Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Grand Funk [extended]

  • Grand Funk [Capitol, 1969] C
  • Closer to Home [Capitol, 1970] C+
  • Live Album [Capitol, 1970] C-
  • E Pluribus Funk [Capitol, 1971] C
  • Survival [Capitol, 1971] C
  • Phoenix [Capitol, 1972] C-
  • We're an American Band [Capitol, 1973] B-
  • Shinin' On [Capitol, 1974] B
  • Grand Funk Hits [Capitol, 1976] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Grand Funk Railroad: Grand Funk [Capitol, 1969]
This group is creating a stir, apparently because they play faster than Iron Butterfly. Which I grant is a step in the right direction. I saw them live in Detroit before I knew any of this. I enjoyed them for 15 minutes, tolerated them for five, and hated them for 40. This lp, their second, isn't as good as that performance. C

Grand Funk Railroad: Closer to Home [Capitol, 1970]
What's happening to me? Maybe it's that damned billboard. Or maybe I'm beginning to appreciate--I said appreciate--their straight-ahead celebration of beat, amplification, and youthful camaraderie. After all, rock and roll has always been loud, and its rhythms have always been described as "heavy." And at least Mark Farner doesn't pretend to bluesmanship. C+

Grand Funk Railroad: Live Album [Capitol, 1970]
I know they have a great--even grand--audience. But an audience and a live album aren't the same thing--not the same thing at all. C-

Grand Funk Railroad: E Pluribus Funk [Capitol, 1971]
The usual competent loud rock with the usual paucity of drive and detail--not only does it plod, it plods crudely. Likable, in its way--I find myself touched by "People, Let's Stop the War." But it's not telling me anything I don't already know. C

Grand Funk Railroad: Survival [Capitol, 1971]
For about a year I've been saying that people aren't stupid, that there has to be something new about this music, and of course there is--it Americanizes Led Zeppelin with a fervent ingenuousness that does justice to the broad gestures of mass art. But now I read where various men of taste, having reached similar conclusions, claim in addition actually to like the stuff. That's going too far. C

Grand Funk Railroad: Phoenix [Capitol, 1972]
I guess I turn in my Free Grand Funk button, because I think this declaration of independence from the dastardly Terry Knight continues their two-year decline. Especially annoying is Mark Farner's singing, which combines the worst of Jack Bruce with the worst of Eddie Fisher, but the music--including Craig Frost's organ--isn't what you'd call dynamic. Sorry, really, but . . . C-

We're an American Band [Capitol, 1973]
If it takes me three months to decide that this is a listenable hard rock record, just how listenable can it be? Well, Todd Rundgren has done remarkable things, that's for sure--the drumming has real punch, the organ fills attractively, and Don Brewer's singing is a relief. Great single, too. B-

Shinin' On [Capitol, 1974]
Now this really is an American band--confident, healthy, schlocky, uncomplicated on the surface and supporting all manner of contradictions underneath. I prefer the title cut, which bursts with a--you should pardon the expression--raw power they've never managed before, to "The Loco-Motion," where Mark sounds shaky. But how many bands get to record a ninth album, much less make it their best? B

Grand Funk Hits [Capitol, 1976]
This strictly post-Terry Knight compilation confirms my belief that they did most of their worthwhile recording with Todd Rundgren, although "Bad Time" and "Some Kind of Wonderful," from their first collaboration with Jimmy Ienner, are definitive plusses. The strategy is clear in retrospect--back to their junk-rock roots with ? and the Mysterians and maybe even Terry Knight & the Pack. Recycling riffs, upping the tempos, shuffling their limited vocal resources, and projecting the same populist sincerity that always made them more than a hype, they fuse their heavy beginnings with the hooks they were originally too mythic to bother with on this creditable testament. B+

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