By the time Grand Funk Railroad came to make Survival in January 1971, Cleveland Recording had moved to new quarters, and the group had become a national phenomenon, its last two albums Top Ten million-sellers. They spent a relatively luxurious six weeks or so on the record, and the results showed; Survival was the best-sounding and the best-played album they had yet made. Such assessments are, of course, relative, however. The group's playing remained rudimentary, especially in the rhythm section, and its sense of song construction was simple and repetitious. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Farner sang in a strained, limited tenor lyrics that yearned for basic satisfactions ("Comfort Me," "I Want Freedom"), then led the lengthy instrumental passages with either simple guitar patterns or simple organ patterns. The band's choice of covers, Traffic's "Feelin' Alright" and the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," indicated taste (and that they were short of material), but their interpretations were inferior. This may have been Grand Funk's first real studio album, but they still sounded like they hadn't quite figured out how the studio differed from the stage and what added dynamics might be necessary to make a recording successful.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann