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Music DVD Review: Free – Free Forever

During their short career, Free was one of those groups whose influence was much greater than their commercial viability.

The group was formed during 1968. Vocalist Paul Rodgers, drummer Simon Kirke, bassist Andy Fraser, and guitarist Paul Kossoff united as a gritty English rock/blues outfit. Their sales were moderate but they did release one classic single and one very successful album. “All Right Now” topped the singles charts in the United Kingdom and reached the top five in the United States, propelling the album Fire and Water to hit status on both sides of the Atlantic. Drugs and tensions caused the group to disband in 1973, though, and Rodgers and Kirke went on to form Bad Company.

Free released eight albums, including live and best of, and they toured incessantly. It is their live material which forms the basis for this two-DVD release, Free Forever.

They performed at a time when most performances were not recorded and those that were did not have the available technology of today. An extensive search unearthed this group of live material and interviews. The sound and video have been scrubbed and cleaned as much as possible, emerging as more than acceptable for 1970 performances.

Disc one begins with three performances from The Beat Club in Germany during 1970. They are excellent but were not taken from the same set or evening, because the appearance of the group members is different on each track. Kossoff’s incendiary lead guitar on “Fire and Water” demonstrates why Rolling Stone ranked him at number 51 on their list of the greatest guitar players of all time. Five years later, at the age of 25, he would be dead.

The most consistent performances come from the band's five-song set recorded for Granada TV on July 24, 1970. It presents Free at their rocking blues best. “Ride On Pony,” “Mr. Big,” “Songs Of Yesterday,” “I’ll Be Creepin’” and “All Right Now” is what the fusion of rock and blues is all about.

Five original videos are included. They are a more hit-and-miss affair but are representative of what was being produced during that time period.

Disc two resurrects their complete 1970 performance from the legendary Isle Of Wight Festival where they shared the stage with such acts as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Chicago, The Who, The Moody Blues, Sly & The Family Stone, and Miles Davis, among others. The sound is excellent but only three of the ten songs are videos. The rest of the set is audio only, presented against a background of pictures, posters and the like. If a video of their complete performance exists, it has not yet been discovered so this will have to do until that time.

Free Forever fills in a lot of holes in the band's history. Most of their recently unearthed live material has been gathered into this package and serves them well. It makes one wish their career could have lasted longer. 

About David Bowling

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