Sunday, June 7, 2015

Fire and Water - Free

Fire and Water
A&M Records SP 4268

A belated post for Andy Fraser who died this past March.  Fraser was the bass player and principal songwriter along with Paul Rodgers in the British band, Free.  I loved this record when I was a teenager.  I grew up listening to classic rock on the radio and when I heard "All Right Now" it blew me away and I tracked this record down.  I've always been a sucker for a good riff and this band had plenty of them.  As I grew older I lost interest in classic rock aside from the 1960s and it has been awhile since I played this.  Listening to it now, I'm impressed.  It still sounds really good, better than most of the other records that came out in the early 1970s.  My favorite track is the opening cut, "Fire and Water" which like almost the entire album was written by Fraser and Rodgers.  It is driven by a catchy power riff and an emotional vocal from Rodgers as he assails a former lover for breaking his heart.  Paul Kossoff puts the song over the top with a powerful, bluesy guitar solo.  I even dig the Simon Kirke drum solo that closes out the song.  This is smouldering hard rock at its best, sustained tension and controlled strength throughout the song.  The record lets up a bit for "Oh I Wept" which was written by Rodgers and Kossoff.  It is a moody ballad about running away from unhappiness that is largely carried by another strong vocal from Rodgers.  The band turns to slow riffing for "Remember" which looks back regretfully at a lost relationship.  Kossoff delivers another strong bluesy solo that is the highlight of the song.  The side ends with "Heavy Load" which is also constructed around a slow heavy riff.  The song is driven by Fraser on piano until the end where Kossoff's howling guitar takes over.  This dark, ominous song is another one of my favorites on the album.  Side two opens with "Mr. Big" which is a group composition.  It is a series of threats directed at the title character.  The tune is constructed around a simple heavy riff that evolves into an intense jam between Kossoff's soaring guitar runs and Fraser's energetic bass lines.  This is the most exciting musical passage on the album.  Great stuff.  They cool down for the far less charged "Don't Say You Love Me" which is a slow ballad.  It is a variation on the so-long-babe-I-got-to-ramble type song beloved of so many rockers.  I find it a little boring although it picks up energy towards the end.  The album concludes with the group's only hit, "All Right Now."  The song is a classic rock radio standard and with good reason.  The riff is extremely catchy, Rodgers' gravelly vocal is the essence of hard rock singing, Kossoff lays down some hot licks and Kirke and Fraser propel the song along relentlessly.  The song is sexy with a chorus that sticks with you long after the song is over.  Thus ends one of the best hard rock records of its era.  It is so good it makes me wonder why Free never made it really big.  They had all the tools, good songwriting, a terrific lead singer, inspired musicianship, but none of the other Free records I've heard are nearly as good as this one.  It was probably a question of band chemistry as well as Paul Kossoff's drug problems.  At least they left this one lasting classic album.  I love its stripped down sound and sustained power.  No mindless boogies or heavy metal wank sessions, it is all purposeful and deliberate.  I admire their discipline and intelligence, a rare quality in an era of self-indulgence, excess and vapidity.  Rest in peace Andy Fraser, this great album insures that you will not be forgotten. Recommended to fans of the first Jeff Beck Group.

No comments:

Post a Comment