Comforting Ho-Hum

It is a widely documented and accepted fact that the creation of art requires a great deal of inspiration and a large expenditure of energy on the artist's part. Not as widely acknowledged however, is that the appreciation of art can in and of itself be a exceedingly taxing affair. In most cases it demands a high level of active engagement from the listener, viewer, reader, what have you, in order to be fully appreciated.

Unfortunately, in today's world most of us are forced to slave away at some unfulfilling job for the majority of our waking hours. Consequently we find ourselves, at the end of the day, lacking in the requisite energy to indulge in the appreciation, (much less the creation) of truly inspiring and engaging art, be it music, literature, painting, film, whatever. Who at the end of a long hard day hasn't sought solace in a cheap periodical rather than a classic work of literature, a dumb sitcom instead of a more edifying PBS documentary, or opted for the latest mindless adventure thriller over the critically lauded foreign film? When the brain is fatigued by the day's drudgery it longs not to be enflamed and jostled by the restless searching and ponderous inspirations of a great artist, but instead to be comforted by the sympathetic and unchallenging work of other similarly downtrodden and uninspired souls.

It is for just this reason that albums such as Grand Funk Live! exist. A solidly mediocre affair throughout which only occasionally, and even then quite accidently, raises itself above the level of the banal. And God Bless Mark Farner and Co. for providing us with such comforting ho-hum. You can put this baby on and just lay back dazed and amazed at how truly workmanlike The Grand Funk was back in their heyday. The thunderous response of the liquored up and loving it audience serves a purpose similar to that of the laugh track on a situation comedy, letting you know exactly when, where and how to respond. But don't sweat it too much, the crowds already done the appreciating for you, see? All you need do is recline, tuning in and out as you choose, like watching television and talking on the phone at the same time. Let the whole thing wash over you as your mind wanders where it may or until the urge for unconsciousness and the freedom of dreamless sleep overtakes you.

I won't waste your time here with tedious description of the tunes contained within. To be truthful the titles of the majority of the tracks elude me. However, I do remember that near the end of one particularly long track (it's conveniently placed at the end of a side as well) the Grand Funk, as alluded to earlier, rise above the previous hours banality and engage in some almost compelling sub velvets/stooges feedback laden jamming. If you happen to be paying attention when it occurs, it will take you out on a high note, not too high, perhaps just enough to prepare you for another day of mind numbing work. If you find you've missed this particular section of the two record set, well that's o.k. This just leaves you something yet to discover upon future listenings.

The reviewer would like to note that his copy of this record was bought for a quarter at sound exchange and that he does not recommend paying more than a dollar anywhere else. Additionally, this recording is only recommended in its original vinyl format, as the prospect of enduring the whole thing on compact disc without the merciful breaks provided by l.p. sides would defeat its sympathetic effects, rendering it instead potentially patience testing. The cover is also much more appealing to view in its older larger format. One last thing, on further inspection of the cover the reviewer realized that the actual title of the album is 'Grand Funk Live Album', which surely makes the whole affair all the more perfect.

© William Crain 2002