Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World -"Free"
Yes, you all know "All Right Now," hopefully the extended version, with the guitar solo, and I bought that album, "Fire and Water," but I didn't love it. Yet, over the years, after the band broke up and got back together and Paul Rodgers moved on to Bad Company and Paul Kossoff OD'ed on an airplane...I'd hear track after track and would be positively stunned how great they were, I listened to "Molten Gold: The Anthology" incessantly upon its release in 1993, back when you didn't have to play what everybody else did to feel a member of the club, I reveled in being in my own private universe, peeking in on what once was, decades before, when the Stones and so many mid-sixties bands had built upon American R&B and then moved on and...Free was still influenced by those sounds, were creating basic music that sounded so good.
Yes, as time went by, to this day, people kept adding more and more. To the point where you expect to find the kitchen sink, buried somewhere in the track if you're willing to dig deep enough. But so many Free tracks were basic, they were like being in a club, hearing the band live, you listen to their BBC tapes, also on Spotify, and they don't suffer, unlike the live work of so many bands to this day.
But let's start off with my introduction to Free, the one track I knew from the A&M sampler compilation "Friends," "I'll Be Creepin'".
I'LL BE CREEPIN'
Oh, it's all good, the groove, the guitar, the bass, the vocal. But for a track to be indelible it must have a magical element. And in "I'll Be Creepin'" it's the break, at the one minute mark...
"I'll hold you in my arms
Like nobody else
When I know we're apart
I won't take no less"
They're not looking for this sound on the TV competition shows, but right here you hear the magic that made Paul Rodgers one of the paramount vocalists of the rock era. He could belt, but he could also croon... It's almost like he's singing it to you on the couch. Whew!
When the history of rock and roll is written...Paul Kossoff will be left out.
I won't say he's in the league of Jeff Beck, he may not be as fluid as Eric Clapton, not as good a writer as Jimmy Page, but the sounds he wrung from his instrument... Today, everybody's technique and rarely unique. The intro sound is the essence of rock and roll, the guitar that makes your body bend and draws you to the speaker. There have been so many covers of this track, none quite as good as the original, but like Kossoff himself, most people still don't know it. SPREAD THE WORD!
SONGS OF YESTERDAY
This is notable primarily for Andy Fraser's bass. Not that Kossoff doesn't add intriguing accents. But once again, like with so many Free tracks, it's primarily about the feel. It's like the best band ever is playing in the house next door, no one's paying attention, but that makes no difference, you realize how positively great they are. By not swinging for the fences, they score all the runs.
OH I WEPT
Ditto. Much quieter than "Songs Of Yesterday," "Oh I Wept" has got even more intimacy but still feels like you've found the Hope Diamond when no one was even looking for it. This is the exact opposite of what people are making these days, but exactly what people are looking for. We're looking for humanity, a reflection of mood... Come on, ever stayed inside on a rainy day, dreaming about old loves...THIS SOUNDS LIKE THAT!
CATCH A TRAIN
Nobody knows this cut, and it's positively secondary, but listen to the guitar work and you'll know you're in the presence of something special, from the era when it was all about the album cuts.
LITTLE BIT OF LOVE
Even better, but less innovative than "Catch A Train," if you're under forty you'll think this was an FM staple, but it was not. It's dynamic and it's in your face without being overbearing. This demonstrates how much better Paul Rodgers is than everybody else, someone different sings this and it's just not as good. This was a band of virtuosos, let's not forget drummer Simon Kirke, and together they made a wondrous noise.
The second side opener of "Fire And Water," it was just too subtle after purchasing the album based on "All Right Now," still it's very good. As is...
FIRE AND WATER
They don't make album openers like this anymore. Something that starts off quiet and isn't radio-ready. Then again, I'd argue a remix, a better production, would have made such a difference. The essence is here, but it's like you're listening through a tunnel. But once you get into Free, it all makes sense. Furthermore, I'm including multiple live takes in this playlist, they're everything the studio version is not...powerful, dynamic and triumphant.
EASY ON MY SOUL
This is positively mind-blowing. So similar to Bad Company's oeuvre, that you won't be surprised to find that monster band did its own version:
Which is plenty good, but the original is even better, because shooting lower, a bit more controlled...it becomes one of those songs like Split Enz's "Message To My Girl" that means everything to you in spite of the fact that nobody knows it. You just can't play "Easy On My Soul" loud enough, you want it to drown out everything else in your presence, you want to revel only in it.
ALL RIGHT NOW
You have no idea what it was like to be in the car in September 1970 and hear this emanating from the speaker, back when a hit was truly universal, when everybody with ears heard it. Oh, it's a great song, but it's truly about the SOUND! Paul Kossoff belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just for this. But that's not how it works. You need a champion. And no one's championing Free and too many consider Rodgers's work with Bad Company misogynistic, and those who worry about what others think of their opinions can't stand up and say how incredible this music is.
BUT I AM!