FLINT - Flint (1978)
Interesting that when former Grand Funk producer Todd Rundgren adds his guitar to the mix, the album comes to life. "Too Soon to Tell," track three on side one, has that Columbia R&B/rock sound that Santana and Journey made famous. Vocalist Don Brewer hit number one five years prior to this with "We're an American Band," giving Flint a unique edge. In a world where the lead singer or guitar star is all, these remnants of Grand Funk moved on when guiding light Mark Farner went solo, retaining a voice that audiences could identify. That's something the latter-day Guess Who should have considered had Chad Allen joined them when Burton Cummings left, but impossible for the Doors, Bowie's Spider's From Mars, Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies, and so many other casualties. Opening side one with a respectable version of "Back in My Arms Again," well, Brewer can't reinvent the Supremes the way the J. Geils Band did with "Where Did Our Love Go." Without Mark Farner, it is sad to say, Craig Frost, Mel Schacher, and Brewer sound like your average bar band. Guitar work from Frank Zappa on "You'll Never Be the Same" and "Better You Than Me," backing vocals by White Lightnin', and saxophone from Jimmy Hall make for great, slick musicianship. But Todd Rundgren playing guitar on "For Your Love" sounds more like a rock star jamming with the local rock group than the magic you've come to expect from the wizard who recreated vintage sounds so perfectly on his Faithful album. The production by Brewer, Frost, and Shacher is as faceless as this music. Rather than be a new version of Rare Earth, which is exactly what this is what is it about singing drummers? Flint should have pursued the direction they touched upon in the aforementioned "Too Soon to Tell." Definitely more hip than Atlanta Rhythm Section, remember, these cats are from Grand Funk, not the Classics IV. A once mighty arena rock band turning the volume in the wrong direction. All the excess and grittiness found in Grand Funk Railroad's dynamic version of "Gimme Shelter" is forgotten here, traded for slick '70s power rock. Too calculated, too diluted. Rundgren adds something to "Keep Me Warm," Zappa's cosmic guitar lines are the highlight of "Better You Than Me," but even a good stompin' tune like Brewer's original "Rainbow" is desperate for Jimmy Ienner or even, dare it be said, Terry Knight production. "You'll Never Be the Same" is a mini-epic, with shades of the Boston band New England, and superb Zappa guitar work. It is the second best track on a disc that is almost, but not quite.
CD reissue of this 1978 album. When Grand Funk Railroad disbanded in 1976, the individual members created new bands. One of those bands was Flint, formed by Don Brewer and Craig Frost. The album features guest appearances by Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa. Funk fans will flip over this one!
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