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On this, their third album, Grand Funk Railroad’s own unique sound became fully evolved. The band had started with re-written and refined material from their days as another group when they debuted as GFR in 1969 with «On Time.» With their second album, «Grand Funk,» the band gave birth to a unique entity of music: a hybrid of edgy hard rock, quirky pop, and soulful blues. However, their music, though catchy, was still very infantile. It was clear that the band was still learning to crawl. With «Closer to Home,» they officially carved their niche into the musical world with a vengeance. The pulsating rhythms of Mel Schacher’s bass, the primal yet deeply spiritual melodies of Mark Farner’s guitar, and the much-underrated beat of Don Brewer’s drumming came together to paint a picture of how society should be.
The songs, though sometimes mistaken for party fare, are very conceptual. One the A Side, the band examines the world as it was in 1970 (and still is today): a cold place where humanity is in danger of being wiped out by its own desires. On the B Side, Mark Farner’s lyrics shift from an observation to a warning: that our best chance for survival as a species depends on adopting an attitude of peace, love, and mutual respect and tolerance for one’s neighbors, be they friend or foe. This idea is slowly built upon until it reaches a head with the band’s magnum opus: «I’m Your Captain,» a ten-minute tour de force of quiet yet explosive rhythms, and some of Farner’s best lyrics. The band spends the last half of the song pleading with society to find its way back to the light (accompanied by a flutist and a string section, a first for the group).
What really makes these songs stand out from Farner’s earlier efforts is more of a devotion to words with a meaning. In the past, songs that touched upon Farner’s personal philosophy were often outnumbered by songs that had more of a pop feeling to them, as far as lyrics were concerned. His abilities as a songwriter matured, so that even on songs like «Aimless Lady,» the words and music do a better job of blending into a symmetrical whole. This idea is carried into the next song about a broken releationship: «Mean Mistreater.» This song is entirely about rhythm, as Mark Farner takes off his guitar and trades it for an organ. Combined with Schacher’s bass and Brewer’s fiery percussions, you won’t even notice that the guitar is gone. As for the rest of the songs, there is a purity to the band’s musicianship that is more refined than it was on earlier albums. Don Brewer manages to keep the beat without hitting the cymbals every five seconds, and both he and Mel Schacher feed Mark Farner a rhythm which Farner uses to sculpt magnificent chords on his guitar: every bit as edgy as the last album, but with just the right amount of pop. And as for Mel Schacher: if his bass doesn’t get your feet tapping (especially on «Nothing Is The Same»), you might be legally dead. All in all, the band delivers more than just a message that people must learn to live in harmony. They’re saying: «Look out, world. We’ve learned how to rock, and we’re not taking any prisoners.»