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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Grand Funk Railroad

Closer To Home

Review by Gary Hill

This is definitely not Grand Funk Railroad's strongest release. That said, I can think of at least two reasons to have this disc. The first is the classic rocker I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home and the second is Mean Mistreater. The two of them together on one album make this very close to a "must have" CD, but when you add two variant versions of Mean Mistreater as bonus cuts, it becomes that much more of a required acquisition.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
She's A Good Man's Brother
A fairly pretty balladic mode starts this one, running through for a time. Then an explosion of sound crashes in, bringing with it a harder edged high energy jam that feels more like a classic GFR stomper. The cut follows this style through for a time, getting very strong as the jam buildd. The it drops back to something that calls to mind School's Out era Alice Cooper just a bit. Then a jazzy sort of jam emerges for a short time to end the cut.
Aimless Lady
This is a very unusually textured rocker. On the one hand it feels like fairly straightforward rock and roll. On the other hand there is a jazzy texture and it calls to mind such diverse bands as Head East and the Guess Who. The overall result is rather interesting, but nut overly strong.
Nothing Is The Same
This one is another fairly mainstream rocker that doesn't really stand out as either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. The instrumental break is high energy and worth a listen, though, getting rather psychedelic at times. The closing jam is rather strong, too.
Mean Mistreater
Oh yeah! This is definitely one of the best reasons for buying this album. Starting in a bluesy and rather haunting organ segment, this is a cut that shows the true talents of this band. At times it feels quite a bit like Vanilla Fudge, with all that that means - psychedelia, power and emotion. The cut carries through on slightly distorted organ in bluesy jazzy textures through the first verse. Then the pace picks up as the other instruments enter and we are off on a thrill ride. This is certainly one of the band's strongest numbers, even though the distorted texture takes away from it just a bit. It drops back to the melancholy organ segment later for another very section that takes the composition to its conclusion.
Get It Together
This one also begins on keys, but has a more poppy rock and roll texture. As the rest of the band kick into the mix, it feels quite a bit boogie-. This is another that doesn't really stand out, but it certainly packs a good amount of charm and features a cool guitar solo. It feels quite a bit like something you might hear from Booker T. and the MG's. If it weren't for the singing of variants on the line "Got to get it together" quite late in the piece, this one would be an instrumental.
I Don't Have To Sing The Blues
Maybe not, but the main riff that starts this one, and the overall texture is all blues with a small dose of something quite close to R & B thrown in for good measure. This one is rather fun, but certainly not a stand out.
Hooked On Love
If the last song had strong blues leanings, this one is falling straight into that genre. It is another that has its moments, but does little to shine above the pack. The jam late in the piece really does smoke though, and energizes the tune for a time.
I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home
The other true standout on this disc, this one is a definite classic, both in terms of the GFR classic and in '70's rock in general. This two part mini-epic is one of the strongest pieces in the Grand Funk catalog and certainly paired with Mean Mistreater makes this album a must have for fans of the band.
Mean Mistreater (Alternate Mix) (Bonus)
This one feels quite a bit different in the midsection, relying a bit less on the keys. In some ways this version is superior to the original.
In Need (Live Orlando Sports Center, FL, 6/25/70)
The recording quality here is quite good, and this is definitely a classic GFR rocker delivered here with a substantial amount of energy and enthusiasm.
Heartbreaker (Live Orlando Sports Center, FL, 6/25/70)
This oft overlooked, and exceptional track is captured quite well in live performance here. From the sounds of things this concert must have been a scorcher.
Mean Mistreater (Live Orlando Sports Center, FL, 6/25/70)
The third version of the cut on this album. Sometimes you really can't get too much of a good thing. This live performance is arguably the best version on the CD.
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