Pete Johnson’s Blast from My Past: Grand Funk – “We’re An American Band”

Grand Funk started in Michigan or one of those states around there. They were just 3 kids who saw enough freedom that they decided to be a band. Their first record was in 1969. By 1971 they were one of the biggest selling acts in the world. They pioneered stadium rock in a way even the Beatles did not do. They were a classic example of an American mom and pop endeavor going huge. Back then, that sort of thing was admired amongst teenagers. One of the things I like about Grand Funk is their work ethic. They were a touring, record making, stadium playing machine. They really were that good.

This album is the one for me that always stands up. Even from the intro of the song “American Band”, they sound like they are on a mission and were on fire to deliver it. The only thing that could have made the song “American Band” better would’ve been more cow-bell. It tells the story of Grand Funk on the road, from sweet, sweet Connie to playing poker with Freddie King (because that was his thing). It is a bird’s eye view and it always made me want to be the bird.

The thing I loved about the formats of long players back then is that it still showed the vestiges of the 1960’s singles affect. In those days you’d have a single or two that were hits and then the albums would be filled in with the songs that were left over. Back then you had the A-side songs, the B-side songs. It was the careful mixture of the two that usually made for the most interesting work by bands. It is a weird thing when you play music to people. In many instances a song you think is great in the studio, may very well fall flat in front of a crowd. The opposite effect can happen as well. A song that works live can fail to spark in a studio session. This album has some great B-side songs, “Stop Looking Back” and “Creeping with Black Licorice” makes a perfect album side to me. The key to the perfect album side is the fact you must take a break with your ears and mind to get up and flip the album over. I personally think much is lost by the iPhone Jukebox that never ends and runs songs together. It does not give the brain enough time to absorb.

The musicians are great on the record. There are the wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner; the bong rattling bass of Mel Schacher; the ever competent drumming of Don Brewer and the organ by Craig Frost becomes a big part of the sound on this album as well. Actually it is Brewer that to me makes this record. He has become a real world class vocalist at this stage. More importantly he can do it live. When he sang “Walk like a Man”, he meant it and it felt good and true if you actually were a man or a boy when you heard it. Todd Rundgren deserves a lot of credit for the production sheen of this record. It is spot on tough and muscular. Buy it and thank me later. ;o) 

 

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