Bonus Tracks for 2011: Grand Funk Railroad

Editor’s Note: Brett Milano originally submitted this for one of his “This Week in Music” columns, but the CD’s release date was bumped . . . and bumped . . . and bumped. We only just learned that the set finally appeared on December 16. Accordingly, we can’t let Brett’s write-up go to waste. So, just in time to be the soundtrack for your New Year’s Eve party . . .

Why re-release a compilation that’s hopelessly incomplete and cuts off before the band had any real hits? Because that’s the point: This two-disc set wraps up the days before Grand Funk Railroad had keyboardist Craig Frost, unlikely star producers, and grudging critical respect. They did have about-to-be-sacked manager Terry Knight, whose original liner notes were as overstated as the band’s music.

As heard here, that music is also crude, boneheaded, and in one case (“T.N.U.C.”) inexcusably sexist. But it’s genuine, with a fierce groove, and not really that far from the music of other primitive Detroit bands that garnered more respect (the Stooges, the MC5). And darned if this stuff doesn’t hold up better than the more accomplished music that Grand Funk made later on; the adrenalin rush of “Are You Ready” and “Paranoid” is still hard to beat. Meanwhile, according to the folks at Iconoclassic, this reissue is the album’s “first worldwide legitimate appearance on CD and features a new remastering done especially for this release by Grammy-winning engineer Vic Anesini.”

Mark, Don & Mel was never a perfect compilation (leave it to Knight to favor the band’s weightiest tracks), but the spirit’s here. And it may well bug your deep-thinking kids as much as it did your parents.

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