FREE: Why I Love them ... (updated)
- UPDATED UPDATED FAVOURITE FREE SONGS (in approximate order):
- Blues Songs (no changes)
- Be My Friend (BBC Sessions Version) - Highway album (CD Bonus Track)
- Only My Soul - Highway album (also the 'B' side of the single 'My Brother Jake')
- Moonshine - Free Live album
- Guardian Of The Universe - Free At Last album
- Mourning Sad Morning (Alternative Version) - Free Album
- Oh I Wept - Fire and Water album
- My Brother Jake - Highway album
- Rain - Highway album
- Bodie - Highway album
- Come Together In The Morning - Heartbreaker album
- Don’t Say You Love Me - Fire and Water album
- Love You So - Highway album
- Heavy Load - Fire and Water album
- Rock Songs: (no changes)
- Woman - Free Album
- All Right Now (Croydon version) - Fire and Water album
- Wishing Well - Heartbreaker album
- Burnin’ (Molten Gold) - Free At Last album (bonus CD track)
- Mr Big - Free Live album
- Broad Daylight - Free Album
- Ride On A Pony - Highway album
- Walk In My Shadow (Croydon version) - Free Live
- Heartbreaker - Heartbreaker album
- Little Bit Of Love - Free At Last album
- The Hunter - Free Live album
- When I first started to compile my Free favourites list, I noticed that 8 out of the top 10 were blues tracks, so I have now spilt them into two lists; top ten blues and top ten rock songs (ten-ish).
- Favourite Free Albums (in order) (no changes)
- Free Live
- The Free Story (compilation) - recommended starting place for Free, great value double album.
- Fire and Water
- Free Album
- Free At Last
- Tons Of Sobs
- Yet To Buy Free Albums
- Paul Rodgers - Muddy Waters Blues (Box Set) - nominated for a Grammy - Paul Rodgers solo album tribute to Muddy Waters: solo, but with guests Jeff Beck, David Gilmore, Steve Miller, Slash, Neal Schon
- Molten Gold (compilation). I don't think there is anything on here that I don't already have.
- BBC Sessions (does this album still exist?) - I found two bootleg versions (both different)
WHY I LOVE FREE
I first discovered Free, like many people, with the single All Right Now which went to the top of the UK charts in 1970 when I was 14. It really rocked, had terrific vocals, a great guitar solo, and a catchy tune. On the strength of that I bought a couple of their albums over the next three or four years, plus the compilation ‘The Free Story’. I later made up a tape of my favourites for the car.
Whilst All Right Now was very much a rocker, I quickly realised that my favourite side of them was the blues, and in particular the vocals of Paul Rodgers. Rodgers vocal style and emotion and power is unique, though he has been compared to Rod Stewart (Rodgers is better in my view, less throaty, and sings with far more emotion - closer to Madonna in that respect - whereas I think Stewart has a great voice but its cold). Rodgers is sometimes called the best white blues singer ever, and was heavily influenced by Otis Redding. To fully appreciate Rodgers, he cannot be judged on one or two songs. On one blues song you might consider his voice has the ring to it of a Frank Sinatra, and on another the ring of Van Morrison, and on the next his power might be likened to Joe Cocker or the emotion of Mick Jagger, and then the next rocker he might be compared to Robert Plant. Of course he cannot inject all of this into one or two songs, although he sometimes makes an awfully good attempt (Woman, or Moonshine), so his range and emotion has to be appreciated over a different range of songs, before it really sinks in just how great he is. Don't take my word for it - click on the 'favourite album' links above and see comments by others - many comment on Rodgers vocals, or try this link for a Paul Rodgers solo album.
Free also included the fantastic guitar work of the classically-trained Paul Kossoff, whose greatness was not in his technical ability - quite the reverse, it was in his feel for the instrument. Indeed he played his solos slow and with great emotion, not technical ability, which one might even occasionally doubt (when he was possibly high on drugs and missed notes), or when one hears that the bassist sometimes had to show him the rhythm section on a song (showing perhaps his naivety in rock and blues, rather than on the instrument). In style and technique I would compare Paul Kossoff perhaps with Jeff Beck, except with more feeling for the instrument, such as Hendrix had. All Right Now is a typical example of the emotion and drama he would put into his guitar playing. Eric Clapton wanted 'Koss' to teach him some techniques, and this was in the days when people went around with "Clapton is God" badges. Say no more.
Kossoff left the band in 1973 and died in 1976 from a heroin overdose. His father was actor David Kossoff.
The bassist was the prodigy Andy Fraser, who was playing on stage with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers from the age of 15, and recommended to Free by Alexis Korner (who also gave them their name). Fraser wrote All Right Now at the age of 17 in under 10 minutes (as told by drummer Simon Kirke). There is a section on Mr Big that has to be heard to be believed, where the bass emerges from the rhythm section and takes over the lead whilst the lead slips (almost imperceptibly) into the rhythm role.
Their musical arrangements are sparse, with drums and bass, and a lead guitarist who believed in dramatic solos rather than supplementing the rhythm like many three piece bands (with or without a vocalist) - he often left the rhythm section to get on with it. But the advantage of this is that the instruments and vocals were each distinct and not drowned out by (or diluted into) a wall of sound, particularly important for the fourth band member, the vocalist. Witness: All Right Now starts with just drums and a dramatic riff from lead guitar, and the bass doesn't come in until AFTER the first chorus, this a song written by the bassist. And, the excruciatingly slow verion of 'Moonshine' from the Free live album, the guitar solo is so incredibly restrained and emotive it always brings a lump to my throat.
Free split up, reformed, split again, reformed with new personnel (minus Kossoff and Fraser), and split again. Rodgers and Kirke later went on to form Bad Company who enjoyed some major successes, but their quality never matched that of Free. Check out Bad Company's Can't Get Enough - another of my all-time favourite songs.
Paul Rodgers also went on to form 'The Firm' with Jimmy Page who had big success in the USA, and now enjoys a hugely successful solo career with an unprecedented reputation as a vocalist. Rodgers is also credited with being the only artist to be part of (front) three different successful bands (Free, Bad Company, and The Firm).
I remember taking my Free favourites tape into the office once when I was working overtime on a Saturday (when it was less formal and I could play music in the background). Being mostly blues songs on my favourites tape, and not ‘in your face’ rock, blues often has a wider audience. After it was playing for thirty or forty minutes everyone one was asking me who it was, as it slowly dawned on them what was going on - over many many tracks and not just the isolated song.
My tape of favourites is played regularly in the car. The only other tape that was played continually over many years in the same way was my tape of Beatles favourites. My tapes of favourites songs by the Stones, or Elvis Costello, or Led Zeppelin, or Status Quo, or Bob Dylan, or David Bowie, or Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, (or Blue Oyster Cult or Edgar Broughton or many others) never endured the way that my Free or Beatles tapes did (or do). Not that I would ever compare Free with the Beatles as they were very different, more akin to Cream or Zeppelin.
In the last two or three years I have rediscovered Free anew, additional albums, new tracks, plus bonus tracks. This is a result of when I recently bought another CD player for my study (whereas our other CD player is in the lounge), and I started buying CDs for my own personal use, rather then those for the family. Free was an obvious candidate so I recently ordered three CDs, none of which I had on vinyl, but which included Free Live. I have also since supplemented (replaced) my old vinyl versions with CD versions. I have also just made a replacement tape of favourites for the car, except that it now stretches over three 90 minute tapes.
Favourite Free Lyric:
"As I look behind me, What do I see ?
A pair of golden wings, They seem to be attached to me"
- from 'Seven Angels' (from the album ‘Heartbreaker’)
SONG TITLES - THE BLUES:
Even the song titles can tug at your emotions:
Be My Friend
Oh I Wept
Only My Soul
Soon I Will Be Gone
Don't Say You Love Me
Mourning Sad Morning
Guardian Of The Universe
I discovered the website Easy Music Downloads which has hundreds of Free songs
for downloading (most of their catalogue it seems).
By the way, anyone looking for the Highway album might sometimes be excused for having difficulty finding it, as the album/CD does not show the band's name very prominently, and it is often mistaken for a release by a (non-existent) band called Highway. This was offered as a reason for poor sales upon its release - nobody knew it was by Free.
Recommended starting place to appreciate Free: The Free Story . This is a great-value compilation 'Free story' and not a 'best of ... '.
Originally a double-album, it misses off ALL of my own personal favourites - numbers 1 (version), 2, 3, 4, and 6 'blues' favourites, AND my number 1 rock favourite. However, it does create a fantastic ambient atmosphere wherever it is played, and THAT is the true 'story of Free' - truly magnificent.
Alternatively, try Molten Gold, which I don't have but is highly regarded, has more tracks (it DOES include my number 1 rock favourite 'Woman' and my number 6 blues favourite 'Oh I Wept'), and is also great value.
Highly recommended solo album from Paul Rodgers: Now which includes the incredible song "Heart of Fire", but also a few other very decent songs, such as 'Saving Grace', 'I Lost It All', and the single 'Soul Of Love'. Or, still better value if you can find it as a cheap double combination with his "Live" album which also includes live/solo versions of some old Free classics, is the double album/CD Now/Live, but only recommended if you can find a bargain basement version, otherwise stick to "Now".
Click on this link, and then click the link to the sample of the incredible song "Heart of Fire" (Disc 1, track 3) .