4.5 out of 5 Stars!
One of my favorite albums by Grand Funk Railroad—or, for several albums, simply Grand Funk. Although overall I still prefer the “raw and untamed” atmosphere of the first five studio albums, this truly is the album that launched the band into worldwide mega-fame and it still sounds great after all these many years.
We’re an American Band is actually one of the band’s most consistent releases overall, with top-notch production quality (thanks to Todd Rundgren). The album includes some truly excellent songs, and also contains perhaps Mark Farner’s greatest vocal performances ever (on the outstanding “Creepin’,” “The Railroad,” and “Loneliest Rider,” and especially on the rollicking “Black Licorice”). And despite the famous title track being overplayed to death on just about every radio station known to mankind, I actually still enjoy hearing the song from time to time, so that says a lot about its staying power.
Additionally, the inclusion of keyboardist Craig Frost as an official (and fully credited) band member, is also welcome. Craig appeared as presumably a “guest” on the previous Phoenix album, but here he truly makes his presence known, especially when it comes to his Hammond organ excursions, which are quite impressive overall and seemed to add some energy to the band. And with Craig’s addition, the band strangely sounded quite comparable to Three Dog Night on numerous tracks, especially when it came to Mark’s vocals (which were not too dissimilar from Chuck Negron’s). Plus, when the band added background harmonies, the comparisons between the two groups were almost shocking, especially when compared back to back/side by side.
Nevertheless, despite the praise for the music itself, I still detest the cover art. Sure, when it first appeared in record stores, the cover had a shiny/mirror-esque quality that was “sort of” cool at the time, but now that the album has been re-released dozens of times without that lamination, and in various sizes, the cover just seems about as bland as one can get. Although I did relish the original album’s gold vinyl…ah, the rare colored vinyl…those were the days, huh? Regardless, the cover sucks big time, which is a crying shame for such a special album.
Now, a final special note—seeking out this album with the bonus tracks included is well worth the effort, especially when it comes to the songs “Hooray” and “The End” (both energetic rockers that easily remind me of the band’s “older days”). Damn, I wish both tracks had been included on the album’s original release, but the time limits regarding vinyl prevented that from happening.
Anyway, to me, this could potentially be considered the band’s masterpiece (or at least, one of them), and (unfortunately) it’s also the band’s last truly great album.