Graham Central Station – 1974 – Release Yourself
Graham Central Station followed up its debut album rather swiftly with ‘Release Yourself’. But in contrast to the looseness and somewhat ‘laissez-faire’ attitude of that self-titled first LP, this sophomore effort is much more polished and ecclectic. Patryce ‘Choc’let’ Banks remembered that where ‘Graham Central Station’ was cut ‘live’ in the studio, ‘Release Yourself’ was the premier GCS waxing that went through considerable overdubbing. It’s also the first GCS album that has labelmates Tower of Power providing the horns.
A1 G.C.S. 3:34
A2 Release yourself 4:46
A3 Got to Go Through It to Get to It 3:46
A4 I Believe in You 5:00
B1 ‘Tis Your Kind of Music 5:43
B2 Hey Mr. Writer 4:03
B3 Feel the Need 3:57
B4 Today 6:43
In that respect, the smelly, laidback funk of the debut album is replaced here with more refined tunes. That’s not to say that ‘Release Yourself’ is a sterile or – heaven forbid – grooveless affair; it’s just a bit more sophisticated in its execution.
As it had done on its first LP, the band first introduces itself, this time via the quirky “GCS”, with every member briefly dropping in.
The title-track is one of GCS’s finest achievements; a country-fried, gospel-rock excursion that is all over the place: high energy back-to-church funk smothered in droning horns.
Then there is some vicious gutbucket, laidback, slow-grinding funk on “I Believe In You“, where the emphasis is on both Larry’s beastly bass riffs and the embryonic drum-machine that Sly Stone had used extensively on his ‘Riot’. In fact, the breakdown here sounds somewhat similar to the one in “Thank You Falettin’ Me Be Mice Elf Egin”. Also noteworthy on this tune are Robert Sam’s gloomy, churchy organ licks and Hershall’s sleazy synth work-out.
“‘Tis Your Kind of Music” is of an entirely different order: a truly weird latin/funk venture that’s seductive in its minimalistic approach. Hershall is the star here wailing away on the synthesizer, with the funk box providing a hypnotic, mid-tempo groove. Patryce and Larry swap some downhome chants here, but its mostly a sensuous, somewhat ominous sounding semi-instrumental. Trippy, man.
With a frantic cover of The Detroit Emeralds’ “Feel the Need” GCS scored its biggest hit off the album, and rightfully so. This is early Graham Central Station at its finest: sheer energy and exuberance set to a wild, funky rhythm laced with spacey keyboard lines and all propelled by Larry’s indomitable handling of the bass.
But it’s also an angry album. While it certainly didn’t create any waves like the Lennon/McCartney vendetta did, Graham’s love and hate affair with his erstwhile boss Sly Stone, which is evident throughout here, was just as fierce.
He is respectful and thankful towards him on the gimmicky rocker “Hey Mister Writer“, where he thanks God for having met him. On the equally rollicking “Got to Go Through It to Get to It” – a favorite Sly Stone expression – the mood is considerably less warm, with Larry speaking of having ‘paid his dues’ to make a certain some one a ‘star’.
The most vitriol however is saved for “Today“, a lurching, mid-tempo funk beast that is a no-holds-barred attack on Sly and his then recent very public marriage to Kate Silva. “Living with you is hell”, Larry sings, while wishing ‘him’ filthy rich with his new dish. Also: “You have the nerve to pity me?”… a reference to Sly Stone’s “Better Thee Than Me”?????
In all, not a straight forward funk jam as the debut LP was, but a hybrid of soul, gospel, rock that works on all fronts.