Free


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1968-73)

- Andy Fraser (RIP 2015) -- bass 
- Simon Kirke -- drums, percussion 
- Paul Kossoff (RIP 1976) -- lead guitar 
- Paul Rodgers -- vocals, keyboards, guitar

 

  line up 2 (1973-73)

NEW - John Rabbit Bundrick -- keyboards 
- Simon Kirke -- drums, percussion 
- Paul Rodgers -- vocals, keyboards, guitar
NEW - Tetsu Yamauchi -- bass (replaced Andy  Fraser)

  

  line up 3 (1973)

- John Rabbit Bundrick -- keyboards 
- Simon Kirke -- drums, percussion 
- Paul Rodgers -- vocals, keyboards, guitar
NEW - Snuffy Walden -- lead guitar
- Tetsu Yamauchi -- bass

 

  line up 4 (1973)

- John Rabbit Bundrick -- keyboards 
- Simon Kirke -- drums, percussion 
- Paul Rodgers -- vocals, keyboards, guitar
NEW - Wendell Richardson -- guitar (replaced Snuffy Walden) 
- Tetsu Yamauchi -- bass

 

 

 

- Back Street Crawler (Paul Kossoff)
- Bad Company (Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke)

- Brown Sugar (Paul Rodgers)
- Rabbit Bundrick (solo efforts)
- Crawler (Rabbit Bundrick)
- The Faces (Tetsu Yamauchi)

- The Firm (Paul Rodgers)
- Andy Fraser (solo efforts)
- Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu, and Rabbit

- Paul Kossoff (solo effort)
- The Law (Paul Rodgers)

- John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (Andy Fraser)
- Osibisa (Wendell Richardson)

- The Roadrunners (Paul Rodgers)

- Samurai (Tetsu Yamauchi)
- Sharks (Andy Fraser) 

- Stray Dog (Snuffy Walden)

- Snuffy Walden (solo efforts)

- Tetsu Yamauchi (solo efforts)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Tons of Sob

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4198

Year: 1968

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5326 

Price: $20.00

 

If there's a 1960s era band in need of rediscovery my vote would go to Free.  Superbly talented and criminally overlooked these guys could go head-to-head with most active bands and still kick their collective butts.

 

Quick band history - By 1968 lead guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke had spent several years with the London based R&B group Black Cat Bones.  Frustrated with their roles in the band and it's failure to breakthrough to a larger audience the two decided to strike out on their own, eventually hooking up with ex-Brown Sugar/Roadrunners singer Paul Rodgers. With the addition of then-16 year old bassist Andy Fraser (who'd just been fired from John Mayall's Blues Breakers), the group began rehearsing and playing local London pubs and clubs.  They quickly found a mentor in bluesman Alex Korner, who even supplied them with the name 'Free' (apparently inspired by his own bad 'Free At Last').  Korner also helped bring the band to the attention of Chris Blackwell and Island Records.

 

 

Ignoring Blackwell's plea to rename themselves The Heavy Metal Kids, a debut single 'Broad Daylight' b/w 'The Worm' (Island catalog number WIP 6054) did nothing commercially, but Island management nevertheless decided to finance an LP.  First a quick word of warning.  Produced by Guy Stevens, 1968's "Tons of Sobs" tends to get critical praise, but to my ears was a competent, if occasionally flat debut.  The band's fascination with American blues dominated the sound; tracks like '','' and 'Goin Down Slow'  would have sounded right at home at a John Mayall performance. Showcasing  largely original material (drawn from their touring set list), the driving, raw sound was certainly different from the competition.  (Ironically economics apparently played a role in the bare bones sound.  Island reportedly earmarked about $1,200 for the record sessions.)  That said, three characteristics saved the album from falling into the 'also ran' category.  1.)  Rodgers' stunning vocals simply had to be heard to be believed.  How could this guy have only been 18?  Compare his dumbfounding performance on their cover of Booker T. and the MG's 'The Hunter' with that of Robert Plant who covered the track the following year on "Led Zeppelin" and tell me which one's better.  2.) The band's ability to generate a truly molten sound.  Fraser, Kirke and Kossoff were talented beyond words, easily out-muscling Cream and other English blues outfits and  3.) Tracks like 'Walk In My Shadow', 'Worry' and 'I'm a Mover' may have displayed the band's blues base, but hinted at the band's ability to mix it up in a more commercial vein.  Commercially the album did nothing in the UK or the States, though roughly a year later it hit # 197 on the US charts.

 

"Tons of Sobs" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Over the Green Hills Part 1   (Paul Rodgers) - 1:01

2.) Worry   (Paul Rodgers) - 3:25

3.) Walk In My Shadow   (Paul Rodgers) - 3:20

4.) Wild Indian Woman   (Paul Rodgers - Andy Fraser) - 3:19

5.) Goin Down Slow   (J. Oden) - 8:0

(side 2)

1.) I'm a Mover   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 2:49

2.) The Hunter   (Booker T. Jones - Wllls - Al Jackson - Donald Dunn - Steve Cropper) - 4:11

3.) Moonshine   (Paul Rodgers - Paul Kossoff) - 5:01

4.) Sweet Tooth   (Paul Rodgers) - 4:43

5. Over the Green Hills Part II   (Paul Rodgers) - 1:68 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Free

Company: Island

Catalog: SP 4204

Year: 1969

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: name 'duprerly' on bottom edge

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5291

Price: $20.00

 

 

1969 saw Free get their first shot at securing an American audience via an opening slot on Blind Faith's US tour.  Dropping producer Guy Stevens in favor of Chris Blackwell, the cleverly titled "Free" wasn't a major change in musical direction.  With Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers credited with penning all nine tracks (Simon Kirke and Paul Kossoff contributed to one song), the album continued to underscore their blues-rock ambitions.  The leadoff track 'I'll Be Creepin'' started things off with a truly ominous and chilling effort - any woman hearing it might have thought twice about getting anywhere near these guys.  From there it seldom let up. Material like 'Songs of Yesterday, 'Trouble On Double Time' and 'Woman' all served to spotlight the band's no-frills attack.  Sure there were a couple of exceptions to their patented sound.  The pretty acoustic ballads 'Lying In the Sunshine' and 'Mourning Say Morning' and the instrumental 'Mouthful of Grass' all demonstrated the group had more than one trick in their collective pockets.  Powered by Rodgers rugged voice, Fraser's innovative bass, and Kossoff's tasty lead guitar there simply weren't many competitors who even came close to capturing the quartet's raw power.  Island tapped the LP for a single in the form of 1969's 'I'll be Creepin' b/w 'Sugar for Mr Morrison' (Island catalog number WIP 6062)

 

A couple of years later A&M reached back to the album, pulling a single off of it: 'I'll Be Creepin'' b/w 'Mouthful of Grass' (A&M catalog number AM-1172)

"Free" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I'll Be Creepin'   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:15
2.) Songs of Yesterday  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:31
3.) Lying In the Sunshine   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:02
4.) Trouble On Double Time   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff) - 3:34

5.) Mouthful of Grass (instrumental)  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:36

(side 2)

1.) Woman   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:45

2.) Free Me   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:37

3.) Broad Daylight  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:33

4.) Mourning Say Morning  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:03

 

Here are a couple of YouTube clips capturing the band at their prime - stunning performances of 'I'll Be Creeping' and 'Songs of Yesterday':

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u59eceeqczc

('I'll Be Creeping')

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX1Kz8p9RQE

('Songs of Yesterday')

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Fire and Water

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4258

Country/State: UK

Year: 1970

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 5300

Price: $15.00

 

Co-produced by Free and John Kelly, somewhat unexpectedly 1970's "Fire and Water" proved the band's commercial breakthrough. The fact they found a wider audience was surprising given that material like 'Mr. Big' (showcasing an amazing Andy Fraser bass pattern), 'Oh I Wept' and 'Heavy Load' did little to stray far from the band's longstanding blues-rock base. With Fraser and Paul Rodgers again responsible for the majority of material (they wrote five of seven tracks), the major change was heard in the stunning title track and the top-10 single 'All Right Now'.  Both of those tracks revealed a previously unheard commercial edge. Listening to the album for the first time in a couple of years, it serves to underscore how much these guys could accomplish by keeping it simple.  Bare bones rock - vocals, drums, bass and guitar (okay there were keyboards on 'Heavy Load'), have seldom sounded as accomplished.  Special kudos to Paul Kossoff who may have been rock's most economical and tasteful player.  Anyone doubting that comment need only check out his spare, but stunning solo on 'Remember '.  If I were smart enough to play lead guitar, he'd be the guy I wanted to emulate . In fact the only pseudo-disappointment was the bland bluesy ballad 'Don't Say You Love Me' and that one actually grew on you after a couple of spins..  

"Fire and Water" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Fire And Water   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:41  rating: **** stars

If was in a band, the barebones, blues-rocker 'Fire and Water'  would be one of the cover tunes I'd include in my show. It's simply that good.   I'm not sure how much faith I put in it, but Rodgers claimed to have written the song with the hope it would be covered by a soul artist: "[I wanted to] write something that one of those soul guys could sing. I didn't think they actually would! In those days I held them as if they lived in Paradise and I would never get to be in touch with them."   If you've never seen a live clip of Free, YouTube has an impressive performance of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH5wbYP5xkQ 
2.) Oh I Wept   (Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 4:24  
rating: **** stars

Others may not agree, but to my ears 'Oh I Wept' was one of their best ballads.  It wasn't particularly fancy, but Rodgers seldom sounded as good and the tune served to showcase the band's secret weapon in the form of Simon Kirke's melodic percussion work.
3.) Remember   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:20  
rating: **** stars

Free doing their best Faces impression ...  That wasn't meant as a criticism.  Like The Faces at their best, 'Remember' has an easy-going, slightly sloppy flavor that made it a great bar band tune.  Add in a fantastic Kossoff solo and what wasn't there to love on this one?  
4.) Heavy Load   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:17  
rating: **** stars

Showcasing Rodger's amazing voice, 'Heavy Load' has always reminded me of kind of  a proto-Bad Company mid-tempo rocker.   For a free performance the tune was somewhat atypical in that it featured a heavy piano component.   Kicing in at the end of the song, Kossoff's solo was particularly pretty.


(side 2)

1.) Mr. Big   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 5:52   rating: **** stars

I'm seldom at a loss to talk about a song, but 'Mr. Big' is one of those exception ...  Kicked along by Fraser's growling bass, this was Free at slinky best.  Simply killer.   The SongFacts website had this write-up about the song - not sure it makes a lot of sense, but judge for yourself: "Speaking with Uncut magazine, Paul Rodgers described "Mr. Big" as "a very tough lyric," which he was amazed he got away with. He added: "I used to listen to BB King, and I think I was inspired by his approach to womanhood, if you like (laughs) his manly stance! And that song is a lesson in simplicity. Because the simpler the song, the bigger it sounds. The notes have room to echo."   YouTube has a couple of live performances of the song including this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FhCilozomo 
2.) Don't Say You Love Me   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:57  
rating: *** stars

Not my favorite performance, but I'll admit it got better as it went along and after a couple of spins it served as decent background music.
3.) All Right Now   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:30 
  rating: **** stars

Today 'All Right Now' stands as their best known song and the only tune that oldies radio seems capable of playing in this day and age ...  Drummer Kirke talked about the song on the "Molten Gold" compilation: "All Right Now' was created after a bad gig in Durham, England. Our repertoire at that time was mostly slow and medium paced blues songs which was alright if you were a student sitting quietly and nodding your head to the beat. However, we finished our show in Durham and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. When we got into the dressing room, it was obvious that we needed an up-tempo number, a rocker to close our shows. All of sudden, the Inspiration struck (bass player Andy) Fraser, and he started bopping around singing ALL RIGHT NOW... He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn't have taken more than 10 minutes."

 

 

various 'All Right Now' picture sleeves - US, UK, France, Japan, Holland, etc.

 

- 1970's 'All Right Now' b/w 'Mouthful of Grass' (Island catalog number 1206)   Taken from a 1969 Australian television performance, YouTube has a live performance of the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htuxb-m4-ng 

 

 

Propelled by the international hit single, the parent album went top-20, peaking at # 17. Unfortunately finally having achieved international acclaim (including a legendary performance before some 500,000 fans at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival), chronic drug use (particularly guitarist Kossoff) and personnel problems (notably turf wars between Fraser and Rodgers), began taking their toll on the band's cohesiveness. 

 

 

 



Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Highway

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4287

Year: 1970

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: excellent shape; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5301

Price: $20.00

 

 

Recorded in a hurry on the heels of their massive commercial breakthrough with 'All Right Now', 1971's "Highway" reflected the first signs of artistic fatigue. Musically the album wasn't a draconian change from earlier work. Their patented blue-rock sound remained firmly intact.  If anything, the album seemed a step backwards with material such as 'The Highway Song' and 'On My Way' returning to a paired back, tougher, blues-oriented sound.  Those songs weren't bad, just kind of plain in comparison to recent works.  Elsewhere, 'Be My Friend', 'Sunny Day', 'Love You So' and 'Bodie' (the latter sporting an atypically low-key Rodgers vocal and a weird country-rock feel), found the quartet trying their collective hands at ballads.  Let's just say the results were mixed. To be honest, the first time I heard the album most of the nine songs simply didn't jump out at me. That said, given a chance the set displayed its consistency and artistic strengths. Andy Fraser's slinky 'The Stealer' was the coolest and funkiest thing they ever did (released as a single how could it not have gone top-10?).  Almost as good, propelled by a neat Paul Kossoff riff, 'Riding on a Pony' should have been another massive radio hit. And yes, there were a couple of first-rate ballads.  Both 'Love You So' and the closer 'Soon I Will Be Gone' have stood the tests of time.  It's an album that has steadily grown on me over the years. 

 

Unfortunately, in spite of a mammoth world tour the collection failed to replicate earlier commercial successes faltering at # 190 on the American charts. Increasingly frustrated with their inconsistent sales and with personality clashes heating up in the midst of a seemingly endless tour, by the time the band hit the Asian leg of the tour they unexpectedly decided to call it quits. 

 

"Highway" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Highway Song   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:14   rating: ** stars

Not to sound over harsh, but the the title track wasn't any great shakes.  No idea if it was autobographical.  Kind of a standard-blues rocker the only thing that saved it from oblivion was Kossoff's wonderful guitar solos.  For some reason it was tapped as the leadoff single:

 

 

 

 

- 1971's 'The Highway Song' b/w 'Love You So' (A&M catalog number AM-1248)

 

 

 

 

 

2.) The Stealer   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers - Paul Kossoff) - 3:13   rating: **** stars

Fraser's bass line and Rodgers slinky delivery made 'The Stealer' the funkiest song they ever recorded.  It was also one of the most commercial things they ever did.  Curiously Island Records President Chris Blackwell didn't want to release the tune as a single; only relenting when the band through their collective weight behind 'The Stealer.'

- 1970's 'Stealer' b/w 'Lying In the Sunshine' (A&M catalog number AM-1230) # 49 US pop charts

YouTube has a stunning clip recorded at a 1970 performance at Croyden's Fairfield Hall:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssZtFzrWSVE

3.) On My Way   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:03   rating: **** stars

I don't exactly equate "pretty" with many Free compositions, but the ballad 'On My Way' was one of those exceptions.  Interesting to hear Rodgers handling a vocal without trying to power his way through it.  Coupled with a nice melody and some attractive keyboard and it was a keeper.
4.) Be My Friend   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:44 
  rating: **** stars

Hearing Rodgers masterful vocal I always have to wonder how a twenty year old could pull of such as soulful performance.  Equally puzzling was understanding why A&M didn't tap the song as a single.  Recorded for German television, YouTube has a nice live performance at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOr1stg9lds 

(side 2)

1.) Sunny Day   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:04   rating: ** stars

As much as I love Rodgers voice, he simply couldn't salvage 'Sunny Day'.  To my ears this one sounded like it had been pieced together from odds and ends.  Bland and forgettable.

2.) Riding on a Pony   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:17     rating: **** stars

Propelled by a bouncy Fraser bass line, just because it was a modest change from the album's barebones blues-rock attack 'Riding on a Party' was another album highlight.  Rodgers' voice and delivery on this one has always reminded me a little of Delbert McClinton.  Icing on the cake came in the form of the awesome Kossoff riff played throughout.  This was Chris Blackwell's choice for the lead single, though the band overrode him.  The track was eventually tapped as a Japanese single:

 

 

 

- 1970's 'Ride My Pony' b/w 'On My Way' Island catalog number SFL 1319)  

 

And for anyone interested, here's another performance clip from German television:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnDyJsSP2sQ

 

 

3.) Love You So   (Paul Rodgers - Simon Kirke) - 4:53     rating: **** stars

If I were going to pull together a funeral play list I would focus on up-tempo numbers, but one of the exceptions would be this glorious and heartfelt ballad.
4.) Bodie   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:05  
rating: ** stars

The acoustic ballad 'Bodie' was the album's oddest performance.  Rodgers handled lead vocals, but it sure didn't sound like him and I can't say I was a big fan of the song's country-tinged feel. 
5.) Soon I Will Be Gone   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:00
   
  rating: **** stars

Okay, okay my wife will tell you I have the sensitivity of a brick (I will tell you that is untrue), but the album closer 'Soon I Will Be Gone' is a wonderful, heartfelt ballad.  Rodgers seldom sounded as profound and the lyrics are enough to make you stop and think a moment.  Another highlight and a fantastic way to close out the LP.

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Free Live!

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4306

Year: 1970

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gimmick sleeve; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5302

Price: $10.00

 

 

In the wake of the band's unexpected collapse executives at Island and A&M wasted no time raiding their corporate archives. Clearly anxious to strike the market while the band was still a viable commodity, the result saw the release of the posthumous "Free Live!".  Recorded during a series of earlier English concert dates the nine tracks including 'All Right Now', 'I'm a Mover' and 'Fire and Water' focused on the band's better known material.  Interestingly, going against prevailing performance trends the album showcased a band limiting extended improvisation in favor of surprisingly tight and enjoyable attacks. As mentioned elsewhere, their barebones brand of hard rock set a standard that's seldom been matched, let alone exceeded.  At least in my eyes that was underscored by producer Andy Johns and the band's willingness to go for a true in-concert sound.  Rather than smoothing it all over with post-production magic, the occasional out of tune instrument, sluggish tempos, off key vocals, etc. were actually kind of endearing.  The live mix also served to showcase just how good Paul Kossoff and the Andy Fraser/Simon Kirke rhythm section were.  Highlights included a blazing 'I'm a Mover' a version of  'Be My Friend' that simply slayed the earlier studio song and Fraser's bass work on 'Mr. Big'.  For Free fanatics the album was rounded out by the inclusion of the previous unreleased studio track 'Get Where I Belong'.  One of their prettiest ballads it would have made a dandy single.  A modest American seller, the collection reached # 89.  (Designed by Ann Sullivan the 'envelope' packaging was kind of a nifty idea.)

"Free Live!" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) All Right Now   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 6:24

2.) I'm a Mover   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:46

3.) Be My Friend   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 5:56

4.) Fire and Water   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:56

5.) My Brother Jake   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 2:53

 

(side 2)

1.) Ride On a Pony   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:30

2.) Mr. Big   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 6:13

3.) The Hunter   (Steve Cropper - Donald Duck Dunn - Booker T. Jones - Wells) - 5:29

4.) Get Where I Belong  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:12

 

Having heard this set dozens of times all I can say is that they go on the short list of bands I wish I'd had an opportunity to hear live.  Since that ain't about to happen, you'll have to settle for a couple of YouTube performances of including their first single 'My Brother Jake' and 'I'm a Mover'.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Vw1HKqOtg

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZSVW-ebwl0

 

 

8.) Get Where I Belong   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:10


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Free At Last

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4349

Year: 1972

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor cover wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5940

Price: $20.00

 

Surrounded by personality clashes, musical differences, mediocre sales and guitarist Paul Kossoff's growing drug problems, in 1971 Free splintered with the principals pursuing outside projects.  Bassist Andy Fraser formed Toby; drummer Simon Kirke and Kossoff released an album as part of Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu, and Rabbit, while lead singer Paul Rodgers worked with the short-lived Peace.  None of the outside projects did much commercially and by early 1972 the four principals had reunited and begun touring the UK.  Depending on who you listen to the reunion was driven by economic considerations, or a desire by Fraser, Kirke and Rodgers to try to save Kossoff from his mounting drug problems.  Regardless of the basis for the reunion, the four saw fit to release the self-produced "Free At Last".  Musically these nine tracks were instantly recognizable as a Free product.  The bad news was that with the exception of 'Catch a Train' and 'Little Bit of Love' the reunited band didn't sound all that enthused.  Mid-tempo rockers like 'Soldier Boy' and 'Magic Ship' sounded like they were going through the motions, while stockpiling their top shelf material for future endeavors.  

 

- Propelled by Rodgers instantly recognizable growl and Kossoff's screeching leads, the mid-tempo 'Catch a Train' offered up a trademarked slice of mid-tempo rock.  So much for the good news.  The bad news was that the song never developed much of an identity, though after hearing the rest of the collection it stood as one of the better performances.   rating: *** stars

- Opening up with martial drums from Kirke and some tasty jangle rock moves from Kossoff, the somber rocker 'Soldier Boy' was a bit of an improvement.  Lyrically the song wasn't anything great linking a series of sentiments that any seventh grader could have come up with.  On the positive side Rodgers sounded great and the song boasted a great Kossoff solo.   rating: *** stars

- Another mid-tempo rocker, 'Magic Ship' boasted one of the album's more memorable melodies, featured some nice multi-tracked lead vocals from Rodgers and another nice Kossoff solo.  Was it going to make you forget earlier crowning jewels in the Free catalog?   Certainly not.   rating: ** stars

- Kicked along by Fraser's always innovative bass and some choppy Rodgers keyboards, 'Sail On' offered up one of those big, trademarked Free ballads.  One of the album's more energetic and enjoyable performances.  Great track.   rating: **** stars  

- The blues-rocker 'Travellin' Man' was one of the few tracks that harkened back to the band's earlier sense of bravado (it also served to give you an early peak of what Rodgers would start to do with the forthcoming Bad Company).  This one may have been Rodgers best performance.   rating: **** stars  

- Folks tend to think of Free as a blues-rock outfit, but the fact of the matter was that Rodgers and company were more than capable of writing taunt and radio-friendly material.  Anyone doubting that statement need only check out  'Little Bit of Love'.  Every bit as top-40ish as 'All Right Now' this one should have been a big hit in the states (it went top-20 in the UK).  Only complaint was that the song was too short.   rating: **** stars  

- The ballad 'Guardian of the Universe' was interesting for a number of reasons including the fact it had an extremely raw sound - to my ears it sounded like it had been recorded in a subway tunnel.  Given Kossoff's raw guitar, the clunky piano, and the fact the last chorus was nothing more than Rodgers singing da-da-da (guess he ran out of time to finish the song), you were left to wonder if this was a demo that somehow got included on the album as filler.   Pretty song.  Shame they didn't elect to polish it off.   rating: *** stars  

- A reflective keyboard-propelled ballad with a pensive Rodgers vocal, 'Child' was one of their prettiest compositions and one of my favorite performances on the album.  The man could sing a telephone book and make it interesting ...   rating: **** stars  

- An interesting way to end the album, the pounding rocker 'Goodbye' saw Kossoff step up to the plate and aptly show he was still capable of delivering the goods.   rating: *** stars     

 

A&M also released a single off the LP:

 

- 1972's 'Little Bit of Love' b/w 'Sail On' (A&M catalog number 1352) (didn't chart in the States)

 

A big Free fan, I have to admit that this one was a disappointment.  Credit the four for giving it a shot and recognize the results were never less than professional, if seldom exciting ...  Most bands wouldn't have done nearly as well under such circumstances.  Still, perhaps the weakest of their studio albums.

 

Propelled by the single and a brief US tour (Kossoff missing several dates due to his growing drug problem), the album eventually hit # 69 on the charts.  

"Free At Last" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Catch a Train   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 3:25

2.) Soldier Boy   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 2:46

3.) Magic Ship   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 5:15

4.) Sail On   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 3:00

5.) Travellin' Man   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 3:15

 

(side 2)

1.) Little Bit of Love   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 2:32

2.) Guardian of the Universe   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 5:23

3.) Child   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 5:10

4.) Goodbye   (Andy Fraser - Simon Kirke - Paul Kossoff - Paul Rodgers) - 5:00

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Heartbreaker

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9324

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 5305

Price: $10.00

 

By 1973 the band was in major disarray.  Bassist Andy Fraser had quit to form Sharks.  Adding to ongoing problems lead guitarist Paul Kossoff found himself dealing with an increasingly nasty drug problem, other medical issues and his own growing interests in the band Back Street Crawler. With roughly half of 1973's "Heartbreaker" completed, those issues saw Kossoff essentially drop out of the recording sessions.  Paul Rogers and Simon Kirke subsequently brought in American guitarist Snuffy, bassist Tetsu Yamauchi and keyboard player Rabbit Bundrick to fill in the instrumental gaps and complete the album.  Forced to pick up the creative slack Rogers responded admirably and while the set may have lacked some of the cohesion of earlier releases, songs like the title track, 'Come Together In the Morning' and 'Easy On My Soul' actually recaptured some of the band's earlier enthusiasm.  Apparently intended as a wakeup call to Kossoff and his increasingly severe drug problem 'Wishing Well' was easily the standout track, though 'Seven Angels' was pretty good.  (In case anyone was keeping track 'Common Mortal Man also seemed directed towards Kossoff.)  The choice of the song as a single proved ironic since Kossoff was forced to drop out of the supporting tour when he collapsed onstage during one of the tour's first performances. He was quickly replaced by Osibisa guitarist Wendell Richardson.  Backed by an American tour the album hit # 47.  Ironically, in spite of their commercial resurgence, having completed their touring and contractual obligations the band broke up for good.  Island tapped the LP for a pair of singles in the form of:

 

- 1973's 'Wishing Well' b/w 'Let Me Show You' (Island catalog number P-1212) 

'- 1973's 'Travellin' In Style' b/w '' (Island catalog number P-1214)

"Heartbreaker" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Wishing Well   (Paul Rodgers - Simon Kirke - Tetsu Yamauchi - Paul Kossoff - Rabbit Bundrick) - 3:40
2.) Come Together In the Morning  (Paul Rodgers) - 4:39
3.) Travellin' In Style   (Paul Rodgers - Simon Kirke - Tetsu Yamauchi - Paul Kossoff - Rabbit Bundrick) - 4:02
4.) Heartbreaker   (Paul Rodgers) - 6:32

(side 2)

1.) Muddy Water   (Rabbit Bundrick) - 4:14
2.) Common Mortal Man   (Rabbit Bundrick) - 5:06
3.) Easy On My Soul   (Paul Rodgers) - 3:44
4.) Seven Angels   (Paul Rodgers) - 5:08

 

Below are YouTube links to a couple of live performances from this late-inning Free line-up:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OknExFlkOz4

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lAXfjWIOBM

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Best of Free

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-3663

Year: 1975

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5304

Price: $10.00

 

1975's "The Best of Free" was the first posthumous retrospective.  Certainly not the ultimate retrospective (that nod would probably go to the 19 track "The Free Story"), the 12 track compilation served a purpose of collecting the hits, near hits, and radio staples.  To be honest there were actually a couple of lesser known efforts here - the early UK single 'My Brother Jake', 'Catch a Train' and 'Goodbye'.  While the cover art was atrocious, Jim Bickhart's biography was entertaining and informative.

 

"The Best of Free" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Fire and Water   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:42

2.) The Highway Song  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 4:14

3.) Little Bit of Love   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers - Paul Kossoff - Simon Kirke) - 2:32

4.) Mouthful of Grass  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 3:36

5.) My Brother Jake  (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 2:55

6.) The Hunter   (Steve Cropper - Donald Duck Dunn - Booker T. Jones - Wells) - 5:25 

(side 2)

1.) All Right Now   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) -5:32

2.) Woman   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) -3:45

3.) Catch a Train   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers - Paul Kossoff - Simon Kirke) - 3:25

4.) I'm a Mover   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers) - 2:49

5.) The Stealer    (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers - Paul Kossoff) - 3:15

6.) Goodbye   (Andy Fraser - Paul Rodgers - Paul Kossoff - Simon Kirke) - 5:00

 

 

 

 

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