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Free - Fire and Water (1970) review

Free "Fire and Water" (Music On Vinyl, 2013)

With a hectic gigging schedule and two already well-received sets behind them, Tons Of Sobs and Free, both in 1969, the following year’s Fire and Water saw the group moving beyond the blues boom and becoming a major part of the denim-clad, hard rock fraternity. Street credibility aside, they were now also able to cut it with the younger teenage ‘Top of The Pops’ crowd with a number still among the mainstream world’s most effulgent rockers, ‘All Right Now’; a song that’s, even now, synonymous with the name Free.
The overall sound which the album’s material is soaked in – this time around opting for a band co-production, alongside John Kelly and Roy Thomas Baker – shows a group with much to offer beyond blues-rock scene contenders and the, yet another long–haired group with a pop hit on their hands tag which, sometimes, they are saddled with. The blues is still ingrained here, however, and is perhaps best represented by such as the reflective bare-bones soul of ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’, and Paul Rodgers and Paul Kossoff’s heavily melancholic ‘Oh I Wept’.
The structure and main central riff of the title track, and the aforementioned smash ’All Right Now’, however, remain classic examples of pure, unadulterated British rock grunt with a largely unadorned, earthy feel that also encapsulates the group strengths. While it’s true Rodgers’ gruff, soulful vocals, and the exchanges between Kossoff’s brittle fuzz fretting and juicy, sure-touch leads are at the forefront of much that’s happening here, it’s the undergirding provision of Simon Kirke’s basic kit-pounding, and the sinewy, flexible bass figures of Andy Fraser that truly enables Free to build on such tough, solid foundations and, in no small part, helps keep their engine well-greased. 

Review made by Lenny Helsing/2013
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