Vintage Vinyl Revisited A look back at rock records you never heard, or may have forgotten
By Todd Cope
Parshallville, Michigan is a quaint little unincorporated
community along US 23, south of Flint in Livingston County.
Not much happens in Parshallville & the locals like it that way.
In the 1970's, however, it just happened to be the location of
"The Swamp", the rehearsal complex & recording studio of
Mich-rock legends Grand Funk Railroad.
Back in 1976, when everyone was listening to Frampton
Comes Alive and preoccupied with painting fire hydrants red,
white & blue, Grand Funk Railroad was breaking up. Long
derided by music critics as simplistic caveman thud-rock, GFR
always had difficulty earning respect from their peers, even
with past chart success with songs such as "I'm Your Captain"
(Closer To Home), and "We're An American Band".
For a band on the verge of a breakup, GFR had a very busy
1976, recording 2 albums, "Born To Die", and "Good Singin',
Good Playin', both well received by their fans, but largely
ignored by music critics & the public in general.
Grand Funk was indeed in a funk and needed a creative spark
to hold their interest in staying together. Enter Frank Zappa.
Zappa always had a propensity for producing acts that one
would not expect, starting with the earliest days of Alice Cooper
& Captain Beefheart.
Though they were basically broken up, Zappa's involvement
inspired GFR to reassemble for one more attempt to regain a
high chart position, which had become elusive as the airwaves
at the time were becoming more & more dominated by disco.
Frank Zappa found one of his biggest challenges of travelling
to rural Michigan was finding suitable coffee, which was Frank's
only drug of choice.
Recorded for MCA Records, "Good Singin', Good Playin'"
displayed a great bunch of songs. Mark Farner & Don Brewer
were in fine form on vocals, and the performances were superb.
As Grand Funk progressed into the mid 1970's, their style
shifted from their early garage rock bashing, towards a much
more polished & sophisticated AOR version, showing their
Motown influences on tracks such as "Just Couldn't Wait",
"Pass It Around", and "Release Your Love".
Mark Farner was
blessed with one of
the most amazing &
soulful singing voices
in rock & roll ever, and
his vocals on "Miss My
Baby", and "Crossfire"
are just mesmerizing.
The magic of his high
vocal harmonies are
just unsurpassed in the
history of rock.
Frank Zappa originally wasn't too thrilled about Farner's
pro-gun tune "Don't Let Em' Take Your Gun", being a hippie left
coaster who had never fired a gun before, but Farner took
Frank out back & let him fire his 44 Magnum at some tin cans,
just so he could feel the power & Farner remarked how Zappa's
eyes got as big as saucers with the excitement of it all, cuz he
hit that tin can!
Zappa even got to perform on the album, playing the
extensive winding guitar solo on "Out To Get You" in his
inimitable style, after Farner begged him to, saying that he
personally just didn't know what to play on it?
Overall, this album delivers exactly as the title promises,
good singin' & good playin', and factoring in that this album
was recorded in the 70's with that beautiful analog production
that you just don't hear anymore, and you have a real treat for
the ears for anyone who may have missed out on this great LP
Unfortunately, it only made it to #52 on the Billboard Top 200
& the band folded soon thereafter, even though Zappa tried to
talk them out of doing so.
This was Grand Funk Railroad's last album of the 70's with
their original lineup, Mark Farner, Don Brewer, Mel Schacher &
Craig Frost (who joined the band on keyboards in 1973), and
nearly 40 years on, it still holds up today. A necessary piece of
Michigan aural history.
Todd Cope is the guitarist for King Kooler ( www.reverbnation.
com/kingkooler ) and is a ne'er do well in general..