Grin – This One’s A Rocker (Colosseum Records 96-C-006)

This One’s A Rocker (Colosseum Records 96-C-006)

Lisner Auditorium, Washington D.C. December 1st 1972

( 71:59 ) Had Too Much / Ain’t Love Nice / Love Or Else / Please Don’t Be Long / Moontears / Love Again / Heart On Fire / Slippery Fingers / Sad Letter / Heavy Chevy / Like Rain / End Unkind / See What Love Can Do.

Grin were a trio formed by multi instrumentalist Nils Lofgren who used his Crazy Horse credentials to get the group a contract & whom would guide the band through 4 successful albums before their end at the hands of the record company.

“God knows all the names we went through, but the word Grin came up,” Lofgren recalled. “It was the late ’60s. We were all happy, positive, crazy, and we thought it had a good representation of a sentiment the band shared.”

Scorpio offshoot label Colosseum Records present us with a very rare slice of the bands legacy ( Indeed, with a quick internet search I found only 3 or 4 Grin bootlegs that seem to be in circulation for the bands 3 year existence. ) in the form of a near excellent mono soundboard. Unfortunately it’s marred by the condition of the tape at the start that has a few minor dropouts & tape crunches but the tape does improve as it it goes on so by the time we get to the second track then the problems seem to have settled down somewhat.

The set list itself is a good promise for what the trio ( Or a four piece when on tour as they were joined by Nils’ brother Tom ) could achieve with their live shows – Ranging between crunchy heavy rock through to a less heavier, sunny country rock. “Had Too Much ( Miss Dazi )” – The track that concludes the first album – begins the show & propels itself along behind Nils’ tinkly bar room piano while pushing itself along towards the thrusting guitar of the chorus.

The fuzzy, rampant guitar solo towards the end lends itself well to the jiving piano solo that tops off the track. A lot of the songs here seem to follow the same sort of path – A chugglin’, groovin’ ramble through an Allman / Doobie brothers style – Take for instance “Please Don’t Be Long”, a hefty plodding bass line guided by the effortless shifting of Nils’ guitar in a pleasingly runaround style though some edge a little more towards the sound of the more mature style of their second album as in the case of “Moontears” – A thrilling exercise in tornado force rock outs featuring a quota of blisteringly punishing & roughshod guitar solos threaded throughout, akin to the ones Jack White plays nowadays, but while Jack’s solo’s tend to pace themselves to a brief burst, these almost carry on throughout the track while the back bone clatters along to base effect stretching out the song to a luxurious 8 minutes.

“Love Again” slows proceedings down to a less tempestuous level – Featuring Nils on Piano, it has a reflective mood & infuses the ragged harmonies of both Nils & Bob Berberich to great effect while the last quarter features a playfully head nodding coda with a cheeky, bluegrass finale. The Wingsian “Heart on Fire” immediately springs out with a propulsing bass line that leads from a delicate piano intermezzo. Nils uses his virtuosity to great acclaim here batting between grand piano over to screeching & writhing guitar work & then back to piano.

“Sad Letter” & “Heavy Chevy” borrow notes from Crazy Horse or, more specifically, from Neil Young. Two shaky & grungy pieces that certainly seems to bear hall marks of Neil’s playing. Whether, after learning from Neil’s way, Nils found himself aping Young’s style is unclear but the path seems to be clear between tutor & student here.

“End Unkind” is another splintering, driven piece that, at almost 13 minutes long, aims to be the center piece of the show. An almost purely instrumental piece it’s main purpose seems to be to showcase the musicianship of the band which, while the main part were a quartet, seems to fall solely around Nils’ talents, as he once again flits between guitar & piano with some excellent support from his band mates who manage to keep the many facets of the song together as they spring between time change to time change.

Strangely, towards the end of the song, the clarity of the recording picks up immensely & we get the best of the recording for the final one & a half tracks. “See What Love Can Do” is chosen as the show stopper tonight, while it my not be the jewel in Grin’s crown, the audience do seem to pick up on the opening chords as soon as they start ringing out. Only the second track on the debut album but obviously a firm favorite, the track gives Nils a good chance to do what he does best & throw out a cascading solo throughout the later portion of the song while the rest of the band pull no punches either & keep up their forceful ballast behind him for the full 9 minute length.

While this CD may just have general curiosity value for most then it does serve to capture one of rocks best guitarists playing with one of the lesser known aspects of his career ( Or at least as far as casual observers are concerned. ) For anyone wanting or willing to discover the earlier aspects of Nils’ solo career then they couldn’t choose a better example outside of the official Grin catalogue.

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