Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Grand Funk Railroad - Caught In The Act (1975)












They've been revered on the Simpsons, broke the Beatles attendance record at Shea Stadium and had the chutzpah to imply that they were America's band. Meanwhile, critics loathed the lilies out of them and their rapid ascension to superstardom deflated just as quickly. So why, pray tell? Well, because these guys -- musically -- are pretty bad. Like many bands, past and present, they had a dozen great songs scattered across amazingly awful albums; but where other bands fizzled, Grand Funk proved that it really is all in the timing. For one, they had a genuine raw energetic live act; secondly, they unabashedly positioned themselves as not-British Invasion; and furthermore, they wrote a fucking ton of songs and released a gazillion and one albums within a few short years. Like the pop bands of today, they realized that constant exposure, for good or for bad, will give you perhaps a few more miles out of the galllon. Mix it all up, swish it around in your mouth and pick only the choice morsels from your teeth, and what you get is this live gem, Caught In The Act.

Ever wonder why Homer says, “You guys don’t know Grand Funk? The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bone-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer?” Well, this is the album for you. I personally think Mel Schacher is the main attraction; he plays the bass like he's the lead guitarist. But otherwise, this album is all about heart. No one is ever going to put Mark Farner on a list of even the 100,000 greatest guitarists, real or fictional; and no one is going to practice their chops over Don Brewer's simplistic drum lines? But who cares? This is simplistic, soulful rock in perhaps its greatest setting: a live concert. How else could these guys do a better version of "Gimme Shelter" than the Stones? Its fucking meaty, that's why, whereas the original is just a touch stilted. So gather all ye round, my fellow rock 'n' rollers, play some "Footstompin' Music," eat yourself some "Black Licorice" and come on and ride the railroad, one more time. Oh, and do not, I repeat, do not defer to the studio equivalents. You will be sorely disappointed. A

10 comments:

Master Cianan said...

I'd been waiting for it. I knew it had to happen. It was just sitting there on that little list for weeks, until today it finally happened: "The bone-rattling bass of Mel Schacher". You wrote it. I was discussing that very description (along with wild, shirtless lyrics and competent drumwork) with a friend just this past friday night. It's perhaps my oddball favorite simpsons line ever. Thanks for throwing it in there. Haven't heard the album, but if it's got the hits and none of their garbage, it makes sense that it'd be a fun listen.

taotechuck said...

Grand Funk Railroad is one of those middle-of-the-road bands that I love to use as an example of all that is wrong with rock.

Obviously, I need to listen to this album, as it sounds like they might've tapped into a bit of all that is right with rock.

Starrlight said...

I'll own up to liking GFR. Usually more so if beer is involved.

The Mad Hatter said...

Master Cianan,

Well, I'm glad I didn't disappoint you by excluding it. Homer's I-could-shit-myself-these-guys-are-so-good delivery is priceless.

Chuck,

Spot-on. I think their work is pretty shitty, to be blunt. Even the studio versions of some songs here are stale as well. But this gets it right, so right.

Starr,

Beer makes the world more oval and the skies like fluttering drapes. But I think you'll be alright with or without for this one.

Starrlight said...

But...but...but....I LIKE fluttering drapes! Plus work has been a bitch ;)

Master Cianan said...

Apparently Mr. Brewer is competent enough to play bongos for Frank Zappa, which I just found out randomly just now.

Malcolm said...

When I was really young, GFR were treated like Gods in my hometown of Flint. Because we mainly listened to the soul station in the area, I didn't really get exposed to GFR until I was older. When I did get around to checking them out, I quickly found that I wasn't missing much. Outside of a few songs (Bad Time and Rock 'n' Roll Soul for example), most of their output sucked. Their version of "The Locomotion" is one of the worst songs ever to top the Billboard chart.

Dan said...

I was always partial to their tunes and my favorite love/hate song is Mean Mistreater. I just saw Mark a couple years ago at Summerfest. He knows how to touch your cord and get you rolling. Thanks for the look back!

The Mad Hatter said...

Master Cianan,

Wow. Yeah, if Zappa let him do his thing, I guess so.

Malcolm,

Agreed. "Locomotion" is terrible. Even on this live album, I always skip it. Poor taste on their part.

Dan,

I had the opportunity to see them at the Westbury Music Fair about ten years ago, but passed. Given their live act, I want to hope I missed out.

Mighty High said...

Brewer did some recording with Zappa (I think he's on some of the Studio Tan era stuff) and may have did some live work with him.

I prefer GFR's 1970 Live Album, this is a great one too. Check out the live footage from Madison Square Garden 1972 on youtube and get ready to boogie.