Grand Funk Railroad – E Pluribus Funk (1971): Forgotten Series

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E Pluribus Funk by Grand Funk Railroad is an album often only remembered because of its unique die cut, foil covered jacket, which made it resemble a giant coin. Released in late 1971, it was the last album the band made while under the management of Terry Knight, who was instrumental in their early success.

Though Grand Funk Railroad’s first few LPs suffered from poor production values and primitive song writing, the power trio of guitarist Mark Farner, drummer Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher were all Michigan boys who had each honed their instrumental chops through years of roadwork and touring. By the time they got around to recording their fifth studio effort, they had also developed some good writing and arranging skills. Knight, in his role as producer, had presumably figured out the studio as well.

The resulting album, E Pluribus Funk, hit a perfect balance between the raw energy of their early tracks and the pop infused rock ‘n’ roll soul of their later work. The lead off cut, “Footstompin’ Music,” with its deep groovin’ bass line and full throated Hammond organ intro (courtesy of Mark Farner) would in subsequent years be their typical concert opener.

But it’s not just about good times. Grand Funk Railroad also make a claim for counter-culture authenticity with issue oriented songs like “People, Let’s Stop the War” and “Share the Land.” Not too subtle — but then again, that was never their strong point.

If anything, Grand Funk Railroad’s strong point was their ability to rock hard, like they do on side one’s closing number, “I Come Tumblin’.” The wah-wah guitar, rubbery fuzz bass and lightning fast drum fills that underpin some Beatles-via-Motown harmony singing practically define the musical equivalent of the term “take no prisoners.”

The rest of E Pluribus Funk provides further evidence that at this point in time, Grand Funk Railroad were really on top of their game as a band, which makes it even more puzzling why this album continues to go mostly unheralded by fans and critics alike.

Maybe it’s the giant coin of an album cover, an uneasy reminder about the relationship between money and music. Maybe Grand Funk Railroad’s original audience had just grown up and moved on. Maybe the critics found someone else to revile. Whatever the reason, E Pluribus Funk remains a solid testimonial to a true American band that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, and you can take that to the bank.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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  • Art Fleming

    I agree! You made some great points. I’m listening to it right now. I love how they play with reckless abandone and Farner can really sing. I think there was a lot of jealousy against GFR because it seemed as if they came out of nowhere. Love it!

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