On July 15, 1973 "Grand Funk Railroad" released their seventh studio album "We're An American Band".
This is a legendary album that demonstrates their evolution as a rock powerhouse. It marked a turning point for the band, both in terms of their musical direction and critical reception.
The change in musical direction and sound was achieved thanks to three main factors. The first was the addition of keyboardist Craig Frost that was credited as an additional musician on the previous album "Phoenix" and now become a part of the band that changed from a power trio to a quartet. Craig played the organ, clavinet and Moog on the album changing the overall sound of the band from a raw Guitar-Bass-Drums to a full and richer sound. The second, was the increase in lead vocal work of drummer Don Brewer, who sang half of the songs on the album, including the two singles released from the album - The title track "We're An American Band" released on July 2, 1973 and "Walk Like a Man", released on October 29, 1973. The third, was the guidance of multi-instrumentalist producer Todd Rundgren. Todd was known for performing a diverse range of styles as a solo artist and as a member of the bands "Nazz" and later "Utopia". He was known for his sophisticated and often unorthodox music and his addition as a producer (the previous album was produced by the band) helped "Grand Funk Railroad" embraced a tighter, more polished sound, resulting in a collection of songs that epitomized the infectious spirit of '70s rock.
The album opens with the title track "We're An American Band", which encapsulates the unique spirit of "Grand Funk Railroad". The killer riff and thunderous bass immediately grab attention, while the vocals exude confidence and charm. The guitar solo, the iconic cowbell and the poppy psychedelic organ build on the song's energy, adding to its infectious nature and solidifying its status as a rock anthem.
"Stop Lookin' Back" comes right after and reignites the album's energy with its catchy and groove-oriented riffs. The band's tight jamming abilities are on full display, showcasing their ability to maintain a cohesive structure while delivering powerful performances. The stomping Hammond organ and the short guitar lines intensify the experience with a head to head short sentences.
"Creepin'" slows things a bit with its bluesy vibe, again the Hammond organ takes center stage and adds to the overall groovy and mysterious atmosphere. This is the first song on the album where Mark Farner takes the lead vocals carrying a soulful taste. His guitar solos are nothing short of impressive, and the jamming at the end adds a touch of psychedelic rock.
"Black Licorice" ends the first side of the vinyl with its infectious bass riff and a funky guitar rhythm. Brewer takes lead vocals again reaching high notes and embodying the dangerously sexual themes of the lyrics, particularly in the chorus. The drumming is ferocious, driving the song forward with power, Farner's guitar solos are great while the intense organ solo reminds us of Jon Lord's great moments.
The second side of the vinyl opens up with "The Railroad" sung by Mark Farner. A magical blend of bluesy tune, psychedelic organ, soulful vocals, and catchy hooks. The transition from a blaring intro to a quiet guitar melody adds an interesting texture to the song and The jam in the bridge showcases the band's collective skills, with Farner's magnificent guitar work, Don Brewer's tribal drumming, and Craig Frost's Hammond carpet on the keys.
"Ain't Got Nobody" maintains a steady groove, though it may come across as standard fare in comparison to some of the album's standout tracks. The vocal harmonies led by brewer add a layer of sweetness to the jazzy vibe of the song, while Farner's guitar solo moves the song to a more heavy direction.
"Walk Like a Man" brings back the infectious catchiness, with its shout-a-long chorus and prominent electric piano riff. Brewer's vocals intertwine with the soaring guitar licks, creating a memorable rock anthem. The bridge showcases impressive blues-rock guitar solos, further elevating the track's energy and intensity.
The album ends up with "Loneliest Rider". While it may not resonate as strongly with some listeners, it still holds its own within the album's overall journey. The cool groove clavinet playing and the great production techniques, such as the heavily reverberated guitar, give the song a wash of funky-psychedelic elements.
"We're An American Band" stands the test of time as a testament to "Grand Funk Railroad's" rock 'n' roll prowess. The album's diverse range of songs, from the mysterious and atmospheric to the infectious and groovy, showcases the band's evolution and ability to captivate listeners. With memorable hooks, impressive instrumentals, and an undeniable sense of fun, this album solidifies "Grand Funk Railroad's" place in rock music history and serves as a vibrant snapshot of the unapologetic spirit of the '70s.