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.