Pawed by Mott the Dog
Re-mastered by Ella Crew
5 Stars *****
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
the two years they released five albums: ‘On Time’, ‘Grand Funk’,
‘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.
It was a very brave thing to do at the time. It would
have 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 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.
Fortunately, the Shea Stadium concert tapes were dug out in 2002 and
Capital Records realized what a little gold mine they were sitting on.
Even better news was 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 its 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 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’.
The band storms through a set of all the highlights
from their first five albums, and even include 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).
We then 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.
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 CD player, turn it
up to 11, and enjoy.