On Time / Grand Funk / Closer to Home / Live Album

Well, it's been five years since Capitol first decided to launch their reissue campaign for Grand Funk's back catalog. Actually, this is their third attempt. The first two attempts fizzled out shortly after they began. The sound quality wasn't as good as the original vinyl releases, but at least the music was available on CD. This time around, they're doing it right.

They whet the fans appetite over the summer with the excellent new Live: The 1971 Tour. Now the reissue program is in full swing with the group's first four albums--On Time, Grand Funk (aka 'The Red Album'), Closer to Home, and Live Album--all digitally remastered from the original master tapes in 24-bit glory. Each CD includes newly expanded liner notes, and (with the exception of Live Album) bonus tracks. Let's get to the specifics, shall we?

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: On Time (Capitol)The band's first album, On Time was recorded in June of 1969, just one month before the group's free performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival. Capitol signed them on the spot after the show and released On Time in August of that year. With Grand Funk standards like the show-opener "Are You Ready," "Into the Sun" and "Heartbreaker," this was a stellar debut from the Flint, MI power trio. The reissue adds the unedited original versions of "Heartbreaker" and "High on a Horse."

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Grand Funk (Capitol)The Red Album, recorded in just three short days, saw the band taking a more raw approach. The album starts off with a bang as "Got This Thing on the Move" erupts from your speakers. Album tracks "In Need," "Paranoid" and the group's cover of The Animals' "Inside Looking Out" quickly became concert favorites. The bonus tracks are an alternate version of "Mr. Limousine Driver" and an early demo of "Nothing is the Same," which would later appear on the Closer to Home album.

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Closer to Home (Capitol)Grand Funk's third release, Closer to Home signaled a dramatic change for the band. The timeless classic "I'm Your Captain" showed the group's versatility, and now--thanks to the vastly improved sound quality--it's like you're hearing it for the very first time. The ocean sounds and string section at the end are amazingly clear and more up front in the mix. This time, they added on four bonus tracks: the original version of "Mean Mistreater" (with the organ tracks and harmony vocal at the end still intact) and three live tracks from the band's 1970 performance at the Orlando Sports Center, "In Need," "Heartbreaker" and "Mean Mistreater."

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Live Album (Capitol)Live Album was never known for its sound quality, and there's nothing to change that here. The big difference with the new version is that, for the first time, the songs appear in their original order, with no fades between 'sides.' Like the other reissues, this one features expanded liner notes. The things that are missing from this CD are bonus tracks (even though it mentions them in the credits). Clocking in at 78:30, there's no room for them anyway. Performance-wise, Live Album is raw and powerful, but as far as the overall picture, Live - The 1971 Tour has it beat.

For the true fans, Capitol has released the Trunk of Funk. Limited to 10,000 copies worldwide, the box includes the first four albums and space for the remaining eight titles, all scheduled for release over the next few months. Each box is individually numbered, and includes a sticker, a pick and a pair of Shinin' On 3D glasses. The next four albums--Survival, E Pluribus Funk, Phoenix, and We're An American Band--are currently scheduled for released on November 19th. All four will include bonus tracks.

© 2002 Steve Marshall