Bosnia

Grand Funk Railroad

Capitol, 1997

http://www.grandfunkrailroad.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/22/2016

Although recorded for a good cause and seemingly a prelude to a comeback for the band after 14 years, Bosnia turns out to be the worst kind of live release – one that simply trots out all of the band's hits with little interest in expanding on them.

Across two CDs, the reunited trio (they didn't bother bringing back keyboard player Craig Frost, who helped this band to commercial glory after their early ‘70s doldrums) plays every single one of its hits, plus a handful of album tracks from their first four albums. Only "To Get Back In" is any kind of surprise, a deep cut from Shinin' On, and the medley of forgotten early cuts "Paranoid," "Sin's A Good Man's Brother," and "Mr. Limousine Driver" will be a treat for longtime fans.

But this disc isn't really aimed at longtime fans, even though that group is the only one who will be interested in a double live reunion disc at this point, which is kind of funny. On any classic rock station in America, especially in the Midwest, you can hear many of these songs every day. Seeing them played live with little improvisation or expansion on what they could achieve makes this concert unnecessary regardless of your fandom level. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Live Album and Caught In The Act are the two official GFR live discs and tell you what you need to know about these guys live; with the repetition between Bosnia and those two, there's almost no need for this to exist on a musical level.

Now, if ever there was a reason in 1997 to reunite, it was the crisis in Bosnia, and the proceeds from this show in Auburn Hills, plus CD sales, went to aid in the war-torn country. Given that Grand Funk was not shy about political stances – even if they were generalized – this is not out of character and is in fact admirable. Certainly, the band's fans were happy to see them play the songs they have loved for years and years, which come one after another: "Footstompin' Music," "We're An American Band," "The Loco-Motion," and a version of "Time Machine" with special guest Peter Frampton on guitar.

Frampton is only one of the special guests; Bob Seger's sax player Alto Reed shows up and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra plays, conducted by Paul Shaffer (formerly of the David Letterman show). The first disc is the power trio with the occasional guest appearance; the second brings on the orchestra, which adds additional instrumentation to "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home," "Bad Time," "Mean Mistreater," and "Some Kind Of Wonderful," though no live version of this song has yet to better the studio take. The show closes with "Loneliness," a forgotten epic from E Pluribus Funk that talks about population control and a glorious land and other hippe-type stuff that sounds goofy coming from three guys from General Motors-heavy, blue-collar Flint, Michigan. 

The band is as tight as ever, although perhaps a bit lacking in energy 27 years on from Live Album. Even if the songs aren't that different from the way they've always been played, the guys take an obvious delight in rocking through their early catalog. "T.N.U.C." is as good as the Caught In The Act version and "Aimless Lady" gets new life with a punched-up guitar figure that brings out a sort of desperation in the song.

Mark Farner seemed to get more press for his lyrics and interviews than his guitar playing, which is a shame. He is rock-solid all night long, particularly on the "Paranoid" medley and concert favorite "Inside Looking Out." But again, the audience for this disc is pretty slim. Longtime fans know there are better versions of these songs elsewhere, and casual fans only need one of the hits collections (the Capitol Collectors Series remains the best). Bosnia is a fine idea that no longer really needs to exist.

Rating: C+

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