Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mark Farner - 1978 - No Frills

Mark Farner
No Frills

01. He Sent Me You 3:10
02. If It Took All Day 3:12
03. When A Man Loves A Woman 3:44
04. Faith Keeps It Away 4:42
05. Crystal Eyes 3:54
06. Just One Look 2:45
07. All The Love You Give Me 4:45
08. Cool Water 3:14
09. Without You 2:08

Backing Vocals – Karen Lawrence (tracks: B2)
Bass, Backing Vocals – Dennis Bellinger
Drums – Andy Newmark
Guitar, Piano, Clavinet, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mark Farner

Grand Funk Railroad's most potent and primal recordings (such as Closer to Home and their 1970 live album) were cut as a power trio, and even their more polished later work on We're an American Band and Shinin' On only added a keyboard player to the mix, so when GFR guitarist and singer Mark Farner went into the studio to cut his second solo album in 1978, the LP's title summed up the approach: No Frills. Producer Jimmy Iovine set Farner up with a good rhythm section (bassist Dennis Bellinger and drummer Andy Newmark), took them into the studio and rolled tape. What could go wrong? Well, Farner's songwriting chops weren't what they once were, and while he could pen a worthy mass of power chords earlier in his career, the mixture of pop, soul, and hard rock that informs most of these tunes lack the clarity and force of his best work. The lyrics aren't especially inspired, either, though "If It Took All Day" is at least funny and "He Sent Me You" anticipates the tone of his later Christian recordings. The lack of musical focus also impacts Farner's guitar work, which doesn't approach the full-bodied grit of Grand Funk's glory days (and who told the guy to go crazy with the flanger, anyway?). Bellinger and Newmark play just fine, but it's clear they don't have quite the same empathy for this music as Mel Schacher and Don Brewer, and the engineering is too slick and doesn't have the muscle to give this the loud and proud punch it needs. No Frills may have been a good philosophy for Mark Farner, but he needed a bit more than that to make an album worthy of his hard rock legacy.

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