Saturday, 13 November 2010

Grand Funk Railroad - Inside Looking Out 1969

Grand Funk Railroad were formed in 1968 to offer an exciting fusion of boogie and soul. 1969 saw the advent of "hard-rock" and their no-nonsense tyle fit perfectly that phenomenon. Just like Led Zeppelin in Bretain, the secret of GFR was to remove any intellectual content and artistic digression from the blues-rock stew, and focus on the riffs and the grooves. Their "blue collar" attitude allowed them to reach out to a crowd that had been traditionally neglected by rock music of the 1960s. That of Grand Funk Railroad was the first great myth of heavy metal.

The band was founded by members of Terry Knight & Pack, who realized two albums and one hit (I Who Have Nothing, 1966). Its singer and guitar player Mark Farner and drummer Don Brewer formed Grand Funk Railroad with bass player Mel Schacher (formerly in Question And The Mysterias).

Technically, this power-trio was by far less talented than Cream and Jimi Hendrix’ Experience. But media had the "fault" of their success, since they heavily tried bring them down (because of their vulgar and rude music that was considered a reaction to the idealism of Woodstock), in a period were youngster fell in love with everything boycotted. So GFR became the biggest attraction of rock ‘n’ roll, even if radios always refused to propose their millionaire hits (on the contrary they use this factor to publicize their "persecution"). Farner wrote quite all their music, but their manager, Terry Knight, was equally important.

Like Led Zeppelin, their success was measured in albums, while few singles were proposed and none of them reached the top of the charts. Their most famous songs are Heartbreaker and Time Machine from On Time (Capitol, 1969), Mr. Limousine Driver from Grand Funk (Capitol, 1970), Closer To Home from Closer To Home (Capitol, 1970). When they recorded Survival (Capitol, 1971) their automatisms were perfect.

E Pluribus Funk (Capitol, 1971) was probably their quintessential album of their career, full of impetuous anthems (Footstomping Music) and political songs (Stop The War, Save The Land). Apart from their sound volume, Their intense boogie-soul never went beyond riff and elementary melodies.

Their success went on even when, in 1972, the band fired Knight and recruited a keyboardist, Craig Frost. Phoenix (1973), with Rock And Roll Soul, We're An American Band (1973), All The Girls In The World Beware (1974), Shinin' On (1974), Born To Die (1975) e Good Singin' Good Playin' (1976) still climbed the charts, even if GFR were continuously recycling their plain riffs and never going beyond the trivial refrain of We're An American Band, until they fell in he affected soul of Some Kind Of Wonderful (1974) and Bad Time (1975).

The band sold over twenty millions of records in only six years; in 1971 they broke the record of tickets in a tour (they sold more tickets in three days than the Beatles did) and generally they were a point of reference of all the future heavy metal bands.

30 Years of Funk (Capitol) is a very good anthology.

Farner recorded two soloist albums, Mark Farner (Atlantic, 1977) e No Frills (Atlantic, 1978), then he tried to re-found the band until he retired from music after he converted to religion. Other band members joined Bob Seger’s band.

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