We're An American Band - Grand Funk Railroad

Review by Roger Linder (Switch to

Back in 1971, one month prior to my 18th birthday, I attended my first concert. That show at the Oakland Coliseum was Grand Funk Railroad, and I was accompanied by the other three members of my college band "Ambush." We had covered a couple of GFR tunes (not very well) and were all big fans. We bought our tickets late, so ended up in the next to last row of the upper balcony. Mark, Don and Mel were about an inch high from our vantage point, but we enjoyed the show nonetheless.

I never saw them in concert again, but faithfully bought all of their albums, and played them to death. Starting with "Closer To Home" I visited the remaining catalog of the Terry Knight-produced "On Time", "Grand Funk", "Live Album", "Survival", "E Pluribus Funk" and the self-produced "Phoenix." I must have listened to "Phoenix" about 20 times the day I got it.

Then in 1973 the Funk hooked up with TR, whom by this time I had become a fan. I rushed out and got my copy of "We're An American Band," which was initially pressed on clear gold vinyl (guaranteeing GFR another gold record, I suppose). The title song was great, and rocketed to the top of the charts.

But the album failed to click 100% with me. I don't think it necessarily had anything to do with Todd's production, but the introduction of Don Brewer as a lead vocalist was a bit of a shock. To me, the three (now four, with the addition of Craig Frost) musicians worked very well off of each other, and each shined in his own right. But, to my ears, the voice of GFR was Mark Farner. So I listened to the album a few times, but it tended to languish on my shelf. I loaned it to a friend, and when he returned it, a skip had developed on the title track, and I insisted that he buy me a new copy. Sadly, the first run of gold vinyl was exhausted, and my new LP was black.

Over the years I still listened to it from time to time, trying to build an appreciation, but as is the case for most of my records, they don't get pulled out that often, the pops and clicks inherent in my old vinyl just don't sit well with my ears.

Fast forward to 1999, and the album review project. Time to pull out GFR again. I put the album on the turntable, put on the headphones and begin to listen a bit more carefully. I'm hearing things I like, and even the Don Brewer vocals are acceptable to me. Todd has manage to capture the old Grand Funk sound, while adding some new sharpness and some great music effects. I particularly enjoyed the railroad spike sound in "The Railroad" and Don's locomotive effect on the drums near the end of the song. And on the few tracks where Mark sings lead, his vocals shine as well.

So now I've decided I've got to pick this one up on CD someday, sooner if not later. I'd like to give it another chance.

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