Shinin' On / Caught in the Act /
All the Girls in the World Beware / Born to Die

With these four titles, Capitol has finished reissuing the Flint, Michigan band's back catalog (yes, there were other albums released in the 80's, but we won't count those). In almost every instance, the new reissues blow away anything that's been out there before--even the original vinyl. All of the CDs have been 24-bit digitally remastered, and include new liner notes. The only disappointment of the entire series (aside from the dropout on We're an American Band's "Creepin'" not being fixed) is Caught in the Act. More on that in just a minute…

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Shinin' On (Capitol)Shinin' On was the second album that studio wizard (and a true star) Todd Rundgren produced. Sound quality is excellent throughout--much better than the worn out vinyl copy I've been listening to for years. The disc includes two bonus tracks, the bluesy "Destitute and Losin'" (originally released as the b-side to "The Loco-Motion" and later available on the Thirty Years of Funk compilation) and an alternate version of the title track with a different vocal arrangement. The only thing missing is the 3D glasses that came with the original album. With songs like the title track, "Gettin' Over You" and "Little Johnny Hooker," Shinin' On is one of the band's best albums.

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Caught in the Act (Capitol)As for Caught in the Act, one of the greatest live albums of all time, they still didn't get it right--contrary to what the liner notes say. Musically, the album is still outstanding. Everyone in the band serves up an inspired performance, and overall, it sounds great (then again, the original album never sounded bad). Don Brewer's drum solo on "T.N.U.C." has been restored, but elsewhere, all is not well. There are a number of things that keep me from raving about this CD.

First of all, let's talk about the transition from "Closer to Home" into "Heartbreaker." On the original album, "Closer to Home" faded out to end the first side. Side two faded back up with the end of "Closer to Home" and went straight into "Heartbreaker" (the actual performance featured a seamless transition from one song into the other). Anyone with a good ear can hear exactly where they tried to mix the two songs together. While better than it's been (this is at least the third time Capitol has released Caught in the Act on CD), it still isn't as good as it should be. Not only is there an audible space between the two songs, the treble actually drops on "Heartbreaker."

Secondly, there's the matter of editing. Rather than mixing the songs where necessary, they're crossfaded instead. Mixing in this case involves basically overlaying the end of one track with the start of another, while keeping the volume level the same. Crossfading is similar to mixing; only the end of the 'first' track fades down while the start of the 'second' track fades up. This is most noticeable on the intro to "Black Licorice," where part of the vocal intro is actually missing. The liner notes mention that some of the applause between tracks was cut to let everything fit on one CD. Considering the fact that there's almost a full minute of usable space left on the CD, it makes one wonder why they felt the need to do this.

Thirdly, they left off the first song played at the shows on the tour, "Are You Ready." The liner notes say that Capitol originally didn't want to include it because it was on the band's first live album (the band was having problems with the label at the time). Again, due to space restrictions and wanting to keep it to a single CD, the song was left off once again.

Lastly, there's the matter of the album's original first track, simply entitled "Introduction." The liner notes mention the fact that it was on the original album, but that it was left off to keep everything on one CD, but it's available as an unlisted bonus track on "one of the discs that 'supposedly' has no bonus tracks." (Editor's note: "Introduction" has never appeared on CD before). Granted, it's mainly just applause, with a bit of the band jamming on "Rock and Roll Soul" before they go onstage. This was expendable. The thing that makes no sense is why they put it at the end of the new CD. It's completely out of context.

What they should've done with Caught in the Act is release the entire show on two CDs instead of one--including "Introduction" and "Are You Ready," and mix "Closer to Home" into "Heartbreaker" properly. (assuming they're from two different shows--no source information is listed). Maybe next time. Meanwhile, despite all the gripes above, it's still a great CD.

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: All the Girls in the World Beware!!! (Capitol)As for the aforementioned All the Girls in the World Beware!!!, this is probably the one Grand Funk album that doesn't stand up to the test of time. It gets off to a great start with "Responsibility," but goes downhill quickly from there. The band was always influenced by R&B, but they took things a little too far on this album. "Memories" is a nice ballad, and the title track features a great bass line--even though the lyrics are inane at best ("I got tar on my teeth, but I don't care. I got dark brown stains in my underwear"). Do we really need to know that? I don't think so. The best track on the CD is the dark and brooding "Good and Evil." Sound quality is definitely improved over the original vinyl, but still not great by any means.

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Born to Die (Capitol)This brings us to one of the band's most overlooked albums, Born to Die. While it didn't have any singles to speak of (well OK, "Sally" and an edited version of the excellent "Take Me" were released as singles), the album contained some of the band greatest songs. One of the best, and a personal favorite, is Brewer's "Dues." Great lyrically and musically, this song alone is worth the price of the CD. "Take Me" is another killer tune. "Genevieve" marked the first time that all four members of Grand Funk shared songwriting credits, and is one of few instrumental tracks that they recorded.

The reissue includes two bonus tracks--live rehearsals of "Bare Naked Woman" (a blues tune the group was working on in the studio) and "Genevieve". The sound quality on the original vinyl was superb, and it's slightly better now. The only things missing here are the lyrics (which were on the album's original inner sleeve), and a copy of the original artwork would've been cool, too.

Overall, Capitol did a great job with the Grand Funk catalog. With only a few exceptions, all of the CDs sound considerably better than they ever did. If you purchased the limited edition Trunk of Funk box set, your collection is now complete.

© 2003 Steve Marshall
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