Classic Rock Review

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Free Songs Of Yesterday (2000)


Review This is an imported 5 cd anthology which summarizes the career of the British band Free.

The first three discs contain remastered versions (excellent sound), alternate takes, non-lp tracks and unissued tracks from their career. The fourth disc contains alternate versions and unissued tracks from their live album. The last disc summarizes the solo career of the members of the band.

The booklet is excellent with many pictures, chart information and other useful information about the band. Free was unjustly overshadowed by bluesy vocalist Paul Rodgers’ and drummer Simon Kirke’s later band Bad Company. I find this band much more interesting.

While the material is less commercial than their later work with Bad Company, this material is delivered with more feeling. The late guitarist Paul Kossoff with his impressive blues laden vibrato attack was highly influential. Ex-John Mayall bass player Andy Fraser was an excellent musician, witness “Mr. Big” for an example. This song along with the anthem “All Right Now” and “Wishing Well” are probably the band’s most requested songs.

Some of my favorites include “I’ll Be Creepin'”, “Broad Daylight”, “The Stealer”, and “Little Bit Of Love” among many others. Free was reportedly a big influence on Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band pretty much burned out with the departures of Paul Kossoff and Rodgers’ song writing partner Andy Fraser.

One album was released after they departed. The band played such festivals as the Isle Of Wight during their halcyon days. It may be useful to compare this set with the domestic 2 cd anthology “Molten Gold”. While this set is much more comprehensive “Molten Gold” does contain some tracks which are not on the “Songs Of Yesterday” box set. Excellent songs such as a cover of Albert King’s “The Hunter”, the great instrumental “Mouthful Of Grass” and “Catch A Train” among others are included on the “Molten Gold” anthology but not the “Songs Of Yesterday” anthology.

Some of the cuts on the “Songs Of Yesterday” box set appear only in alternate versions while the original versions appear on the 2 cd “Molten Gold”. However, this comparison aside I recommend the “Songs Of Yesterday” box set to long time fans of the band like myself or novices alike. The price is worth every penny for the rare tracks and alternate takes as well as the remastering and booklet. If you are on a limited budget as least invest in the “Molten Gold” 2 disc set you will be converted.

Review Many reviewers have said that Led Zeppelin had it all and, to a certain extent, they did. But for me, Free were the band that was masterful in every tempo of song – whether it be the straight blues rocker or the ballad. Not that this review is about comparing Led Zeppelin and Free, but even though Robert Plant was competent at ballads, he could never touch you the way Paul Rodgers did.
My inroduction to Free occurred one night I was going through my record colection and, quite bizzarely, one of my dad’s tapes was in my collection.

This album happened to be “The Free Story”. Almost immediately, I was hooked and subsequently I now own seveal Free albums, including this one. Cd’s 1-3 chronicle a journey through all six Free studio albums with alternate takes, alternate mixes, singles masters, stereo mixes and unreleased recordings. Cd 4 is unreleased live recordings from shows they had done in Sunderland and Croydon in England. This, for me, is the highlight of the box set as it demonstrates the unequivocal talent of Free; one can almost feel how much of a tight unit they were on this disc.

While many of Free’s contemporaries ( Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath ) bludgeoned their audiences with sheer volume, Free mesmerised their audience by laying back; even their heavier songs groove more than they rock. Not one bad song on offer on this disc, my personal favourites are : “Ride On A Pony”; “Be My Friend” ( beautiful singing ); “I’ll Be Creepin'” ( unstoppably groovy ); “Free Me” ( about 3 minutes into this song you’ll hear what has to be the most powerful rock singing ever – a volcano of raw emotion ); “All Right Now” ( of course! ); “Crossroads”.

This is unquestionably the best live cd you are likely to hear in a long time. ( Incidentally, the sound is immaculate as is the whole of the box set, owing to state-of-the-art technology. )Cd 5 is various recordings that the individual members of Free created during the band’s couple of break-ups which occured during 1971 and 72. During these break-ups Paul Rodgers formed “Peace”; Simon Kirke and Paul Kossof formed “KKTR”; Andy Fraser formed “Toby”. I have to say although this is competent enough, it is the weakest of all the 5 discs – the musicianship and emotional zest of the Free ensemble is absent and you feel that they needed each other, as they complemented each other pefectly.

Overall, this is an exciting journey through the Free legacy – refreshing with a phenomenal sound on each disc. It’s pristinely packaged and the 60 page colour booklet is intelligently compiled. Free were the most charismatic, talented band to grace the planet… ever!!

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Free Songs Of Yesterday | | Leave a comment