Each member bounces off of one another in more ways than none. Paul Rodgers, who later went on to front Bad Company and The Firm, brings more of a soulful punch in contrast to the gruff noise that follows. Guitarist Paul Kossoff is the leading energizer who smashes through the speakers with the dirtiest riffs and pungent guitar solos that are but a tonal representation of himself; he set himself apart from the other guitarists of his category with his distinctive harmony and string bends.
Bassist and pianist Andy Fraser also adds the right depth to each composition as a wonderful counter to Kossoff’s unkempt technique. Then there’s drummer Simon Kirke, whose subtle percussion cruised in the background without much restrain; he didn’t have to be overly virtuosic or theatrical like most of the drummer titans of the day, but he sure made those rhythms pop.
They were a small group of young lads who came together in early 1968 to play their first gig, only to begin their journey of blowing minds across the pond; these cats weren’t even twenty years old when they dropped their debut album, Tons of Sobs, and they were already leaving quite the impression on the British blues scene. And even though they only had a short-lived career, losing Paul Kossoff at the untimely age of twenty-five years old, Free still left behind a trail of blazing-hot influence; the mold of hard rock was soon in the making thanks to bands like them. So here’s a top ten list to celebrate a criminally overlooked band with a diverse collection of songs to choose from.
# 10 – Wishing Well
In 1973, Free recorded what would be their final album, Heartbreaker. It was quite an enervating period for the band, because that was when bassist Andy Fraser left the band and Kossoff was in rehab for his drug addiction; they recruited Tetsu Yamauchi to replace Fraser, as well as keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick to even everything out. The album let the band go out with quite the bang, with the incomparable single, Wishing Well, carrying their infelicitous exit with quiet dignity and grace. This is also one of the songs of the album where Paul Rodgers plays lead guitar on, too.
# 9 – Soon I Will be Gone
After the success of their classic record, Fire and Water, the band recorded perhaps their most musically alluring album, Highway. It doesn’t share the same grit and rudiments as their previous efforts. Instead, the record offers up a more diverse and intimate sound. Soon I Will be Gone closes out the album with a woeful piano progression and an overlapping acoustic guitar, with Paul Rodgers musing about the things he’s lost; the love of his life being one of them. It’s songs like these that really compliments a band’s heavier temperament with something more delicate.
# 8 – The Hunter
Now here’s where Free shined as a blues-based group. They took this Albert King classic and revitalized its sexual energy into an annex of their visceral style. Paul Rodgers makes no bones about tapping into the raunchy wordplay with the kind of screams and howls of your typical bluesmen. Kossoff also pays the right kind of homage to Albert King by incorporating the same conglomerate of wickedly cool licks, as well as that same bouncing progression. Hell, everybody plays their part here; no need to single out any individual, because all four members bring the right kind of mojo to this killer rendition.
# 7 – Sunny Day
With this Free songs list, we wanted to focus on their discography that showcased their melange of work, and that means highlighting their rock-oriented tunes, as well as their more mellow ones. Sunny Day is a smooth cup of easy vibrations with more of the same subject matter as Soon I Will be Gone, but with more optimism thrown in. There’s no showmanship here, just a couple of guys expressing themselves in more cultivated ways than their primitive procedure.
# 6 – Oh I Wept
Their third studio album, Fire and Water, helped establish them as a band to be taken seriously. It charted well in their home country as well as the states, reaching number two in the UK and seventeen in the US. Of course it was all due to a certain little rock tune of mammoth predominance that will be mentioned later on this list. But the album in general has so much distinguished quality to it that defined the early seventies of rock, that it’s simply unfair to only write about certain elements of it.
With a track like Oh I Wept though, the carefree catharsis of the counterculture manifests itself in this four-minute song. It should be noted that this song is also perfect after a long night; dim the lights and just vibe out.
# 5 – Seven Angels
The haunting aroma this song gives off is simply spectacular, and quite befitting for the band since it was technically the last off of their last studio album before breaking up. It’s got a nice Zeppelin crunch to it, played in a minor key that blankets the mythical-esque poetics; one can almost feel the chariots’ horses trampling inside of their imagination as they hear this song. And if there’s one song that displays Paul Rodgers as a one in a million singer, this one should be duly noted.
# 4 – Mourning Sad Morning
More love songs on this list! I’m sure some of you are a little surprised by this, but it has to be said that these compositions aren’t really the quintessential mechanics of a ballad that most people know of: those sappy heartache songs of annoying plasticity. No, songs like Mourning Sad Morning are a prime example of thought-provoking recollections of depression and lovelorn quality. This acoustic-based composition from their self-titled record is a true standout.
# 3 – I’m a Mover
Guitarist Joe Bonamassa stated in an interview that the riff from “I’m a Mover,” was what inspired him to take up the electric guitar; it’s also no revelation that Paul Kossoff is one of his main influences too. This riff is widely overlooked, and it really goes without saying that it’s on the same pedestal as the riffs of Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Cream, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It’s a big, burly, badass punch in the jaw and makes I’m a Mover one of Free’s best.
# 2 – Be My Friend
This is such a great, feel-good song to lift somebody’s spirits in times of need. It’s quite the little gem released off of their Highway record, and it definitely accompanies the musical departure from their blues-rock albums. It’s a piano-based song, with little to no emphasis on any of the band members’ technical chops, but that doesn’t stop it from being just as impactful as their rock and roll repertoire.
# 1 – All Right Now
As we close out our top 10 Free songs list, I’m sure all of you were anticipating this stone-cold classic to appear at the top of the list eventually; we had to save the best, and obvious choice to close out our Top 10 Free Songs list. It’s the very tune that has become the true face of hard rock. It’s explosive riff is what gives “All Right Now” the longstanding aftermath it has become synonymous with.
It’s one of those overrated, overplayed, and instantly recognizable tunes, and deservedly so; even if you’ve never known of this band’s existence, you’ve heard this song at least a dozen times on your local rock station. You’ve most likely even heard it in movies, commercials, and television shows. It’s the song that closed out Fire and Water and turned it into the band’s biggest seller, but most importantly, it turned Free into one of the founding fathers of hard rock.
Top 10 Free Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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