FREE – ” Fire And Water ” Classic Albums

Posted: June 9, 2016 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Free Firing On All Cylinders

June 1970 was a breakthrough month for the band Free. After two years of critical success, and building their name as a live attraction, they were finally getting a commercial foothold. ‘All Right Now’ marked their first time on the UK charts on June 6th, and was already a top ten hit by the time the band’s third studio release ‘Fire and Water’ was released on June 26th, leading to their first UK album chart appearance in early July.

Free posterThe British quartet were now deservedly winning much more widespread recognition as one of the best blues and soul-influenced rock bands of that, or any, era. Free produced ‘Fire and Water’ themselves after daring to tell Island’s Chris Blackwell that they thought his production of their previous self-titled 1969 album was “too clean.”

The engineer on the sessions was a then-unknown Roy Thomas Baker, later to find fame via his work with Queen. The Free album that he contributed to culminated in ‘All Right Now,’ which thus started its journey to the anthemic status it enjoys today. “It stood out because it was happy,” said Simon Kirke.

That single was preceded by a solid half-hour showcasing the vocal presence of Paul Rodgers, the strident lead guitar solos of Paul Kossoff and the terrific rhythm section of Andy Fraser’s bass and Simon Kirke’s drums. Also listen for Fraser’s great piano playing on ‘Heavy Load,’ and his bass runs underpinning Kossoff’s guitar on ‘Mr. Big.’

The band had started recording the third album in January, and Rodgers later explained that he and Fraser had the great soul man Wilson Pickett in mind when they wrote the title track. They were spot on, because he recorded ‘Fire and Water’ himself the following year.

Free All Right Now

‘All Right Now’ stayed on the UK singles chart well into September, the perfect advertisement for an album that duly went into the chart at No. 8. It spent three of the next four weeks at No. 2 and was still in the top 40 at the end of October. By then, the album was in the US top 20, with Free’s reputation now further enhanced by their performance in late August at the Isle of Wight Festival.

45 Years Ago, Free Felt All Right

“There she stood, in the street,” sang Paul Rodgers with that inimitable swagger in his voice. “Smiling from her head to her feet.” Little did he know that he was introducing the Free song that would go on to be one of the most durable British rock anthems of all time.

To this day, 45 years later, you can’t listen to rock radio in the UK for long without hearing the strains of this irresistible number, written by Rodgers and Free’s late, lamented bassist Andy Fraser. The song was included on the band’s third studio release ‘Fire and Water,’ which came out in late June 1970. But ‘All Right Now’ was already a top ten hit by then, after making its UK chart debut on this very date, June 6th.

After two years of critical success, and building their name as a live attraction, this was the year of Free’s commercial breakthrough. ‘All Right Now’ marked their first time on the UK charts, although that entry position of No. 36 didn’t necessarily promise great things. But after a climb to No. 27, the single raced into the top ten and, frustratingly for the band, spent the whole of July at No. 2, five weeks in all in which it was held off the top by first Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime’ and then Elvis Presley’s ‘The Wonder Of You.’

As the Free single climbed the charts, Paul Rodgers told Melody Maker: “I am really surprised at the success of ‘All Right Now.’ I don’t see myself as a single singer, but it’s there, and people are going to be a lot more interested in buying the album because they will have heard of us.”

‘All Right Now’ has become the hit that keeps on giving, returning to the charts on numerous occasions. Reissued just three years later in 1973, it reached No. 15; in 1978, it was part of the ‘Free EP’ that went to No. 11. A 1985 re-release saw it nudge the bottom of the countdown at No. 96, and it then went all the way back to No. 8 in 1991.

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