Growing up over the years I knew a couple of songs from Grand Funk Railroad, but surprisingly only a few. Which in hind sight sounds odd. They weren't from Detroit, but they are Michiganders (I think that's the right word.)
So, when I found myself working across the street from the music store I frequent most often, I started buying random CDs to check out bands I only sort of knew. I had no clue where to start with this band, so I cheaped out and took the Greatest Hits method. That way I knew at least a few of the songs.
The album opens with We're An American Band. I love this song. I always have, and I always will. It's just such a great party track, that has always made me just want to rock out. I could go into so much more on this song, but most likely you already know this song, or should be checking it out right now for yourself, because something went wrong in your life.
I had to check the liner notes for Time Machine, because this one sounds older, and I can see why. It's from 1969, and it's amazing how different the sound of the production can change in less than four years. That's all that separates the first track and and the second one, but you might think it was decades. However, you can still tell it's the same band.
I did not know this was Grand Funk, but when I first heard Walk Like A Man I knew it right away. I don't remember this one being on the radio, but I do remember hearing it somewhere, more than once. I almost wonder if either my dad or my uncle had owned a copy of the We're An American Band album, and with these two songs being the only representation of that album it does make me want to pick it up.
Some Kind Of Wonderful is just one of those songs that I associate to Christmas parties, and weddings. This is yet another one of those songs I think everyone should know, even if you don't like it, you should still know it.
Shinin' On came out the same year as American Band and Walk Like A Man, but is from a different album. It's one of two tracks from the album of the same name, so it makes me wonder if it was a left over album, from the other session. Especially when you see what the second song is.
Heartbreaker comes from the same album as Time Machine and would be enough to deter me from picking up the album. It's got some great Midwest Blues going on, mixed with a little California vibe, but it's not my thing.
The next track up is Rock 'N Roll Soul, which is from 1972, which shows that the procution sound only took three years to change by leaps and bounds. Also, if there is one thing that can be said about Grand Funk Railroad by this point in the album, it's that they are amazing musicians. I always laugh at a joke from an episode of The Simpsons, in which Homer goes on a diatribe about Rock music, and specifically about this band, and every word of it was true. This song helps back that up all the way.
You may laugh when thinking that this band covering The Loco-Motion is cheesy, but it isn't. This is the best version I have ever heard of this song, and it's totally awesome. This is the other song from the Shinin' On album. I've personally played this song while a DJ at a wedding.
Footstompin' Music is your basic, run of the mill, boogie woogie song. There's nothing stand out about it, but it sure will get your foot tapping.
When I first picekd up this album I wasn't overly fond of Mean Mistreater (live), but it's grown on me, big time. I wouldn't say it's a favourite, but it has such great ambience and flavour that you can't help but love it, if you are a Rock'n'phile. Coined that term here. I will say that this song doesn't sound live so much as recorded live off the floor in a studio. In fact it could easily be mistaken as one of the 1969 recordings.
To me Take Me was ahead of it's time. This sounds like it should have been the hit single for a soundtrack in the 1980's. Even lyrically it has that feel and vibe. This could have been Footloose, if Footloose had been cool and played by an amazing set of musicians.
Bad Time is a skip it song for me. Outside of having this album on, I would never listen to this song.
Musically I'm Your Captain is bit of pure genius. I find it layered and textured in all the right ways, and it comes off as very well skilled. However, I'm not a fan of the song itself. Like I said great song, it's just not my cup of tea. I even enjoy the complexity of the lyrics (okay sort of complex), but the material in those words I find lacking. "Everybody, listen to me / And return me my ship / I'm your captain, I'm your captain / Though I'm feeling mighty sick / I've been lost now, days uncounted / And it's months since I've seen home / Can you hear me, can you hear me / Or am I all alone / If you return me to my home port / I will kiss you, Mother Earth / Take me back now, take me back now / To the port of my birth / Am I in my cabin dreaming / Or are you really scheming / To take my ship away from me? / You'd better think about it / I just can't live without it / So, please don't take my ship from me, yeah, yeah, yeah / I can feel the hand of a stranger / And it's tightening around my throat / Heaven help me, Heaven help me / Take this stranger from my boat / I'm your captain, I'm your captain / Though I'm feeling mighty sick / Everybody, listen to me / And return me my ship / I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah / I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah / I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah / I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah / I'm getting closer to my home / I'm getting closer to my home / I'm getting closer to my home / I'm getting closer to my home, oh / I'm getting closer to my home / I'm getting closer to my home / I'm getting closer to my home / I'm getting closer to my home".
Inside Looking Out is a pretty solid way to finish off this collection. It has a lot of your key Soul and Blues turning points, and riffs, mixed along with a sound and vibe that's easily mistakable for James Brown. This is some very early Heavy, 1970 Heavy, and then there's the jam in that covers the second half of this song. It really brings this album to a good close.
All in all I do like this album, but I'm still not sure if there's any one specific studio album I would buy for myself to try out. At least not based on this mix, because there's just a little from here and a little from there, but no clear pattern to what was the best album to start with.
7/10 - content
7/10 - production
7/10 - personal bias