Live albums became especially popular in the late 60's early 70's sometimes they were released to try and achieve commercial breakthrough for a band that might have a solid live following but have yet to have mainstream success. Often these albums could be hit or miss or subject to creative editing before they released so often what you ended up hearing was not exactly live!
Free Live is exactly that, live, raw and uncompromising it showed the impeccable talent of one of the best blues rock bands to emerge from the U.K in the late 60's. Unfortunately their signature tune All Right Now seemed to eclipse everything else they did, Free Live displays a tight road hardened band who unfortunately burned to bright to early. The album was released in September 1971 by which time the band had split due to internal differences and the worsening drug addiction of guitarist Paul Kossoff, the band would reform a few months later to record two further albums before splitting in 1973. The material on the album was taken from live shows performed in 1970 at the Locarno ballroom in Sunderland and at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. The bands introduction before they hit the stage in Sunderland is hilarious, the impresario obviously not enamoured at having a rock band playing the venue somewhat tersely announces "the group are now ready, lets have some order" all delivered in a thick Geordie accent. Free then launch into a blistering version of All Right Now, coming to the fore is Kossoff's guitar work his ability to hold a note without losing any of its potency had attracted admirers like Eric Clapton when they supported Blind Faith on their 1969 American tour. Rodgers possessed a powerful soulful throat that matched his onstage swagger, he comes across even on record as an enthusiastic performer willing and pushing the band on during their solo's. There is also the ever present heavy bass work of any Fraser that had a great melodic feel interweaving alongside Kossoff and anchoring the pounding skin work of Simon Kirke.
Their live set at this point was featuring a lot of the heavier material from their debut Tons Of Sobs, the funky I'm a Mover features some aggressive fret work from Kossoff who seems to be channelling the great Jimi Hendrix during his solo. Fraser keeps everything anchored with his resounding bottom heavy bass sound, Rodgers at one point in the second verse slight over extends himself with his octave range! The brilliant Be My Friend from the underrated Highway album has a sublime solo from Kossoff his rich tone and ability to stretch each note for maximum impact is perfectly demonstrated on what was one of his favourite Free songs. The band then launch into darker waters with Fire And Water where his solo on Be My Friend was more restrained, here Kossoff is almost apocalyptic in his playing, it's wild and flowing with Fraser slowly snaking his way through the minefield. Mr Big from the Fire and Water album is given a thunderous opening by Simon Kirke on the drums before Fraser and Kossoff slowly descend into the mix, Rodgers had this uncanny ability to convey a sinister tone in his voice which always added to the drama of each song. Another song from their debut closes the album, The Hunter seems an appropriate closer, it's raw blues, a four to the floor barnstormer that was especially popular live. once again the almost frantic fret work from Kossoff shows what a supreme guitarist he was. In thinking back you can only imagine what Free might have become had the pressure of fame not affected this young band.