Before things went south

Our library had its annual used book sale earlier this month, and I took a break from work to check it out. They promised used CDs, and I was curious to see whether there was any vinyl to be had.

Lo and behold, there was! If you were into show tunes or, inexplicably, Emmylou Harris, that is. But not really anything compelling. Until I got to the back of one of the three crates.

There, I found “Closer to Home,” the third album from Grand Funk Railroad, released in 1970. It features the band’s classic power-trio lineup of Mark Farner on guitars and keyboards, Mel Schacher on bass and Don Brewer on drums.

When I started getting a taste of free-form FM radio in 1972, Grand Funk Railroad was one of the bands you heard after 10 p.m., when the DJs would play anything and everything.

We thought of Grand Funk Railroad as one of ours. After all, they were from Michigan, just across the lake. Thinking back on the Michigan bands from those days, well, wow … The MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Bob Seger’s early bands and Grand Funk Railroad.

By the mid-’70s, though, a different kind of Midwestern rock band seemed to take over. The music started coming from south of Wisconsin, and some might say the music went south.

Coming from Illinois, they delivered a bunch of different sounds — REO Speedwagon, Styx, Head East, Starcastle. Not as crunchy as the Michigan bands. (However, as we have discussed here before, some of the early REO stuff has its merits.)

I greatly prefer the heavier, more substantial Grand Funk Railroad of the early ’70s to the Grand Funk that cranked out all those singles — “We’re an American Band” and “The Loco-Motion” among them — in the later ’70s. After Grand Funk went south.

That’s why I laid down my 50 cents and picked up a well-worn copy of “Closer to Home.”

So sit back and enjoy a little something we might have heard late at night in the early ’70s. Some of the instrumental bits sound like tunes that came along 20 years later during the days of grunge.


“I Don’t Have to Sing the Blues,” Grand Funk Railroad, from “Closer to Home,” 1970.

And tonight on The Midnight Tracker: Side 2 from “Closer to Home,” which winds up with the classic “I’m Your Captain.”


1 Comment

Filed under November 2007, Sounds

One response to “Before things went south

  1. Speaking of early REO, their debut album is sadly out of print. I’ve got the whole album in mp3 format (ripped from vinyl). Other than the overly melancholic 5 Men Were Killed Today, that whole album is fantastic.

    Terry Luttrell’s vocals are not near as nasal and thus considerably more listenable/tolerable than the vocals of Kevin Cronin. Also Neal Doughty’s piano playing on that album is pretty damn good.

    Incidentally, after getting fired by REO after that debut album Luttrell went on to sing lead for Starcastle.

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