Closer to Home
01. Sin's A Good Man's Brother 4:35
02. Aimess Lady 3:25
03. Nothing Is The Same 5:10
04. Mean Mistreater 4:25
05. Get It Together 5:07
06. I Don't Have To Sing The Blues 4:35
07. Hooked On Love 7:10
08. I'm Your Captain 9:47
09. Mean Mistreater (Alternate Mix) 4:33
10. In Need (Live) 11:30
11. Heartbreaker (Live) 7:17
12. Mean Mistreater (Live) 5:22
Bass – Mel Schacher
Drums, Vocals – Don Brewer
Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals – Mark Farner
Producer – Terry Knight
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."
In June 1970, Grand Funk Railroad officially arrived at the rock stardom station with their third album released in less than a year, Closer to Home. The record took the Michigan-bred band — whose career up to this point reflected more of a grass-roots, blue-collar movement — to new heights, and made singer and guitarist Mark Farner, bassist Mel Schacher and singer and drummer Don Brewer one of music’s biggest and most durable bands.
Since coming together in 1969, after many years working with different groups, Grand Funk Railroad released their debut album, On Time, that August. It was quickly followed by their self-titled second LP (a.k.a. the Red Album) in December. Barely six months later, they issuing their third record, Closer to Home. All of this done during a period of intense touring and promotion that consumed most of the band’s time. Yet somehow the trio managed to take a creative leap, delivering its most mature, polished and confident album of its young career.
After disarming fans with the acoustic intro “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother,” Grand Funk hit with one of the era’s most wicked riffs (anyone doubting Grand Funk’s contribution to heavy metal, here’s your proof), before settling into the floating reverie of “Mean Mistreater” and “Get it Together”‘s soulful congregation.
“Aimless Lady,” “Nothing Is the Same” and “I Don’t Have to Sing the Blues” feature the band’s muscular and hard-driving groove rock, while the 10-minute closer, “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” breaks new ground with flute, strings and even ocean swells and seagull squawks. Along with the song’s wistful lyrics, the track connected with American working-class kids, many of whom associated the song with the Vietnam war.
Even some of the nation’s harshest rock critics were starting to warm up to Grand Funk, with the Village Voice‘s Robert Christgau (who was known for his disdain of most things that had to do with hard rock) asking, “What’s happening to me? I’m getting to like this group’s records, which present as pure a concept of hard rock as you’ll find anywhere.”
Who could argue with the results? As Capitol Records went into promotional overdrive, Closer to Home quickly became Grand Funk’s third album to strike gold (and, later, platinum), soaring to No. 6 on the U.S. chart.
Moreover, the band’s aggressive manager, Terry Knight, demanded that the label spend $100,000 to have a single, massive billboard erected in Times Square to advertise both the LP and the band’s upcoming show at Shea Stadium, which sold out in less than 72 hours. But more than anything, it’s the music that spoke the loudest, and it continues to do so today.