cleveland's Rock Hall. Two years
passed, as two remaining members joined with .38 Special vocalist Max Carol, and former Kiss lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, and keyboardist Tim Cashion (Bob Seger,
Robert Palmer). They are performing concerts on Bob Seger's final tours, and when they were performing as the main event, their opening acts were Foghat
and Steppenwolf. For more info on their performances, click here.
As for the future, they are getting ready for their own 2019 "Half Century Of Grand Funk" Tour.
It's obvious that original lead singer Mark Farner is not with Grand Funk Railroad, and their concerts and touring. The current GFR lineup:
Don Brewer, Mel Schacher, Max Carol, Bruce Kulick, and Tim Cashion. Fans of GFR will be looking for him on their performances, and although it's not
the same with all the original members, their concerts have sold out, and has had positive reviews.
In looking at Mark Farner's solo career, he became a Christian artist, having a #2 Christian hit in 1991, "Isn't It Amazing." He also
released a Jesus version of "Some Kind Of Wonderful", as it was the title of his 1991 album. The 1990s decade saw him form LisMark Communications,
with editor Steve Lisuk. The LisMark label would release the reissues of his solo albums. In 1994 and 1995, he toured with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.
The band also included other greats, such as Randy Bachman (Guess Who/Bachman-Turner Overdrive), John Entistle (The Who), Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals),
BillY Preston, and Zak Starkey (Ringo's son). Farner currently tours with his band, N'rG, which plays a mix of GFR songs and his solo works. Farner also
has an interest in Native American ancestry, as he was honored with the Lakota Sioux Elders Honor Mark in 1999, and a Cherokee Medal of Honor by the Cherokee
Honor Society. Mark Farner's authorized biography, From Grand Funk to Grace was published in 2001. He has recorded a total of six solo/Christian
albums, from 1977 to 2006.
Farner had a pacemaker was installed on October 22, 2012. He had struggled with heart troubles for the past eight years. Maybe this is why he is not
touring with Grand Funk Railroad. A good reason, being healthy as a rock and roll star is important. We still remember Mark Farner as Grand Funk Railroad's
original lead singer. The upcoming tour should be a good one, as the lineup has great talent, being from great bands such as Kiss and .38 Special, Bob
Seger, and Robert Palmer.
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