Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- Craig Holt -- bass, backing vocals
- Roger Lewis -- lead vocals, lead guitar
- Kevin Raleigh -- lead vocals, keyboards,
- Dennis Stredney -- lead vocals, lead guitar
- Bill Stalling -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Dynamite (Kevin Raleigh)
- Paper Sun (Craig Holt, Kevin Raleigh, and Bill Stallings)
- Pictures (Kevin Raleigh)
- The Poppy (Roger Lewis)
- Kevin Raleigh (solo efforts)
- Michael Stanley Band (Kevin Raleigh)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Cleveland, Ohio
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 6290
The short-lived Freeport can trace its roots to the Cleveland-based band Paper Sun which featured the talents of bassist Craig Holt, singer/keyboardist Kevin Raleigh, and drummer Bill Stallings (along with singer/guitarist Phil Okulovich, aka Eric Janson).
Paper Sun managed to attract some attention throughout Northern Ohio, even recording a single for the small Cleveland Abbey label:
- 'Sweetest Thing on My Mind' b/w 'Here Comes Tomorrow' (Abbey catalog number 45-0101).
Unfortunately a national deal with Chess Records fell apart and by early 1969 Okulovich was gone, replaced by former The Poppy singer/guitarist Roger Lewis and lead guitarist Dennis Stredney. At that point the band dropped the Paper Sun nameplate, morphing into Freeport Express and then simply Freeport. With support from longtime manager Otto Neuber they scored a contract with Bob Shad's Mainstream label.
Produced by Shad, 1970's cleverly titled "Freeport" featured a mildly entertaining mixture of original pop and rock numbers. With Lewis, Raleigh, and Stredney all contributing to the writing chores, exemplified by tracks like 'It's a Brand New Morning', 'Just What You Need' and '' the album underscored the band's affinity for harmony-rich pop-rock. Comparisons to Eric Carmen and Raspberries weren't that far off, though these guys leaned a bit more to the rock side of the equation. At the same time, they were much more mainstream and commercial than the majority of Mainstream acts, which may have been somewhat of a letdown if you were expecting to hear a collect of psychedelic oriented material like The Art of Lovin', or The Tiffany Shade. While the liner notes credited three lead singers (Lewis, Raleigh, and Stredney), Raleigh seems to have handled the bulk of the material, though many of the songs featured the band's distinctive multi-part vocal arrangements (What She's Done'). Ironically, at least to my ears Raleigh actually had the weakest voice of the three (kind of high and shrill). I can't say the set was particularly original and I'll be darned if I can explain why, but for some reason every time I listen to the album it reminds me of mid-1970s bands like REO Speedwagon, Styx and occasionally maybe a harder rockin' Three Dog Night ... And while that may sound like a backhanded insult, it really wasn't intended as such.
Admittedly the album could have been mixed far better, but not nearly as bad as the isolated reviews would have you expect. Not a must own Mainstream release, but worth a spin.
"Freeport" track listing:
1.) It's a Brand New Morning (Kevin Raleigh) - 4:26 rating: *** stars
With a catchy melody, 'It's a Brand New Morning' showcased Raleigh's keyboards, his fragile lead vocals, and the group's nice harmony vocals. The song also briefly displayed the band's tight twin lead guitar line-up. Easily one of the album's best performances.
2.) I Need Your Lovin' (Eric Carmen) - 2:44 rating: *** stars
Penned by The Raspberries Eric Carmen, the band's cover of 'I Need Your Lovin'' was a suitably radio friendly mid-tempo pop-rocker. Imagine a really good Raspberries song and you'd have a feel for this one. Mainstream apparently agreed with that assessment, quickly tapped it as a single, though I've never stumbled across anything other than promotional copies.
1970's 'I Need Your Lovin'' b/w 'I Need Your Lovin'' (Mainstream catalog number MRC 730)
3.) Just What You Need (Kevin Raleigh) - 2:14
Opening up a nice twin lead guitar sequence that underscored the whole song, 'Just What You Need' was one of the album's best rockers. The only downside was a somewhat jarring mid-section group vocal segment. The song also showcased one of the album's best lead guitar solo.
4.) What She's Done (Kevin Raleigh) - 2:59 rating: *** stars
A jittery, percussion heavy number, 'What She's Done' was the track that really showcased the band's vocal talents.
5.) Nonsense (Roger Lewis - Dennis Stredney) - 3:45 rating: *** stars
Kicked along by Lewis and Stredney's twin lead guitars, 'Nonsense' was side one's toughest rocker and was one of the tracks that's always reminded me a bit of Three Dog Night. In other words, this one's gonna' be an acquired taste for many folks.
Sporting one of their best melodies, more driving lead guitar, and one of Raleigh's best vocals, 'Old Man' was another standout performance.
2.) Call Yourself the Wind (Roger Lewis) - 4:51 rating: ** stars
Due in large part to the fact it sounded like something written for a stage show, the ballad 'Call Yourself the Wind' never did much for me. In fact, the best part of the song was the instrumental segment. rating: ** stars
3.) Forty Long Faces (Roger Lewis - Kevin Raleigh) - 4:00 rating: **** stars
I've never heard the earlier Paper Sun 45, but I've read that the band and the sing had a progressive flavor. That's interesting since 'Forty Long Faces' had a similar progressive-rock feel. Quite unlike anything else on the LP, this track offered up a nice mixture of pop melody, sweet harmony vocals, crunching guitars, and just enough progressive flavor to make it interesting.
4.) Lend a Hand (Kevin Raleigh) - 3:02 rating: ** stars
Another ballad, 'Lend a Hand' was simply too sappy and MOR for my tastes - imagine bad Eric Carmen and you'll know what to expect on this one. The song did have some nice phased guitar, but that simply couldn't salvage the results.
One more non-LP single and the band was history:
- 1970's 'Now That She's Gone' b/w 'Misunderstood' (Mainstream catalog number MRC 732)
After the band called it quits Raleigh remained active in music. He joined a couple of the Rapsberries recording a never-released album as part of Dynamite. He recorded an album under the name Pictures with former Raspberry Jim Bonafanti. He became a mainstay in the Michael Stanley Band, finally releasing a solo album in 1989:
"Delusions of Grandeur" (Atlantic catalog number SD-81874).
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