FREE “FIRE AND WATER”

10 October 2008

The news abut the elections in the USA has become a background drone, but one thing popped out from this white noise — that the song to support the campaign to elect Mr. Barak Obama is called “Obama (Yes We Can)”.

At first it was the “Yes we can” that caught my attention — could this be a rip off of our very own “Bob the Builder” hit sung by Neil Morrissey?

Then I heard it was written by and performed by our own Andy Fraser! Well, obviously I HAD to dig out a Free album (Fire and Water) and give it a spin for nostalgia’s sake; I LOVE the fat bass Andy got way back in 1970 when Hendrix was alive, and Cream and the fab four were still “together”.

I had forgotten how fabulous this album is, and what a great band Free were. Maaaan, it was a trip!

Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser (at just 18 back then) co-wrote the album’s seven tracks, starting with the title track, and finishing with their biggest hit, the all-time classic, “All Right Now”.

01 – Fire and Water – A major;
02 – Oh I Wept – E minor;
03 – Remember – Ab major;
04 – Heavy Load – D minor;
05 – Mr. Big – E minor;
06 – Don’t Say You Love Me – E major;
07 – All Right Now – A major.

If memory serves me right, this album went top 20 here and in the USA. A simple four piece, with each part pared down and simplified, Free are as inspirational as they are distinctive. Paul Rodgers can sing, but it’s the fills that make him so special, so soulful. Paul Kossoff on simple, emotional lead learned from Peter A Green on tour supporting and jamming with the original Bluesy Fleetwood Mac. Simon Kirke on drums — drums that are integral to the tune. And of course, Andy Fraser’s fat sparse bass.

Andy’s Bass solo on Mr.Big has always been a classic.  He’s got a cheekiness about his bass lines, a great tone and personality that is not about showing off, and not even about being in the back line or rhythm section, but about being part of the tune, a compositional part of the whole song.

When I hear Free, I am always reminded of a lecturer who used to make us test our artworks by demanding of each component “Are you needed — would it be better with or without you?”. Every note and noise enhances Free, exclude one rimshot or bass note and it would suffer; it all fits perfectly together — and the gaps provide the space that makes them seem grander and more powerful that a mere four piece.

In my early bands I used to try to get the guys to stop overplaying — to get some build-ups or at least some dynamics involved (not always successfully — people just wanna play all the time) — and I would often play them Fire and Water (and their later live album) to make the point.

Funny the things that trigger a musical nostalgia trip!

Here’s a video of Andy’s song from You Tube:

It seems that Andy has not lost his sparse (and typically fat sounding) bass line!

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