As anyone with an appreciation of Free and Bad Company is sure to possess these songs already – both acts have already seen their material compiled into best-of collections – thoughts turn immediately to who is going to pick up songs like All Right Now, Feel Like Makin’ Love and Can’t Get Enough in 2010. The answer, surely, has to be those few who are new to Paul Rodgers through his recent association with Queen – a pretty narrow target demographic. That, or gentlemen of an age who want a single disc featuring their favourites for forthcoming summer holiday car journeys, but who haven’t yet perfected the practice of creating self-selected best-ofs through iTunes.
The above said, The Very Best of… does make for a succinct summarisation of Rodgers’ career ‘til his excursions alongside Brian May and cohorts, although a more complete selection should factor in at least a track from The Cosmos Rocks – and that’s before one considers his various solo albums and work with Jimmy Page in The Firm. So, actually, it doesn’t represent much of an all-bases-covered nostalgia trip at all, which renders Rodgers’ statement on Amazon, that “This collection captures the essence of my music career over the last 40 years”, rather inaccurate. Assuming he’s not writing off his many other achievements, that is. (News just in: an iTunes deluxe edition will feature solo material and tracks by The Firm.)
But despite successes elsewhere, it is for these two bands that Rodgers will always be most fondly remembered. Free was his first songwriting vehicle, and from the blues-rockers we have seven tracks, one fewer than the number selected from the Bad Company catalogue. That’s not to imply that Free were the lesser band, but they took longer to hit their commercial stride, the supergroup structure of the later act guaranteeing instant quality control with their eponymous 1974 debut. Free’s first LP, 1968’s Tons of Sobs, is represented by The Hunter; it’s the most blues-structured number on this set, rampant of lick and pleasantly hoary of vocal, drawn from the one album where Free adhered to the common motifs of the genre. Their greatest hit (surely!), All Right Now, was released in 1970, closing their third album Fire and Water (its excellent title-track is included). Suitably, it’s the final track here, too – given its enduring popularity, what could follow it?
An attractive but predictable-enough spread, this disc might offer nothing new, but as a one-stop introduction for a smattering of newcomers it performs its task perfectly. --Mike Diver
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