This remarkable DVD, bringing together for the first time Free's most legendary and rare performances, proves they remain one of the finest rock bands who ever lived. Beyond the commercial veneer of All Right Now, dwelled four extraordinary talents who formed an ensemble producing a magic and majesty on stage and on record that few achieve.
The mixture of Paul Rodgers and his purest of rock voices with the subtle but sensational guitar talents of the tragic Paul Kossoff, was the nucleus of their live appeal. Of course, it helped to have a rhythm section of Simon Kirke bashing away and Andy Fraser, who was a 15-year-old bass protégé of John Mayall's before joining Free at 16. Indeed, all the material in this two-DVD set finds the band in their late teens.
Visual documents of the band have been like gold dust down the years, so it was very exciting for Free devotees when long lost shows turned up on You Tube. This release is a major contribution to their considerable and hugely influential back catalogue.
The first disc is split into three sections, the first being the band's appearance on a German TV show. The band live up to their reputation as a formidable live proposition with Mr Big and Fire and Water, but suffer from the questionable psychedelic effects added by German producers. For a band that traded on their rootsy, muddy, understated interpretation of the blues, less showy than Led Zeppelin, this TV document is slightly incongruous.
Footage taken from an appearance on Granada TV is better, and includes the fantastic Ride On Pony and early material such as I'll Be Creeping and Songs of Yesterday, while a new era of rock bass playing is ushered in by Fraser with his sprawling and lengthy solos. The first disc is completed with the original videos to their most successful singles. Disc two is audio, and the odd video, of their appearance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970.
Throughout, the music is supplemented by interviews with critics and surviving members. Of the three, Simon Kirke seems the most sane, and free of a middle-aged devotion to jewellery and hair dye.
A good deal of commentary is given over to the writing of All Right Now, to go along with the four, no less, performances of it across the two discs. So one minor nitpick must be the over emphasis on this song, a blight on their whole career. While one critic here calls it 'a perfect song', it is by no means their best track. As Kirke says here, other material from their marvellous Fire and Water album is of a standard far exceeding the single that brought them worldwide success.
Despite the prolificacy of their output and the importance of their legacy, Free only existed for five years, and were on-off for the final two, disbanding for good in 1973. Rodgers and Kirke went on to form the most bloated of cock-rock acts, Bad Company, while Kossoff died in 1976 after a drugs overdose. Reminisces and regrets at his demise conclude this DVD, providing a sadness and poignancy to an otherwise celebratory package. An appropriate deflation, given it was a pervading sense of melancholy that made Free's take on electric blues so unique.