20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Free

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Free

Looking over this 11-song retrospective of Free’s short-lived career, it’s easy to identify the band’s roots. For all their beef, songs like “I’m a Mover” and “Walk in My Shadow” are essentially British blues tunes—but we should all be thankful that Free quickly moved beyond the influences of John Mayall and Alexis Korner. Free took the electrical current of Jimi Hendrix and the howling urgency of The Small Faces and made something that was entirely its own. Free's members came of age in the '60s, but “All Right Now” marks the start of hard rock in the '70s. It’s one of those elemental rock songs that will never die, but its power and simplicity come from something that can't be easily duplicated. Paul Rodgers was a magnificent frontman with a once-in-a-lifetime voice, but a less-appreciated and far more crucial element is Free’s sense of timing. More specifically, its sense of patience. At a time when every new rock group was trying to out-wail, out-note, and out-freak one another, the slow, unadorned grooves of “Fire and Water,” “Heavy Load," and “I’ll Be Creepin’” spoke louder than anyone else.

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