Monday, August 06, 2007

They're STILL an American Band!
GRAND FUNK plays in the SAND on the OREGON COAST!

I don't care who knows it, and record critics everywhere be damned, but I always loved the sound of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD. And I was a fan waaay before "We're An American Band", their #1 hit from 1973. Talk around my high school was, that their albums were great. And indeed, they were. I know, 'cos I've GOT 'em all, and they've been in ye olde record collection for YEARS. Grand Funk was a power trio (guitar, bass & keyboards) that came from Flint, Michigan, and were hugely popular in the late-60s to mid-70s. What really set their sound apart was a sort-of-bluesy-soul-type SWAGGER that one could immediately sense in their music. And, after the Beatles broke up, I found Grand Funk, and gosh, I loved their sound. Their 12-minute version of the old Animals' tune, "Inside Looking Out" on their first "Live Album" was a masterpiece, and for that 12-minute time period, Mark Farner, their original guitarist, was the best guitarist in the UNIVERSE. And I still find their music tremendously exciting. It was hard-rock with a loose, deep groove. And I still love that stuff today.

There is a little town on the Oregon coast not too far from where I live, and every year, this little burg holds a celebration called "Dune Fest". Some of the sand dunes around the area are a hundred feet high or more, and all the ATV vehicle racers from everywhere come to compete. And, I heard over the local media here that GRAND FUNK was gonna be playing at DUNEFEST! Oh, my gosh. I don't care about most concerts, but this was GRAND FUNK, people! Now, I'd heard that their original lineup had some problems with each other, and I've explored both sides of those problems on the internet. But, I'd also heard that their original drummer, Don Brewer (who also sings very well) and original bassist Mel Schacher were still with the group. So, I thot, "well, the rhythm section's still intact". Gone from the original lineup, though, was original guitarist/vocalist Mark Farner, who will ALWAYS be one of my favorite players. The question's always been, "how can Grand Funk exist without Mark Farner, who also wrote a lot of their material?" And I've wondered that, too...

Well, things happen. Band members come and go. Being in a band is almost like being married to 4 or 5 other people. There are constant relationship struggles, problems, ego's, and what have you between band members. Been there, done that. So Mark Farner isn't in Grand Funk anymore. And that's sad. But, what was GREAT was that flanking the original drummer and bassist, are some VERY GOOD musicians who have got the Grand Funk Songbook down to the very last note. Yes, folks, I finally got off my posterior and actually attended an event where there were lots of OTHER people, something I don't do much anymore. But, as I said before, this was GRAND FUNK...and MOST of the original group was still in the band. And, what a show. And hearing musicians of this caliber immediately made me see the difference between pros and every-weekend-bar-bands who play forever in their home towns. For, the pro's are good. VERY good. Very, VERY good...

(The above pointy-finger was utilized to maximum effect on their "We're An American Band" album. I have the clear-yellow virgin-vinyl copy of which only about 100,000 were pressed, the rest of the copies being on old, frazzled black recycled vinyl.)

Grand Funk took the stage, and rocked like NO ONE CAN anymore. They began with "Rock and Roll Soul", breezed thru "Walk Like A Man", rocked out with "Footstompin' Music", and then, in a rock and roll moment I thot I'd never see or hear, they cranked out "Inside Lookin' Out" in which the guitarist did the little scale-climbs up the fretboard, culminating in that ONE HIGH NOTE that just has to be there...and I was in TEARS; those high whining guitar notes just set something off inside of me, and I felt "I'm not worthy; this is waaaaay too good." And, then they proceeded to kill me softly with their next song, "I'm Your Captain", which contains a yearning message and gorgeous music to match. I'd always felt that way about the song, but hearing it performed "Live" gave it a beauty and a resonance I never knew it had. And what song did they "Encore" with? "We're An American Band". They came to my town, and helped me party down. This music is immediate in its impact, easy to listen to, and most of all, FUN, which is just MISSING in a lot of today's rock and roll. For a brief moment, I was transported. It was the best time I've had in AGES. "We've played in a lot of places", the lead singer said at one point in the concert, "but this is a FIRST"! The stage was set up ON THE SAND, in between the ocean beach and the sky-high dunes that the Oregon Coast is famous for. And the concert was absolutely WONDERFUL. Of course, I might be biased...but I know good rock and roll when I hear it. And I heard it Saturday night!

Its' sad that original singer/guitarist Mark Farner isn't with Grand Funk anymore, but the guy they've got singing and playing rhythm guitar is a virtual dead-ringer for Farner, both in sight and sound. And their lead guitarist is very, very good. Their keyboard player provided excellent counterpoint to the otherwise raw rock and roll that comprises Grand Funk's sound. You can't have "Shinin' On" (another song they performed) without them keyboards, after all. Original member Mel Schacher plays the bass ultra-loud and ultra-melodic like he always did, and Don Brewer lashes into the drum kit with the abandon of an 18-year old, yet with the precision of someone who is rhythmically GIFTED. His hair might be gray, and Mel's hair might be GONE, but the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well in Grand Funk, and if you ever hear that they're playin' near you, I tell ya, it's worth it; YA CAN'T MISS IT.

Oh, and guess what? Don Brewer took the time to AUTOGRAPH my copy of the second Grand Funk album, the one with the red cover that I've had in my collection for 37 YEARS now. Again, 'I'm not worthy..." Thank you, guys, for all the great music. And, I came away from that concert with my "Rock and Roll Soul" replenished.


Blogger This Could Happen to You said...

I have a copy of Grand Funk's album pressed in yellow vinyl in near perfect condition. I was just wondering how much I could get for it. Got any idea?

12:57 PM  
Blogger Idaho Escapee said...

Hi, you with the 'forbidding' name there...Grand Funk is not a "collectable" band the way the Beatles are, for example. While the Yellow Vinyl "American Band" LP may be worth a bit more than black-vinyl Grand Funk records, I don't think it's worth that much. Sure, a smaller number of yellow-vinyl copies were made, but people have to WANT those copies, and from what I can tell, Grand Funk, while a great band, is just not sought-after from a collectable standpoint. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Keep yer yellow vinyl copy. I still have mine and I treasure it. I also have a black-vinyl copy.

9:59 PM  

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