Live Album

Grand Funk Railroad

Capitol, 1970

http://www.grandfunkrailroad.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/27/2014

The bulk of Grand Funk Railroad’s catalog has not aged well, but there are two truths that remain about this Michigan-based power trio. One, they put on a heck of a live show, a ferocious, energetic foot-stomping performance. Two, their best singles and songs surge with hard rock heat, especially from “Closer To Home” through the end of the band’s heyday in 1975 with “Bad Time.”

Casual fans, then, may not be terribly interested in Live Album, the band’s first such album that captured their terrific live show. Although released after Closer To Home, it draws almost exclusively from the first two albums, with only “Mean Mistreater” making it from the new platter and a new song to round things out.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Those first two albums are full of extended, fairly simple blues-based jams and muddy production, and Live Album replicates both of those, making the songs even longer and offering little in the way of sonic variety. Caught In The Act, the band’s live show from 1975, captured a band at its songwriting and popularity peak, and the difference is astounding, so that would be a better place to start for the curious.

Despite the underdeveloped songwriting and reliance on jams, though, Live Album is not half bad and was beloved by fans upon its release. The songs tend to improve on their studio counterparts through sheer energy and kinetic force; one can almost feel the sweat and envision Mark Farner with his bell bottoms wringing his guitar for all it’s worth on songs like “Paranoid,” “Inside Looking Out” and the closing “Into The Sun.”

The live take on “Mean Mistreater” showed the band’s range and is preferred to the studio version, arriving in the middle as a welcome relief from the onslaught. “Are You Ready” is a simple, catchy little number that starts the show” and “T.N.U.C.” is a rock-solid tune with an annoying, unnecessary drum solo that probably only existed to give Farner a break. “Heartbreaker” actually suffers a bit in this arena rock setting but “Mark Says Alright” is great, with a slightly funky (imagine!) rubberband bass riff anchoring this instrumental jam (it never appeared on an album, by the way).

Those who love Grand Funk probably have this album, and for those exploring the group’s early days…well, best of luck to you, but this is not a bad place to start, certainly more energetic and even less sophisticated than the early studio albums. It’s exactly the ‘70s live album one would expect from a sweaty blue-collar hard rock band from the industrial automotive sector of Michigan, no more, no less.

Rating: B-

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