45 Years Ago: Free Release Their Eponymous Second Album
October of 1969 witnessed the arrival of the second Free album just months after their impressive debut, ‘Tons of Sobs.' The self-titled disc was even more evidence that the preposterously youthful and equally talented quartet was set on making a long-term splash.
After all, it’s easy to forget that when the band members got to work on the LP that would become ‘Free,’ vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke were still a few months shy of turning 20, guitarist Paul Kossoff was just 18, and bassist Andy Fraser even younger at 17.
Today you'd call that a boy band, but the boys in Free could really play their instruments. Their precocious sophomore record simultaneously raised the creative bar set by ‘Tons of Sobs’ and bridged the evolutionary gulf between Free’s relatively common, Brit-blues origins and their crucial contributions to ‘70’s hard rock.
The key to this, most would agree, was the flourishing songwriting partnership between Fraser and Rodgers, which yielded increasingly individual next-generation blues numbers in ‘I’ll Be Creepin',’ (showcasing Kossoff’s wah-wah pedal mastery), ‘Songs of Yesterday’ and ‘Free Me’ — as well as increasingly diverse fare ranging from riff-driven rockers like ‘Woman’ and ‘Broad Day Light’ (a colossus of start-stop tension) to gentle ballads like ‘Lying in the Sunshine,’ the dreamy ‘Mouthful of Grass’ and hauntingly acoustic ‘Mourning Sunday Morning’ (featuring superstar session man Chris Wood on flute).
A final song, the surprisingly catchy and well-rounded ‘Trouble on Double Time,’ was written by all four musicians, and provided yet another optimal exhibit for Rodgers’ one-of-a-kind blues wail, Kirke’s rock-solid percussive foundation, and the sympathetic interplay between Kossoff’s restrained virtuosity and Fraser’s inventive bass lines — all of them crucial to Free’s unique musical chemistry.
Last but not least, we should call out the ‘Free’ album’s striking cover image, which saw respected artist Ron Raffaeli using strobe lights to capture the female model’s silhouette as though she were made out of stars.
All this helped Free’s second album soar to just outside the U.K. Top 20 (stalling at No. 22), but true global success (not to mention a U.S. chart showing) would have to wait until the June 1970 arrival of the quartet’s next, third long-player, ‘Fire and Water,’ and its universal smash hit, ‘All Right Now.’