Grand Funk Railroad: ‘Live – The 1971 Tour’

0
1606

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.

By the time of this recording, the three talented musicians had reached their aim and were the biggest band in the land. They probably peaked at Shea Stadium that year, but there was still plenty of mileage left on the tracks. Soon they were to have two #1 singles in America – with a cover of Carole King’s “Locomotion” and Don Brewer’s “We’re an American Band”.

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 on the shelf.

Fortunately the tapes were dug out in 2002 and Capital Records realized what a little gold mine they were sitting on. 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 the atmosphere of a good old Seventies Rock ‘n’ Roll concert.

Richard Strauss’ iconic “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey) leads Grand Funk Railroad into their opening number “Are You Ready”, which gets the audience on their feet and rockin’. GFR 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 mercy. The band storms through a set of all the highlights from their first five albums.

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 the peak of their powers, while their take on Farner’s T.N.U.C. is seventeen minutes long and allows every member of the band enough space to stretch out and show their skills. Farner was the obvious focal point of the band, playing lead guitar, keyboards, singing most of the lead vocals and at this time also writing all the songs. But during T.N.U.C. Mel Schacher gets to show off his dexterous bass playing, and Don Brewer takes a 10-minute drum solo that even listening to on audio he still manages to keep interesting.

Next on the album we get two cover versions to bring the set to a proper rousing conclusion. First we have a 15-minute version of The Animals song, “Inside Looking Out” and here the band take it apart and smack it back together again in their own style with some wonderfully sprawling guitar solos and plenty of pathos in Farner’s endeavors to sing Eric Burdon’s words.

Then, with the introduction from 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. It also proved how much influence the Brit-invasion of the mid-Sixties was still having on American Rock & Roll.

After this there is only one song Grand Funk Railroad could possibly finish with, “Into The Sun”. Seeing the band perform live without them playing this track would be a bit like watching a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert without them doing “Freebird”.

“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 Schacher ringing every note out of the bass guitar until it reaches a thunderous climax. This version from Detroit (Motor City) is by far the most exciting ever officially released and worth the price of the album on its own. Turn it up to 11, and enjoy.

Album rating: 5 Stars.

Grand Funk Railroad in an early promo photo.
Grand Funk Railroad in an early promo photo.

Tracks List:

Intro (2001 Space Odyssey)

Are You Ready

Footstompin’ Music

Paranoid

I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home/Hooked on Love/Get it Together

T.N.U.C.

Inside Looking Out

Gimme Shelter

Into The Sun

Grand Funk Railroad:

Mark Farner – guitar, organ, harmonica, percussion, and vocals

Don Brewer – drums and vocals

Mel Schacher – bass and percussion