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Articles Home » 1983 Articles » Grand Funk Railroad - 1983 What's Funk
Grand Funk Railroad - 1983 What's Funk

ARTIST: Grand Funk Railroad
ALBUM: What's Funk
LABEL: Full Moon (Warner Bros)
SERIAL: 23750-1
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 2001, Elektra, LMR 6347


LINEUP: Mark Farner - vocals, guitar, keyboards * Dennis Bellinger - bass * Don Brewer - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Rock & Roll American Style * 02 Nowhere To Run * 03 Innocent * 04 Still Waitin' * 05 Borderline * 06 El Salvador * 07 It's A Man's World * 08 I'm So True * 09 Don't Lie To Me * 10 Life In Outer Space


It's hard to believe in this day and age where bands take years between albums that Grand Funk released 11 studio albums between 1969 and 1976. That output seems unfathomable now, but it was par for the course in the 70's when the band was one of the most popular rock bands in the U.S. But even Grand Funk ran their course following a virtual slew of classic recordings and folded in 1976 due to waning interest. I wonder how many people were surprised in 1980 when the band reformed? The new lineup lacked original bassist Mel Schacher, replaced by Bellinger who had played on Farner's solo albums after the split. 1981's 'Grand Funk Lives' didn't create any real commercial buzz however, although being a decent hard rock workout. Two years later and 'What's Funk' followed, which to this day is amazingly the last proper studio album from the band. Given it was 1983 there was only one logical direction the album could take of course - AOR. The band always had an impeccable sense of melody in the 70's so this wasn't too much of a surprise I'd say, but the results were excellent. What a shame then this album was forgotten, it's a veritable feast of melodic rock.

The Songs
It doesn't quite start off that way though, opener 'Rock & Roll American Style' a traditional foot stomping anthem that would have delighted the bands fans. I could imagine Kiss trying to pull this one off to be honest, but Grand Funk all but owned harebrained hard rock then and now. The bands penchant for classic rock covers rears itself again with a version of 'Nowhere To Run'. It's well handled and probably would have been a hit in 1975, but times had changed. After this the band jumps deep into the AOR well, with some stunning compositions, both 'Innocent' and 'Still Waitin' able to compete with the likes of Le Roux any day. 'Borderline' is a reserved ballad which isn't all that sensational, much more crucial is the crunching 'El Salvador', somewhat of a political statement about the troubles in that country back then. I could do without the cover of James Brown's 'It's A Man's World' but that is erased by the heavily synthesized West Coast of 'I'm So True', where the band sounds like they are emulating Toto, only in their distinctive way. A touch heavier is 'Don't Lie To Me' which initially has shades of Hall And Oates, especially in the vocals. It could even be a Donnie Iris track if you really want to get technical. 'Life In Outer Space' utilizes some excellent vocal harmonies, with a suitably mystical atmosphere which conjures up thoughts of Blue Oyster Cult.

In Summary
This album could definitely be labeled as uneven, but the AOR aspect is more than present throughout. It's clear the band was trying their hand at several styles to see if any would stick, which obviously they didn't as the album didn't even chart. But it's a consistent album in terms of musical quality, but that isn't surprising when coming from legends like Grand Funk. Like all their albums this is worth investigating.

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#1 | Eric on November 14 2012 01:41:29
Grand Funk headlined half empty arenas behind this album. Diesel opened the majority of the dates, but it didn't go well. Agree with this review and always liked the sleeve.
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