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Grand Funk Railroad - Live. The 1971 Tour

Review: 160
Date: 29 Dec 03


Rating: 5 Stars

Mark Farner - Guitar, Organ, Harmonica, Percussion, and Vocals
Don Brewer - Drums and Vocals
Mel Schacher - Bass and Percussion

Tracks Listing:
Are You Ready
Footstompin' Music
I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home/Hooked on Love/Get it Together
Inside Looking Out
Gimme Shelter
Into The Sun


During 1970 and 1971 the Power Trio "Grand Funk Railroad" (Mark Farner, Don Brewer, and Mel Schacher) under the management of Terry Knight set out to become the biggest Rock 'n' Roll Band in America. Not only did they succeed, but they even surpassed their own expectations. In the two years they released five albums. ‘On Time' (an amazingly impressive, but raw debut album), ‘Grand Funk’ (the consolidating second album), 'Closer to Home' (the first really Classic Album with the epic 'I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home’), and the Landmark ‘Live Album', which was released as a Wart's and All exercise with no over dubs but just the music the way it was played on the night. A very brave thing to do at the time. It would of been so much easier and safer to have taken the Tapes away and polished them up in the Studio as most Bands did, replacing bum notes, and off key singing. But in true Yankee Style it was 'Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead'. In my opinion the idea worked. What you lost in perfection on that album you certainly made up for in excitement. The fourth Studio album and fifth album all told 'Survival' was released just before the main part of this concert was recorded at Shea Stadium, New York, on the 7th September 1971.

By this time Grand Funk Railroad had reached their aim and was the biggest band in the land. They probably peaked at Shea Stadium that year, but there was still plenty of life left in the tracks. Soon they were to have two #1 singles in America - with a cover of Carole King's ‘Locomotion’ (first a hit for ‘one-hit-wonder’ "Little Eva", who at the time of her brief moment of fame was actually Carole King's Babysitter!) and Drummer Don Brewer's first attempt at writing a song, which turned into the rock classic ‘We're an American Band’, which was a hit all over the world and has since been covered by almost every American Band you can think of. Although Grand Funk Railroad have lost Mark Farner through wear and tear over the years, Don Brewer and Mel Schacher have kept the band going to this day, and are still one of the hottest acts on the American concert circuit.

Although Shea Stadium was a peak for 'Grand Funk Railroad', a year later they fell out with Manager Terry Knight and spent more time in Court than on the Stage or the recording Studio for the next couple of years. So a certain amount of momentum was lost. But at the time of these recordings they were bigger than 'Led Zeppelin', 'Black Sabbath', or even 'Cream' and had sold out Shea Stadium faster than 'The Beatles'.

The Shea Stadium Concert was to be recorded for a full length feature movie, but before this could happen, band and management went their separate ways, and the whole thing was put up on the shelf.

Fortunately the tapes were dug out in 2002 and Capital Records realized what a little gold mine they were sitting on. Even better news were discovered when complete tapes of the concerts in Chicago and Detroit from two months before the Shea Stadium gig were found in perfect condition.

All these tapes were handed over to David. K. Tedds, who has done a marvelous job of seamlessly putting together an entire show from that hot summer of '71 and leaving it in it's original running order with all the stage announcements, crowd cheering, and atmosphere of a good old Seventies Rock 'n' Roll Concert.

The Music starts out with the intro music taken from '2001' - a marvelous way of getting the audience on their feet, followed by Grand Funk Railroad's traditional opener "Are You Ready", which keeps the audience on their feet and rockin’. Grand Funk Railroad obviously had a lot of Dog in them as they grab their followers by the scruff of the neck and just keep on shaking until they beg for forgiveness. The band storms through a set of all the highlights from their first five albums, and even includes one new song, the soon to be classic 'Footstompin' Music', which wasn't officially to be released for a few more months on their next album 'E Pluribus Funk'.

The medley of 'I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home/Hooked on Love/Get it Together’ in the center of the set is the true work of artists playing at their peak of their powers as they showed at Shea Stadium. The version of T.N.U.C. is seventeen minutes long and allows every member of the band space to stretch out and show their skills. Mark Farner was the obvious focal point of the band playing lead guitar, most of the lead vocals, keyboards, and at the time wrote all the songs. So he was the obvious person to get all the attention. But during T.N.U.C. Mel Schacher got to show off his dexterous bass playing, and Don Brewer takes a 10-minute drum solo that even listening to on audio he manages to keep interesting (you can hear on the record that he certainly had the Detroit audience on his side).

After this strenuous workout you would forgive the band for taking a quick breather, but instead we get two cover versions to bring the set proper (before encore time) to a rousing conclusion. First we have a 15-minute version of 'The Animals' song, 'Inside Looking Out' written by Eric Burden and future Jimi Hendrix Manager Chas Chandler. Grand Funk Railroad take it apart and then smack it back together again in their own style with some wonderfully sprawling guitar solos and plenty of pathos in Mark Farner's endeavors to sing Eric Burdon’s words. You even get another short Brewer Drum solo just in case you had not had enough in T.N.U.C.

Then with the introduction from Mark Farner of ‘This Song is our Generation’s National Anthem’ the band scream into a powerful version of the Stones’ ‘Gimmie Shelter’, which may not have the light and shade of the Stones’ original, but what it lacks in grace it more than makes up for in power and enthusiasm. Also proving how much effect the Brit-Invasion of the mid-sixties was still having on American Rock 'n' Roll.
After this there is only one song Grand Funk Railroad could possibly finish with – ‘Into The Sun’. (In those days seeing Grand Funk Railroad without them playing ‘Into The Sun’ would be a bit like seeing Lynard Skynard without them doing ‘Freebird’, or Deep Purple without ‘Smoke on the Water’.) ‘Into the Sun’ starts off with the main lick played over softly until the first sung verse, where from this point onwards it builds and builds from guitar breaks to heavier drumming to Mel Schacher ringing every note out of the bass guitar until it reaches a thunderous climax. This version form Detroit (Motor City) is by far the most exciting ever officially released and worth the price of the album on it own.

To get yourself a little slice of the American Rock 'n' Roll dream, go out and get yourself a copy of Grand Funk Railroad's 'Live. The 1971 Tour', put it in your C.D. player, turn it up to 11, and enjoy.


Pawed by Mott The Dog
Re-chewed by Ella Crew


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