This compilation is really only for diehard Free fans like me frustrated that Free disbanded far too soon (the end of eternity would have been all too soon). Essentially it is complied mostly of alternative mixes and takes, warts and all. In fact, a few of the tracks are quite painful! For those that want a "Best of Free" collection I would recommend "Free Story" as a starting point. However, it is interesting to hear some of the material that was obviously an early take on the development of a great song. There are gems as well, a number of live tracks including a blistering "Heartbreaker" and a much punchier version of "The Stealer"
Despite being only six years old when they formed, I was always aware of Free, and can recall being regarded as a bit of a freak at primary school, because I liked their singles when all my class-mates preferred the Osmonds. I suppose it's fitting in a way that the world's first boy-band should have had so young a fan, even though I could not appreciate why I liked them so much. But it was really my brother who was into them, and so I heard a lot more of them than just the singles. He would buy the albums as each one came out, and play them incessantly. He would also bang on interminably to anyone who cared to listen (and to those who did not) about the extraordinary talent of the band (guess what, he still does!). Meanwhile, the songs registered somewhere in my sub-conscious. I'm now in my forties, and have found myself more and more drawn back to the music that shaped my formative years. I can now listen to Free and truly understand how great they were. My brother has been threatening to lend me this collection for weeks, & finally, the other week, I got my hands on it. I haven't been able to stop listening to it, nor have I wanted to listen to anything else. By the time I'd finished reading Phil Sutcliffe's narrative, I was in tears. There has never been a musical force as potent, yet ultimately so unfulfilled, as theirs, and the tragedy is not just the loss of Kossoff, a fragile, emotional child inside a man's body, but the loss of what Free could have achieved together if they had been able themselves to understand how good they were. To anyone whose knowledge of the band is limited to "All Right Now", please listen to "Songs of Yesterday". If you do, you may just discover that this song, great though it is, is not even close to being their best work. Ultimately, I don't think I have in me the words to do justice to Free. The nearest I think I can get is to say that they are not just registered in my subconscious, they are burned deep into my soul.
I grew up in an age when 2 sides of an LP contained only 45 mins of music and did not discover rock music until university in 1976. This boxed set contains 3 CDs of out-takes, 1 CD of live performances and one of new music by each band member. The story of the band getting together is included in a booklet and is historically very interesting, as Alexis Korner played a prominent role. The youngest, if I recall, was 15 and the eldest was 18 when Free first got together. The first CD of the set makes it very apparent that, even this young age, the band was very tight and very polished in their presentation, the influence of touring in a van from pub to pub. A comment from the sound engineer on CD2 sums up the entire set when he turns on the mic in the sound room and tells the band just how good the song was. This is not a collection just for Free fans or fans of British blues from the 1960s, but something that every new band should sit down and listen to together. It gives you an idea of what a truly great band is capable of musically. The presence of the band is magical and inspiring. One of the reviewers got it right in saying that Kossoff's guitar drove the band and was its soul. With Paul Rodgers voice, the music is at once both tight, yet relaxed and soulful. This is something that one usually sees in bands containing much older experienced musicians. Given the blues content of the music, it is even more remarkable. I have a wide range of musical tastes, but this collection has to rate near the top of my list of amazing recordings. Not all songs are exactly to my taste, but most are damned good. Those that I really like are peerless. Buy this CD set. It is a piece of rock history, but is also fantastic music in a good package. This is way more than 5 stars.
Several times in the past I have bypassed this, under the mistaken impression that it's just another compilation of Free tracks to woo another £30 plus out of my wallet. Not the case!
Having seen Free live a number of times in my youth, the opportunity to hear the out-takes from the Free Live album is (on it's own) worth the purchase price of this boxed set. However the other three discs are full of excellent high quality variants of Free numbers and covers, and the sleeve notes (can we still call them this?) are comprehensive and interesting.
Fabulous - I listened to it end-to-end, and it's been constantly on the iPod, car CD player etc.
An absolutely superb box set with a really good and informative booklet which should be really helpful to both new and old fans alike. As with most Free releases you cant help wondering what could have been if Koss could have been saved from himself but even more so with this one.Each disc is an absolute gem especially the live disc from the Croydon gig,but all discs throw up some absolute crackers especially Paul Rodgers solo take of Guardian Of The Universe.If I had to get rid every album except for one then this is without a doubt the one I would keep.
This 5 cd box set represents the fruits of two years effort by Dave Clayton of the Free Appreciation Society to bring these gems to an unworthy public! The remixes, previously unreleased tracks (including an album of live material) are an aural delight. It sounds so fresh, so (at times) innocent. Yet through it all we have the sagger of Paul Rodgers, the inventive bass lines of (teenage) Andy Fraser, Simon Kirkes' no-nonsense drumming, and the inimitable guitar playing of the late, great, Paul Kossoff (just listen to the full version of "The Stealer" - blistering!). This is so good how can you be without it? Simply magic. Amazing to think Paul Rodgers is on in London in June!
It's difficult to give a true appreciation of this box set without getting dangerously close to cliche & hyperbole but here goes...
This is no ordinary box set; it contains so many "previously unreleased" tracks, such as Honky Tonk Women or Long Tall Sally, or alternative versions of released tracks that it's like discovering a whole raft of new Free material. The booklet is also detailed & informative.
This band was so special; each of the main four members was outstanding in their own way & they combined to make music that is still a joy to listen to nearly forty years later. Kossof's incredible solos, Rodgers great voice, Fraser's majestic bass playing & Kirke's economically expressive drumming made them sound like masters at the tender age of 19 or 20.
They came from an age when you had to "pay your dues" by gigging intensively (in a transit van) & doggedly pusued their love of their craft. Today's manufactured bands couldn't hold a candle to them.
I'd strongly recommend the Bad Company Anthology to accompany this & also Steve Rosen's book, Free At Last. For me, they are as an essential a component to British music as the Beatles.
What can I say that other reviewers haven't already said? This package has been very sexily put together, from the glossy box to the restored recordings themselves, which sound like they were recorded last week! There's also a comprehensive history of the band in a full colour booklet. I'd like to thank Island for the time and, ultimately, money they spent on this project. I can't imagine it having made them much profit as Free's "fans" must be dwindling in number by now! This package is without doubt the best in my collection. I'm a lifelong Beatles fan, but I enjoyed the Free stuff much more than I did the Beatles' Anthology. If you're a Free fan, stop dithering and buy it now! I'm sure it'll be out of print soon.
This Box set brings you the nearest to Free you can get. If you were not lucky enough to have seen them live, by hearing this box set it will give you the chance to really discover how wonderful they were. Such a talented bunch of guys and so young. Kossoff was and is still one of the finest guitarists around. With Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser writing such unique music Free will be alive for many more years to come.