My Favorite Hard Rock Album Of All Time!
William J. Lambert | Oklahoma City, OK., USA | 05/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really want to write an intelligent review of my favorite hard rock album of all time, but I just got to say, I defy anyone to find another album from this era that rocks like this one from start to finish, and rocks well. No matter how much I try to get into other 70's hard rock bands like Deep Purple, April Wine, Santana, Mountain, etc., I always come right back to Grand Funk, and this album in particular. It has such a memorable sound like no other.
I genuinely think that Grand Funk wanted to make a statement with every track on this album, the same way Deep Purple tried to make a statement with "In Rock", or Jimi Hendrix with "Are You Experienced?" It's just on that sort of level. Their first album, "On Time", sort of came and went with little fanfare, containing mostly semi-original music (mainly, borrowed riffs from the bands they were previously in, re-worked for headbanging consumption, much the same way Jimmy Page borrowed Yardbird-riffs for "Led Zeppelin 1", but creative use of those riffs making for great music, nontheless.) The major problem with the first album was the sound quality wasn't up to scratch, lead singer/guitarist Mark Farner being quoted as complaining that his guitar wasn't loud enough--actually, his guitar and Mel Schacher's Bass could barely be heard over the drums. None of which was a problem on this album. Producer Terry Knight did a 180 with the sound quality here, putting the guitar and bass WAY up front, and putting the drums in their rightful place in the back of the mix. They definitely wanted to be closer to the way they sounded live, and next to "E Pluribus Funk" and the "Live Album" itself, this one definitely captures that "live" feeling of all their albums. But right down to the sound, and even the cover art itself--with a photo of the three of them jamming, and the title of the album simply "Grand Funk", not "Grand Funk 2", as if to somehow erase the memory of the first album and start fresh, they certainly wanted to make a statement.
True, it didn't take them a whole lot of time to write the songs, rehearse, and make this album, but they didn't really need to. They did a lot of things on this album in one take because they were just that good--something you'll never hear other critics admit to. This having been one of the most poorly reviewed albums of all time, and listening to it a lot myself, I don't know what those critics thought they heard. I don't think they even really listened to it. They might have heard a few hard guitar riffs, and immediately wrote it off as "noise", much as they did with Black Sabbath. If they had bothered to listen to it all the way through, they would have heard three excellent musicians, all of them with over 5 years of playing professionally under their belts (albeit, high school bands), equally adept at playing melodies, tempo changes, and working through tricky arrangements, as they are at playing heavy. True, guitarist Mark Farner stole a few chops from his hero, Jimi Hendrix, but who, in 1969, didn't? In my opinion, Farner was one of the most creative guitarists of all time in his use of distortion, feedback, and overdubbing--the highlight on this album being "Paranoid", perhaps the heaviest song to come out in 1969, several months before Black Sabbath unleashed on the world their own (by the way, I think its no coincidence that Sabbath's album, "Paranoid", came complete with war sirens to open the album on their song "War Pigs", the same way war sirens open Grand Funk's "Paranoid", AND EVEN SOUND SAMPLED!!--gee, I wonder where the "biggest rip-off group" in history got the idea to do that??) Bassist Mel Schacher, the youngest member of the group, then only 18, was said to be the most underrated bass player of all time, with a improvising style and a distorted bass sound all his own--maybe Geddy Lee of Rush comes close in sound and style, but no one else could touch him. Even critics that hammered Grand Funk stopped short of speaking ill of Mel's talents. They often felt sorry for him, saying thing like he deserved a better group, but that's about it. His playing on this album probably represents his best, loud and clear, whereas on the previous album, you could barely hear it at all. And lest we forget Don Brewer, a drummer of the Jazz/Motown school, adding a nice touch to the group's blend of Motown, Blues, and Hard Rock. And as far as Motown, Blues, and Hard Rock, I don't think there was ever a better group in America at blending those three styles. And of all their albums, this one was probably the best at defining that "Grand Funk sound" from start to finish, one which provided much of the music for their live shows for years to come--because it's just good concert jamming material! An album of that Motown, Blues, and Hard Rock mixture so intoxicating, so contagious, I can't stay away from it long no matter how hard I try. It's Addictive!!"