Mark Farner | Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul: Live 1989 – DVD Review


Mark Farner came to the public’s attention as the primary vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist of Grand Funk Railroad. He hasn’t been part of the current lineup of the group for nearly 25 years. But the songs he wrote will always be on his setlist. They certainly were in 1989 when he was on the bill for “Woodstock: 20 Years After” in Carson, California. Now that performance has been officially released on DVD, CD, and vinyl with the catchy title of Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul: Live 1989. Accompanied by bassist Lawrence Buckner, drummer Mike Maple, keyboardist Mike Blair and second guitarist Arnie Vilches, Farner delivers a rocking 15-song set that’s guaranteed to bring back some salty memories.

Following a spirited introduction by Woodstock veteran and counterculture icon Wavy Gravy, Farner and his band kick into “Are You Ready,” a familiar opener for Grand Funk fans. Lots more Funk favorites are tackled — “Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul,” “Footstompin’ Music,” “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “Paranoid,” and “Bad Time,” which was the band’s last Top 40 single. At the same time, Farner’s solo ventures in Christian Rock had garnered considerable success, so the guitarist worked in four songs from his 1988 album, Just Another Injustice — “Airbourne Ranger,” “Judgement Day Blues,” “Come To Jesus,” and John Beland’s “Isn’t it Amazing,” which made it all the way to the second spot on the Contemporary Christian music charts. The best thing about watching this video is that, despite Farner’s questionable mullet, his vocals and guitar work are as sharp and dynamic as they were at the height of Grand Funk’s popularity in the 70s. “Must Have Been Love,” which precedes “Bad Love,” is a perfect example of Farner’s exceptional musical capabilities.

Of course, the original Grand Funk frontman couldn’t forget his most beloved song, “I’m Your Captain / Closer To Home,” and the performance on Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul: Live 1989 is nothing short of inspirational. Farner even manages to get the audience, who were there to see a number of acts, to sing along. “Heartbreaker,” a Grand Funk entry from the group’s 1969 debut album, On Time, follows and pushes the intensity into overdrive. Farner and Grand Funk bandmates Don Brewer and Mel Schacher reunited in the 90s before the guitarist went his own way. Watching and listening to Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul: Live 1989 really makes you wonder how Grand Funk have been able to carry on as a touring outfit without Mark Farner. Fans can only dream the three come together one more time before the curtain finally comes down for good.

~ Shawn Perry

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