On Time

Grand Funk Railroad

Capitol Records, 1969


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If it wasn't for my aunt playing Grand Funk's 1973 watershed album We're An American Band around me when I was about six years old, chances are I wouldn't have found the desire when I was in high school to acquire as many albums of this band as possible. While Mark Farner and crew were hardly one-hit wonders, sometimes I wonder what caused people to look at this band in the late '60s-early '70s as the next big thing.

Their debut album, On Time, shows occasional flashes of brilliance, but not nearly enough to suggest to me, some 30 years since its release, that this trio was going to make a big splash on the music scene. It also didn't suggest that the band would suffer from an identity crisis for some time; they'd be known as "Grand Funk Railroad" and "Grand Funk" for some time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This particular album might be best remembered for the song "Heartbreaker," which became one of the earliest hits for Grand Funk Railroad. The 3/4-time tempo creates almost a rock waltz, with the harmony vocals of drummer Don Brewer and guitarist/keyboardist Farner lighting up the track. These days, it sounds a little dated, but I can still hear some of the magic that powered this track when it first hit the airwaves.

Bassist Mel Schacher could well be the sole bright spot throughout the course of this album, weaving his way through intricate bass lines like it was second nature to him. One of the better tracks on On Time, "Are You Ready," gives Schacher the chance to demonstrate his skill, and he does so without seeming like he was showing off on the bass. Other tracks that stand out on this album include "Time Machine" and "Into The Sun".

Unfortunately, the passage of time has not been kind to the bulk of On Time. Tracks like "Anybody's Answer," "Call Yourself A Man" and "Ups And Downs" all show too many signs of age, and are more nostalgia than cutting-edge rock today. The songwriting seemed to weaken as the album progressed, even to the point of going to a bridge of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" - good grief!

Another sign of age that is embarassingly present on this album is the extended drum solo of "T.N.U.C." (Gee, wonder what that spells backwards?) It's one thing if a drummer really has the skills to make their entire kit come alive, a la Neil Peart. It's another thing when a drummer like Brewer turns a solo opportunity into so much "whack-whack-whack" patterns on the snare, one tom-tom and a cymbal. "T.N.U.C." would have been better named "T.U.M.S."

Granted, On Time was a debut effort, and usually I'm a little more understanding with a band's first try. But the hype that was built up around Grand Funk Railroad in their early days (which, admittedly, I wasn't even alive for a lot of) makes me still expect to be blown out of my shoes when the needle hits the vinyl of this record. Sadly, that didn't happen often enough.

On Time is not a common album to lay your hands on these days (though it is available on CD), but unless you're someone who just absolutely has to own every disc by a band you're into, you'd be best off sticking with the greatest hits compilations.

Rating: C-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.