Posted tagged ‘Free’

Do I have this one?

January 2, 2008

Every month or so, I drop by my friendly neighborhood used record store.

There’s a $1 bin in which there are some treasures to be found. There also are other bins, in which more collectible, more desirable albums can be found for a still-reasonable price.

When I was there the other day, I came across “Fire and Water,” the classic 1970 album from Free, in the other bins.

My only problem — and this may come only when you reach the point that you have too many albums — was this: I knew I’d never bought it, but I couldn’t recall whether it was one of my wife’s albums.

So, after a bit of indecision, I figured if it was a double, $4 wasn’t too much to pay for it. Happily, it wasn’t a double. Now we have a nice, clean copy. Well worth the $4.

Which is the long way around the barn of saying tonight’s offering is Side 2 from “Fire and Water.”

This was about as good as mainstream rock got at the time. Free consisted of Paul Rodgers on vocals, Paul Kossoff on guitar, Andy Fraser on bass and Simon Kirke on drums.

Of the cuts on this side, “Mr. Big” offers some classic ’70s jamming by all; “Don’t Say You Love Me” has a slow, mellow groove and Rodgers’ pleading vocals; and “All Right Now” … well, I trust you know that one.

When this album was released in June 1970, Free had been together for two years, making a name for itself in England as a blues-rock band. “Fire and Water” is more rock than blues. Not much blues at all, really.

Even though Free had been together for two years at the time, its members still were what now seems impossibly young. Rodgers, the guy behind that world-weary voice, was 20. Kirke also was 20. Kossoff, just 19, already was a skilled blues guitarist. Fraser, who with Rodgers co-wrote five of the seven cuts on this album, was just 17.

This was as good as it got for Free. They broke up 10 months after “Fire and Water” came out, stayed apart for about a year, then got back together for one final year. They called it quits for good in 1973. Kossoff’s drug problems contributed to the instability, and he died in 1976, just 25.

Though you know “All Right Now” all too well, I’ve ripped that side so you can listen to it in the context of the rest of Free’s work at that time.


“Mr. Big,” “Don’t Say You Love Me” and “All Right Now,” Free, from “Fire and Water,” 1970. It runs 17:10.