Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Grand Funk Railroad: E Pluribus Funk

Today we begin a new series called Atypical Tuesday which will explore album packaging that is a little different than the norm. I had been toying with this thought for about a year when my friend Greg Rector resurrected the idea to feature albums that had unusual packaging. In fact, Greg selected the first choice – Grand Funk Railroad’s “E Pluribus Funk.” As I had several things already planned, I appreciate his patience with me being able to get to it at this late date.

The album was released in 1971 and had a die cut cover that resembled a US coin. The album had five aspects to it that increased the cost of its production: its cover was circular and not the typical square pattern that was used 99.9% of albums, the inner sleeve was also circular, it used custom label blanks and not the typical green Capitol label of the period, it sported a shiny silver foil on both the obverse and the reverse of the jacket, and the cover was embossed to look like a real coin.

Producer Terry Knight envisioned the idea for the cover and its design was fulfilled by Craig Braun. The front cover depicted the three band members: Mel Schacher, Mark Farner, and Don Brewer. The reverse depicted New York’s Shea Stadium, as the band had eclipsed The Beatles previous record for selling out the venue in less than 72 hours.

The only down side of the cover was that the foil scratched easily and tended to wear off in the embossed areas. Thus, it took on the appearance of a circulated coin. Because it was circular, sometimes the album would roll off of a shelf when pulling out an adjacent album. The title was a play on one of the mottos of the US, “E Pluribus Unum” – one out of many. “E Pluribus Funk” = funk out of many.

It was the last album that Terry Knight produced for Grand Funk, as the band would fire Knight as their manager and producer. “E Pluribus Funk” peaked at #5 in 1972 and eventually was awarded platinum certification by the RIAA.

“E Pluribus Funk” produced three singles: “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother,” which failed to chart; “Footstompin’ Music” that peaked at #29 in 1972, and “Upsetter” that only made it to #73 position. As requested by Greg, I’m featuring the driving “Footstompin’ Music.”

Although Grand Funk was often panned by the critics, this recording should dispel any rumor that this band lacked talent. For three guys, they produced a lot of sound. I love Mel Schacher’s driving bass and Mark Farner’s fantastic organ chops – not to mention his tasty leads. Lest we forget, Don Brewer holds down the beat and provides the needed harmonies to Farner’s lead vocals.

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