Review Summary: Closer to Home is a blues-rock epoch, mired in existential truths. It’s an album about someone else’s life.
If you were a bastard born between 1940 and 1950 in the Midwest, you know that Grand Funk Railroad is closer to blues than funk. Grand Funk Railroad… their name is immaterial; their sound, on the other hand, is the stuff of legends. Closer to Home is a blues-rock epoch that is mired in existential truths. It’s an album about someone else’s life.
“Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother” starts out the album. Musically, it’s a dance with the devil. Lyrically, it’s everything one could want in a rock song, but at the same time, it has things that one could never hear on the radio. The content of the song’s lyrics are constantly in flux, as the singer belts a deep sense of alienation with man, God, and law. The song’s climax is, “You say we need a revolution? It seems to be the only solution.”
“Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother” reflects the naiveté of a young man’s mind, whereas “Nothing is the Same,” the next song, is a song about coming to grips with the real world that a young man inevitably feels.
While Adam wrote a preponderance of his songs about his Eve and his sinfulness, Grand Funk Railroad followed suit on Closer to Home. “Aimless Lady” is a hard-dicked blues-rock jam in the middle of this album. “Mean Mistreater” is another direct consequence of Mark Farner’s “thing” for flings, a spoken word-broken heart song. “Get It Together” is a soulful semi-instrumental follow-up to “Mean Mistreater” that betrays the band’s southern, apparently gospel, influences. While “I Don’t Have to Sing the Blues” alludes to finding the right woman, “Hooked on Love” is about finally finding love.
In conclusion... the song-writing brilliance of this album comes at its ends, with “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother” coming at the beginning and “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home (Medley)” at the end.
In “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home (Medley)," the narrator’s choice of a first person is a captain on a ship. The captain is about to lose his ship. My interpretation of this lyrical device is that the captain is a person who lived a free life and the ship that he is about to lose is his life. It’s a song about the conclusion of life.
The man laments:
I can feel the hands of a stranger tightening around my throat
Heaven help me/Heaven help me
Take this stranger from my boat
I’m your Captain/I’m your Captain
Though I am feeling mighty sick
Life is full of choices, and the directions which one takes are reflected in this epic song.
The song resolves with “Closer to Home.” “Closer to Home” is as light, airy, and spacious as the rest of this record was dense. It is the humble opinion of this sputbro that “Closer to Home” is about the promise of heaven. Life after death.
I would recommend listening to the entire album from start to finish, in order to receive its full effect. "I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home (Medley)" is often played by itself, but to grasp its stirring significance one must put it in its original context -- at the end of a rich tapestry of a rock and roll record that beckons the listener to consider their own life, their own choices...