Grand Funk Railroad - Live: The 1971 Tour
Reviewed by Matt Rowe on July 29, 2002
The machine that was, and is, Grand Funk Railroad, continues to move along without losing steam. Of course, the machine that was GFR is hobbled by the departure of Mark Farner, again. He is clearly the heart of this band and his absence is sorely felt seeing them live. The remaining elements that make up this legendary band, Mel Schacher and Don Brewer continue on.
However, a markedly more powerful unit was in place early in the 70s with many a remarkable album and tour under their belts. During 1970, GFR toured relentlessly under the watchful eyes of their manager, Terry Knight. During their high point, 1971, the band excelled, not only in new material (Survival) but as an attraction on the road. Their rep for a great show was in full bloom and insane was the fan who missed one of them. Unfortunate for me, I was a sophomore in HS during this period so my loss is still greatly felt by myself.
Grand Funk has released 3 prior Live discs. The powerful, and soon to be re-released and remastered (Aug 27) along with other titles, "Live Album", the double "Caught In The Act", and the more recent "Bosnia". The strength and importance of this band is underscored by the fact that Capitol continues to release material from GFR. In an age where the original label licenses out the music to other labels, this really says a lot.
As I said earlier, Grand Funk was at the height of their popularity in 1971. This disc, featuring live recordings of the band during their trek across America, notably, the Midwest regions where they were revered, showcases the talent and hard work of GFR. There are 11 tracks, all remastered using 24 bit technology and cleaned up using the popular ProTools software. And they rock.
The songs are spread from shows in Detroit, MI (Cobo Hall), Chicago, IL (Syndrome), and New York City, NY (Shea Stadium) from April through July of '71. This trio of power poured out their hearts on the classic crowd pleasers so well known to GFR fans, both then and now. The purity of "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home" with the drum soaked "TNUC"; the sweeping cover of "Gimme Shelter" that lifted the Stones original to new levels and the fiery "Paranoid". In addition, there was the as yet unreleased but unreal "Footstompin' Music" that, more or less, heralded their ascent into Top 40 stardom, a world apart from their album oriented rock days.
The call for the encore piece, "Into The Sun" really reflects the days of the hippie soaked times when GFR manager/producer (soon to be exiled) Terry Knight gives his Woodstock like speech. His plea to have a just stolen pedal returned so that the band could continue along with the promise that whoever stole it would get it back after the show is priceless and classically recounts those long lost days.
The songs are excellent, as any GFR song performed live would be, particularly in this time frame. The "Live Album" is a much better, much tighter recording, easily representative of the live prowess of the band but this does not detract from the perfection of these live pieces however. They belong in any fan's collection especially after the clean up treatment it received. It may end up being overshadowed by the remastering of the upcoming "Live Album" but that release will not go as far as this one did to recount the time via a informative booklet. My opinion? If you love Grand Funk Railroad as many do, then this is another wonderful addtion to the GFR library; a toast and precursor to the remastering processes awaiting the band's other albums.
The 24 bit remastering has done wonders for this recording. While it is hard to tell in terms of renewal given the fact that we have not heard this any other way, the clarity provide these old songs and the obvious medium that they were recorded in is nothing short of extraordinary. The channel separations between left and right gave a perfect sense of balance; as if you were standing in front of the band. Mel Schacher's bass guitar is heavy and full;picked up and enhanced while Don Brewer's drums pound with "I'm there" clarity. The guitars and vocals of Mark Farner deliver the package with finality as you marvel over the cleanly delivered live performances. Pro Tools has done much in the enhancement of music both old and new and their usefulness is heard in this release.
The case is a collection of great looking memoribilia; a ticket stub, poster art and a well designed 12 page booklet. The booklet is a treasure trove of photos, band art, a written remembrance by Steve Roeser with liner notes by producer David K Tedds, and disc information. Attractively packaged, there is no stone unturned in this offering.
THE FINAL SAY
If Grand Funk Railroad meant anything to you, particularly during its album oriented days, this is a must pick up for you. It rocks as well as any current band would, maybe better. Whether it's known or not, every rock band after GFR cut their live teeth on this band.
Copyright © 2002 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
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