Crashing out of Flint, Michigan in the late 1960s the original group, named after the Grand Trunk Western Railroad railway line, were the ultimate power trio with Mark Farner (guitar, vocals) Don Brewer (drums, vocals and Mel Schacher (bass) giving the Cream template an American slant. They wowed unsuspecting crowds at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 and made their debut that same year, selling over a million copies of the aptly titled On Time. Working with producer and manager Terry Knight the trio kicked ass on ‘T.N.U.C’, the anthemic ‘Can’t Be Too Long’ and the psyche extravaganza ‘Into the Sun’. The second album, Grand Funk (also 1969) pushed even further on the hits ‘Mr. Limousine Driver’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ and the proto-grunge ‘Paranoid’ as well as their take on the Animals’ ‘Inside Looking Out;, which became a regular showstopper. This rocktabulous disc is now available as Grand Funk Remasters: Grand Funk; also look out Grand Funk Remasters: Live Album (1970) which captures the Railroad on the way to double platinum status in front of a baying Florida crowd who get the full raw power of the event.
Survival and E Pluribus Funk positioned GFR at the heart of the album to radio movement as listeners demanded to hear the likes of ‘Footstompin' Music’ and their gear crunching take on the Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’. E Pluribus Funk was notable for being released in a circular sleeve to reflect the coin-like design of the artwork. With bonus tracks to bolster these releases we believe this era represents the Railroad during their first peak. At this time they beat the Beatles’ previous record for ticket sales at Shea Stadium by selling all 65,000 places in two days.
For Phoenix the band parted company with Knight (this would become a source of constant litigation over the years) and bossed the deal from within. Mark Farner now took over all writing controls and added keyboards player Craig Frost as well as Doug Kershaw’s electric fiddle. Yet again the critics panned them but their audience remained loyal ensuring that the single ‘Rock & Roll Soul’ was a hit. Suddenly there was a change in the air and We’re An American Band (1973 got grudgingly good notices for once! Produced with his usual sonic eccentricity by Todd Rundgren, his input was vital in recognising that Don Brewer had the soul rock chops to tackle the title track and the strutting ‘Walk Like a Man’. A polished, contemporary sound was enhanced by Farner’s electric piano on the excellent ‘Creepin’’ and clever use of acoustic instruments. There was even a Quadraphonic 8-Track Cartridge available for techno-savvy truckers. The modern age had arrived in Funkville! Whatever, the formula worked fine and Todd stuck around to oversee Shinin’ On which is graced by the number one hit ‘The Loco Motion’ (on which Rundgren plays guitar), and Kylie Minogue still in Mary Janes.
All The Girls in the World Beware!!! (also 1974) saw Jimmy Ienner bringing his brand of pop expertise to thecontrols and he added string and horn arrangements to flesh out the in yer face rock antics and muscular riffs.
A second on the boards riot - Caught in the Act (1975) does what the title promises and is one of the overlooked great live albums that we’re proud to draw to your attention now. The dark Born to Die finds the Railroad turning their attention to mortality and politics, not always subjects associated with them, and yet Farner is a more than decent lyricist as the previous eight top ten albums in a row will testify.
It doesn’t end there either. The live Bosnia (1997) is a benefit album recorded in their native Michigan that reunites the original group and features guests Peter Frampton and Todd Rundgren on guitars as well as the Michigan Symphony Orchestra on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Overture’. This is a double-disc of Funk pomp and circumstance and nigh on 100 minutes of excellence.
Live: The 1971 Tour is another beauty culled from various East Coast shows that were left in the can until someone fortuitously discovered the masters. By now critical opinion had swung round in Grand Funk’s favour and this is recommended. We also have superb compilations. Thirty Years of Funk: 1969-1999 – The Anthology is a triple-CD box set which cherry picks the tried and trusted and finds space for a few new recordings and some unreleased material like a live version of ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ and the lost gem ‘Destitute & Losin’’.
One thing that Grand Funk achieved is to offer an alternative to British progressive music. Unashamedly American in flavour they didn’t strive for subtlety but they achieved it by default on tracks like ‘Hooray’ and ‘Sally’ and the detailed information in the packaging here will fill you in on their celebrated journey. The single disc Greatest Hits (2006) offers a slim line alternative to the box while Trunk of Funk (Remastered) is absolutely priceless: packed like a gig equipment box it contains the first four GFR albums in deluxe condition as well as oodles of live material and some superb repro merchandise. Having this represents the ultimate one-upmanship for fans of an outfit whose prowess was recognised at the time by the fan base but whose legacy continues to gather pace today.
They are an American band. Enough said.
Words - Max Bell.
On Time is Grand Funk Railroad's first studio album, released in August 1969 by Capitol Records. It was produced by Terry Knight.
"Time Machine", the band's first single release, barely broke the top 50 in the singles charts. However, after the success of their second album Grand Funk (aka The Red Album), On Time went gold shortly thereafter in 1970, one of four RIAA gold record awards for the band that year. The other two albums reaching gold status in 1970 for GFR were Closer to Home and Live Album.
In 2002, On Time was remastered on CD with bonus tracks and also released in a limited edition box set Trunk of Funk that contained the band's first four albums. The "trunk" has slots for twelve CDs to house the future release of the remaining eight albums that were released by Capitol records. Also included is a pair of "Shinin' On" 3-D glasses, guitar pick and a sticker reproducing a concert ticket.
E Pluribus Funk is Grand Funk Railroad's fifth studio album, and was released in November 1971 by Capitol Records. This is the final Grand Funk Railroad album produced by Terry Knight. The title is a play on the former motto of the US government, E Pluribus Unum. The original release cover (designed by Ernie Cefalu) was completely round and covered with a silver-like film to resemble a large coin. The back side of the cover of this album included a die cast picture of Shea Stadium to celebrate Grand Funk beating The Beatles' Shea Stadium attendance record by selling out in just 72 hours.
Survival is Grand Funk Railroad's fourth studio album, and was released in April 1971 by Capitol Records. It was produced by Terry Knight. Drummer Don Brewer was never happy with the drum sound on the album, due to Knight's insistence of having Brewer cover his drum heads with tea-towels, after seeing Ringo Starr using that technique in the Beatles' film Let It Be.
We're An American Band is the seventh studio album by American hard rock band Grand Funk Railroad, credited as Grand Funk. The album was released by Capitol Records on July 15, 1973 (see 1973 in music) and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America a little over a month after its release. Two singles were released from the album. The first single, "We're an American Band", was released on July 2, 1973 and the second, "Walk Like a Man", was released on October 29, 1973. Both singles were sung by drummer Don Brewer.
The album cover was originally covered in gold-colored foil on the outside, and the initial run of pressings were pressed in clear, dark-yellow vinyl. The album has been reissued many times and is currently available in the Compact Disc format. A Quadraphonic mix of the album was available in the Quadraphonic 8-Track cartridge format.
The album is #200 of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) Definitive 200 albums of all time.
Phoenix is Grand Funk Railroad's sixth studio album, released on September 15, 1972 by Capitol Records. It was produced by Grand Funk and marks the band's first album not produced by Terry Knight. "Rock & Roll Soul" was released as a single, and went to #29 in 1972. The album features Craig Frost on organ, clavinet, harpsichord, and piano; and Doug Kershaw on electric fiddle.
All the Girls in the World Beware!!! is the ninth studio album by American hard rock band Grand Funk Railroad. The album was released by Capitol Records in December 1974, it was the group's second album released that year. The first single from the album, "Some Kind of Wonderful", was released on December 16, 1974 and its follow-up, "Bad Time", was released on March 24, 1975. A Quadraphonic mix of the album was available on the Quadraphonic 8-Track cartridge format.
Caught in the Act is Grand Funk Railroad's second live album, and was released in August 1975 by Capitol Records as a double album. It was recorded live on tour in 1975 and features "The Funkettes" — Lorraine Feather and Jana.
Early pressings of the album (including record-club pressings) simply state the band's name as "Grand Funk" on the front cover and spine, but have the full name on the record labels.
Bosnia is a live recording by the American rock band Grand Funk Railroad. The concert was a benefit performance for the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was recorded live March 1997 at the Palace Of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Special guest performers included Peter Frampton, Alto Reed, Paul Shaffer and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The band later claimed that Capitol released it without the band members' knowledge or consent.
Live: The 1971 Tour is a live album from Grand Funk Railroad, which was recorded over several performances in 1971 but not released until 2002.