In July 1971, US monstergroup Grand Funk Railroad played a massive free concert in London’s Hyde Park, supported by Humble Pie and Head Hands & Feet. Thousands of early-generation headbangers witnessed a truly awe-inspiring set by the definitive American blue-collar rock band. However this monumental event has been largely erased from rock history because: a) GFR weren’t The Who or the Rolling Stones, and b) critics abhorred them as much as fans adored them.
At least these Trunk Of Funk collections – actually, given the size of them, let’s call them shipping containers – give the band a little of the respect they deserve. Because let’s face it, this lot played arena rock before there were even arenas – just fields of corn and dusty parking lots.
Vol 1 spans the years 1969-1971 and includes six discs, beginning with debut album On Time and ending with E Pluribus Funk. Vol 2 takes in 1972-1976 with another half-dozen CDs, from Phoenix to Born To Die.
There are naturally missteps, given this phenomenal output, but when the Funk are on song, there’s no stopping them. For evidence, look no further than the brace of live albums included here: the aptly titled Live Album (1970) and Caught In The Act (1975). Tracks such as Mean Mistreater, T.N.U.C., Inside Looking Out and, of course, signature song SOFTWAREmark” gingersoftwareuiphraseguid=“2ae3255b-5b32-44b3-8276-36238d1bcb56” id=“a2e49e41-a583-41f7-a9db-19b9061a8fda”>SOFTWAREmark” gingersoftwareuiphraseguid=“7aafa325-6e6e-4215-8549-ada65f8d9da5” id=“35b51800-7ade-4b5f-b935-950d657a1a33”>We’re An American Band were, and remain, the stuff of legend – no matter what the holier-than-thou rock journals of old might have told you.
As for the missteps? Well, look no further than 1974’s All The Girls In The World Beware!!!, the band depicted as muscle-bound Schwarzenegger types on the cover – Manowar eat your heart out. The album reaches its nadir with the appropriately horn-heavy Look At Granny Run Run – admittedly not a GFR original – which tells the tale of an old lady being pursued by her aged husband, who has just been prescribed Viagra (or the 1970s equivalent).
To counterbalance the hilarity, the album closes with a magnificent version of Some Kind Of Wonderful, with an ever-commanding vocal performance by Mark Farner. But the best track of the entire collection just has to be the epic and elegiac I’m Your Captain, which appeared originally on 1970 album Closer To Home –an enduring classic rock, er, classic if there ever was one.
The only criticism of these sets is the dodgy repro of the original album sleeves – the shiny glory of E Pluribus Funk, for example, now resembles a tatty beer mat.