They say you can't go back...
R. L. MILLER | FT LAUDERDALE FL USA | 06/02/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"...but what happens when you've got it right? I got interested in the Grand Funk of "On Time", "Grand Funk" and "Closer To Home" as a blues metal outfit in the tradition of the Cream and Mountain material I played as a bass player at the time. Neil Young's Crazy Horse albums were later to fit into that niche very nicely. That was the Grand Funk that Pearl Jam fans would be interested in as an antecedent. "Survival" was interesting in terms of a country-blues Creedence Clearwater approach. That was followed by "E Pluribus Funk", which extended Mark Farner's fairly adequate keyboard skills. Then came "Phoenix", when Craig Frost rejoined the group on keys and pretty much reinstated the sound they had when they were The Pack and backed their eventual producer Terry Knight on vocals (see the Elvis-like "I Who Have Nothing" from the mid-1960s). Which meant they were now more like Journey than the Grand Funk that got them noticed by metalheads like me. This album has some points of interest to be sure. "Black Licorice" is a lot more spicy than the Stone's "Brown Sugar" could ever be. Farner actually screams the refrain, becoming Axl Rose's stylistic papa in the process. "Loneliest Rider" is a nod to the Native American dilemma, but the solid relevant lyrics don't carry the sluggishness of the beat, nor does what sounds like Farner's first use of bottleneck guitar. Much is said about the appearance of production by Todd Rundgren to revive a sagging popularity, but (I hate to be a purist here) Rundgren has made them a pop band rather than a rock'n'roll band. Which they remained for the remainder of their studio output. And the existence of bands like G'n'R and AC/DC is proof that the hard rock trio sound they drew my attention with is not and never could be "dated". That wasn't why their popularity was fading, and they didn't have to bail on it. Especially when younger outfits (like Pearl Jam) even today cite them as influences."