Born To Die

Grand Funk Railroad

Capitol, 1976

http://www.grandfunkrailroad.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/12/2016

Boy, there’s a cheerful title, eh? Couple that with the album cover of the four band members in coffins and you’ve got a party!

This album is a far cry from “We’re An American Band,” “The Loco-Motion” and “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” the top hits from the band’s last three albums and the ones that brought them to a new audience. Despite the addition of Railroad back to the band’s name, the music still sounds shiny and well-produced, a far cry from the murky slog of, say, Grand Funk. But man, these songs…what happened, guys?

It appeared to be a confluence of things. Mark Farner’s cousin died in a motorcycle crash. The band was exhausted from recording and touring for so long. The hippie dream had obviously died many years prior and Farner’s words about togetherness and love seemed to be lost. There wasn’t much for the band to celebrate, and that angst informs the vast majority of the music here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, it’s not like this is a Black Sabbath record or anything; many of the songs are over five minutes, but the music is similar to what Grand Funk had been doing the last few years, albeit a bit slower paced. It’s the downcast, defeated lyrics that are such a change from the happy Michigan rockers everyone had come to know. You can look at the titles and guess what the songs are about: “Born To Die,” “Talk To The People,” “Politician” and “I Fell For Your Love.” The mournful, soulful sax solo that starts off “Talk To The People” shows promise, but the song doesn’t follow through as it should.

The highlights are “Take Me” and “Love Is Dyin’,” which inject some energy into things with solid guitar solos and Craig Frost’s keyboards, which turned out to be a necessary addition for this band. Also recommended is “Dues,” which captures GFR’s forgotten flair for the musically dramatic set to Farner’s cheerful apocalyptic lyrics: “I’m not stupid and I might be havin’ too much pride / Surgeon general has determined that I may as well die / Jesus are you watching or have you gone blind / Evil souls are upon us and we’re surely runnin’ out of time.” (Remember three years ago and “We’ll come into your town, we’ll help you party down?” Again, what happened?).

Some fans also enjoy “Genevieve,” but most will find the six-minute instrumental and fairly devoid of a point or musical resolution, although it sounds cool. “Sally” is fun too, the lone attempt at a hit single, but hardly up to the level of what has come before. And the rest, as mentioned, is a slow-to-midtempo trudge that even fans will have a hard time sitting through. If anything, it’s at least interesting to gauge Farner’s state of mind during this time and hear him bare his soul on record; there are no cringe-worthy lyrics, no real political calls to action, just a guy wondering what it’s all for and what’s worth living for.

The three main highlights are worth seeking out for Grand Funk fans or those who enjoy 1970s classic rock and want to dig deeper than the local radio station’s repetitive offerings. But the rest just isn’t up to par, betraying the band members’ exhaustion and states of mind, making this an interesting but highly flawed addition to GFR’s catalogue.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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