Free were one of the great early English hard rock bands, and despite the trying circumstances during recording, quality-wise it sits closely behind their 1970 gem ‘Fire And Water’.
Written by: Eric
SERIAL: ILPS 9217
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Paul Rodgers – lead vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, piano * Simon Kirke – drums, percussion, rhythm guitar, backing vocals * Tetsu Yamauchi – bass, percussion * John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick – keyboards, backing vocals
Additional Musicians: Paul Kossoff, Snuffy Walden – guitar * Rebop Kwaku Baah – congas
TRACK LISTING: 01 Wishing Well * 02 Come Together In The Morning * 03 Travellin’ In Style * 04 Heartbreaker * 05 Muddy Water * 06 Common Mortal Man * 07 Easy On My Soul * 08 Seven Angels
One of the great early English hard rock outfits, Free’s previous album ‘Free At Last’ was really the beginning of the end with guitarist Paul Kossoff’s gradual descent into a drug induced purgatory and tensions within the band just too much to bear.
The band briefly split, permanently losing the late Andy Fraser but gluttons for punishment Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke gave it one more shot in 1972 with American John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick and Japanese bassist Tetsu Yamauchi with the hope Kossoff could get his drug-addled act together.
Sadly, he could not. Kossoff played on just a handful of tracks on ‘Heartbreaker’ and was relegated as a ‘guest’ credit on the album sleeve. Former Stray Dog Snuffy Walden was brought in to finish the record and despite the fragmented atmosphere, quality-wise it sits closely behind their 1970 gem ‘Fire And Water’ and it doesn’t get any better than ‘Wishing Well’, a classic in every way with a simple, yet terrific riff.
I was thrilled to see Queen + Paul Rodgers open their 2006 tour with this song and Rodgers didn’t miss a note. The man had and still has tremendous pipes and ‘Come Together In The Morning’ is Rodgers at his best, hinting at the Bad Company juggernaut that was just over the horizon.
Credit for the albums fuller sound has to be given to the keyboard and piano work of John Bundrick. His deft touch gives ‘Travillin In Style’ and the title track a dimension beyond the standard blues workouts found on previous albums.
Despite his deteriorating condition, Kossoff pulls off some nice atmospheric work on the progressively inclined ‘Common Mortal Man’ which reminds me of bands like Rare Bird and Greenslade.
The final two Rodgers penned songs ‘Easy On My Soul’ and gradually building ‘Seven Angels’, the latter again featuring an unsteady Kossoff, brings to a close one of the early 70’s better UK blues rock albums in what was an extremely crowded and often mediocre field.
Following the final split, Bundrick moved on to The Who‘s live band while Yamauchi joined up with The Faces. Rodgers and Kirke formed Bad Company which would reap multi-platinum, arena rock status far beyond their expectations.
Although for Paul Kossoff, Back Street Crawler wasn’t enough to keep his head straight and the once promising guitar player tragically clocked out on a plane trip to New York City in early 1976.