Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren - Grin, 1+1 & All Out reissue album review

The E Street Band man’s first three albums

Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren Grin, 1+1 and All Out album cover

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Formed by a 17-year-old Nils Lofgren in Washington DC in 1968, Grin’s line-up stabilised around Lofgren, drummer Bob Berberich (who also occasionally sang lead) and bassist Bob Daly. Not long after, Lofgren befriended Neil Young, whose producer David Briggs oversaw all four Grin albums (the other is Gone Crazy, on A&M in ’73).

Even as Grin’s sole songwriter, Lofgren found time to play on his mentor’s After The Gold Rush (1970) and Tonight’s The Night (recorded in 1973). Stylistically, Grin are as wide-ranging and feature echoes of both.

Their self-titled debut (1971) is a richly varied collection of folk, rock and whimsy. Its best-known track is Like Rain, which later became a staple of Lofgren’s solo sets. Recorded piecemeal before the same year’s first by Crazy Horse – whom Nils also joined! – Grin features Young, Danny Whitten and Ralph Molina singing on two songs. This version (the 2005 remaster) includes two bonus tracks – one of which, Nobody, was rewritten for Crazy Horse.

Second album 1+1 (1972) is more polished, originally split into Rockin’ and Dreamy sides on vinyl. The segregation removes some of the charm of the debut, but it has its moments. Rockin’ is dominated by Moon Tears (another Nils solo staple), while the best of Dreamy is Hi, Hello Home (featuring Graham Nash).

All Out (1973) sees Nils’s brother Tom added on rhythm guitar, but the quality dips. Overall, these albums are very much of their time, but each offers an intriguing snapshot of the enormous breadth of talent that has sustained Lofgren for half a century.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.