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Tons of Sobs Enregistrement original remasterisé
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Songs from the hit movie providing entertainment for all ages, including: 'Greased Lighting', 'Summer Nights', 'Hopelessly Devoted To You', 'You're The One That I Want', 'Sandy', 'Beauty School Drop-out', 'Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee' and 'Hound Dog'...
Formé à l'occasion du second blues boom qu'a connu l'Angleterre à la fin des années 60 par les guitaristes Paul Kossoff et Paul Rodgers, le bassiste Andy Fraser et le batteur Simon Kirke, Free a enregistré plusieurs albums qui lui ont valu de tenir une place de choix dans l'histoire du rock. Aujourd'hui remastérisé, Tons Of Sobs (dont la parution originelle date de 1969) en fait incontestablement partie. À défaut de posséder la virtuosité de Cream (Clapton, Bruce et Baker), et sans doute moins proche de l'orthodoxie du blues que Fleetwood Mac (époque Peter Green), Free n'en a pas moins donné sa propre définition du blues-rock, une définition particulièrement efficace qui reposait d'abord sur la complémentarité entre Kossoff et Rodgers. Constitué de compositions originales ("Worry", "I'm A Mover", "Over The Green Hills") et de reprises de classiques ("Goin' Down Slow"), Tons Of Sobs mérite quelque quelque trente plus tard une nouvelle écoute, d'autant qu'Universal, pour cette réédition, a ajouté nombre de titres bonus – des prises alternatives ("Moonshine"), mais aussi des chansons inédites ("Visions Of Hell" et "Guy Stevens Blues" [jam en forme d'hommage au producteur du groupe Guy Stevens]). --Philippe Margotin
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Talk about a classy beginning – rough round the edges for sure – but would we have our FREE any other way. But it's another decade, so we get another version with yet another sound – and despite its niggling presentation flaws – what a barnstormer this 2016 reissue is.
FREE fans will know that the October 2001 and February 2002 CD reissue campaign of all seven of their albums (six studio and one live) came with great Peter Mew remasters, decent bonus tracks and expanded booklets to match - and were mid-price at the time (there has been a Japanese SHM-CD variant since in mini-LP repro artwork).
But here we are in September 2016 with another CD reissue campaign of all seven albums accompanied by an eight - the "The Free Story" compilation (a 2LP set onto 1CD). Unfortunately these new 2016 single-disc versions strip away those brilliant bonuses entirely and unwisely substitute the hugely informative liner notes of the 2001 and 2002 issues for booklets with only band photos. Essentially for Free's explosive debut "Tons Of Sobs" we're back to a straightforward transfer of the 10-track 1969 LP as is. But is another purchase necessary? I'd argue its 'essential'.
Despite the neutering of bonuses and the information-less booklet – this new 2016 reissue offers us one genuinely worthy consolation prize – a new 2016 ANDY PEARCE and an uncredited MATT WORTHAM Remaster that breathes wonderful naturalistic vitality back into the album. On buying and reviewing the underrated "Highway", "Free At Last" and "Heartbreaker" CDs in this 2016 reissue cluster and loving their audio – I splashed out on more and the results are equally magical. Also with most of the eight being offered on Amazon at less than five pounds including P&P – you can of course argue that the price is right - and with their generic 'Island Remasters' see-through side panelling on the jewel case – they look good too. Here are the tearful details...
UK released Friday, 9 September 2016 - "Tons Of Sobs" by FREE on Universal/Island Remasters 473 181-5 (Barcode 602547318152) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 10-track 1969 UK LP and plays out as follows (39:04 minutes):
1. Over The Green Hills Pt. 1
3. Walk In My Shadow
4. Wild Indian Woman
5. Goin' Down Slow
6. I'm A Mover [Side 2]
7. The Hunter
9. Sweet Tooth
10. Over The Green Hills Pt. 2
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut studio album "Tons Of Sobs" - released March 1969 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9089 and August 1969 in the USA on A&M Records SP-4198. Produced by GUY STEVENS (Engineered by ANDREW JOHNS) - it didn't chart in either country.
The eight missing bonus tracks on the October 2001 Island Remasters IMCD 281 (Barcode 731458614920) version are: "I’m A Mover (BBC Session)", "Waitin’ On You (BBC Session)", "Guy Stevens Blues (Blues Jam)", "Moonshine (Alternate Take)", "Sweet Tooth (Early Take & Alternate Lyrics)", "Visions Of Hell (Unreleased Master Mix)", "Woman By The Sea (Alternative Version)" and "Over The Green Hills (BBC Session)". As you can see from this list of missing extras - your loss is considerable – most of these bonus tracks adding huge punch to the overall vibe of the 2001 reissue (the Paul Kossoff and Paul Rodgers photo spines on the jewel cases are gone too).
The new booklet is 12-pages and shows a Morgan Recording Studios Tape Box photo of 'Woman By The Sea' on Page 2 (dated 8 October 1968) as well as the black and whites of the band that featured on the inner gatefold sleeve of the original Island/A&M Records LP (the boys looking like squatters and vagrants in need of a good wash and several weeks in an Army boot camp). The cheery ‘blue coffin, tiger and bunny rabbit’ cover extends across the front and rear of the booklet while there are some new black and whites of our heroes looking older than their young ages belied (Bassist Andy Fraser had only just turned 16 while axeman Paul Kossoff was on the cusp of 18 when they recorded the album). Beneath the see-through CD tray are pictures of the seven reissued albums with the eighth being "The Free Story" double-album compilation from 1974 (for catalogue numbers see notes below) and the CD label repro's the UK Pink 'Orange and Black Eye Logo' Label design of Island Records in late 1969 (there are no liner notes giving history, details etc.).
But a fabulous new master from ANDY PEARCE and an uncredited MATT WORTHAM – who did such great work on Pentangle, Frankie Miller, Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, the 2012 Rory Gallagher CD remasters and most recently the 2016 Budgie 3CD Box Set for their MCA LPs and the new 2016 'Deluxe Editions' of the Emerson, Lake & Palmer Island Records catalogue (see reviews for them all) - resoundingly compensates for all of that distasteful compromise.
I've had the October 2001 single-disc Remaster and the 2008 Japanese SHM-CD reissues for years now – both of which rock – but this new September 2016 single-disc version is an entirely different aural beast. There's suddenly staggering naturality and presence to the whole LP (just like the other albums in this series). Pearce and Wortham let things breathe (it's a trademark of their work) and the results are powerful to say the least. Their version is muscular and meaty. This is not loudness for loudness sake – not shrill so to speak – just in your face – huge power and presence - like an original tape should be. On to the music...
The segue of the 51-second Part 1 of "Over The Green Hills" into the manic "Worry" has always felt wrong to me. Just when you've begun to love the Acoustic Soulful Rock of "Green Hills" - it fades into wild Kossoff soloing that never really seems to go anywhere special. But what you do notice this time around is the Rodgers vocal and those drums - cleared than before. "Walk In My Shadow" opens proceedings proper - that huge FREE rocking sound - all four members of the band contributing to the song. And I love that 'feel' he sings - a trademark of his style. "Wild Indian Woman" that drove our Paul wild until she had his child suffers from hammy lyrics but I like the piano rolls that can now be heard better. Side 1 ends on an eight-and-a-half minute winner - the Led Zeppelin Bluesy hard rock of "Goin' Down Slow" - a James Oden song covered by stacks of luminaries including Howlin' Wolf, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Jimmy Witherspoon and tons of hip sobbing white guys like Long John Baldry, Davy Graham and now Free. Kossoff gets a chance to show off while Fraser and Kirke anchor him with a rock solid rhythm as Rodgers pleads like he means it "...somebody please write my mother and tell her the shape I'm in..." (will do Paul).
But then the album suddenly delivers a classic - and typically it’s the first Rodgers/Fraser credit on the LP - Side 2's fantastic opener "I'm A Mover". The massive riffage and the rhythm-section’s chug feel huge here - genuinely exciting even after all these years. We're then hit with cover number 2 - Booker T & The MG's "The Hunter" which was first aired by Albert King in August 1967 on his Stax Album "Born Under A Bad Sign". Others who'd had a go at its adaptable riff included Ike & Tina Turner, Blue Cheer and Pacific, Gas & Electric - whilst FREE would return to it with a barnstorming version on the "Free Live" album in 1971 - the crowd screaming wildly during Kossoff's incendiary solo. Time for some misery - "...sitting in a graveyard...waiting for the dawn...leaning on my tombstone...'til the night is gone..." Rodgers moans (nice) - another band effort at the Blues. "Sweet Tooth" could have been a great single to follow the non-album "Broad Daylight" which Island tried as a 45 in the UK in March 1969 (Island WIP 6054) - huge drums on this one. And were back to “Over The Green Hills” with Part 2 - two minutes of an Acoustic ballads pining for nature and clean air in the lungs.
Across the seven new 2016 reissues we probably loose thirty to thirty-five genuinely cool bonus tracks of old and all that enlightening info in the booklets too - so buying their catalogue yet again may become a chore for some fans (that Guy Stevens Blues jam is fabulous). But they’re cheap at a fiver and we do gain fabulous new audio - and for many that's probably going to be the deciding factor.
"Tons Of Sobs" is a powerful debut but it's patchy too if we’re being truthful. And yet how good is it to hear FREE and this 1969 vinyl rarity sound so awesome again after all these decades...
PS: FREE titles in the 9 Sept 2016 Island Remasters CD Reissue Series are:
1. Tons Of Sobs (March 1969 debut UK LP) - Island Remasters 473 181-5 (Barcode 602547318152)
2. Free (October 1969 UK LP) - Island Remasters 473 187-1 (Barcode 602547318718)
3. Fire And Water (May 1970 UK LP) - Island Remasters 473 187-4 (Barcode 602547318749)
4. Highway (December 1970 UK LP) - Island Remasters 473 181-9 (Barcode 602547318190)
5. Free Live! (June 1971 UK LP) - Island Remasters 473 187-6 (Barcode 602547318763)
6. Free At Last (June 1972 UK LP) - Island Remasters 473 183-9 (Barcode 602547318398)
7. Heartbreaker (January 1973 UK Final Studio LP) - Island Remasters 473 182-6 (Barcode 602547318268)
8. The Free Story (March 1974 UK 2LP Compilation) - Island Remasters 472 262-9
There is also a VINYL Box Set "FREE - The Vinyl Collection" on Universal/Island 473 187-9 released 9 September 2016 with seven LPs (Barcode 0602547318794)
Where do I begin? Well, Tons of Sobs is Free's first album, made when they were mere teenagers. There is a maturity in their playing, arranging, and writing that most certainly belies their years. The entire album should be considered blues/rock with a healthy dose of edge and attitude...though no posing and pretension. Listen to Paul Rogers strut his way through instant classics like "The Mover" and "Wild Indian Woman" (just two of many original tunes). His singing, though teeming with sexual grit, is controlled yet explosive. And though he is regarded as a fine white blues singer--in the same company as Robert Plant & Gregg Allman--he is most definitely underrated.
And speaking of underrated, let's talk about Paul Kossoff. What a travesty that the late guitarist does not gain any substantial coverage in guitar magazines or lists of top guitarists. His tone, vibrato, and soloing are all undeniably first-rate. He certainly has a signature sound: it can be described most accurately through the title of a Free song: "Molten Gold." His playing is tasteful, never too showy, and demonstrates an affinity and flair for blues. Listen to the two covers on the album: "Goin' Down Slow" and "The Hunter." His playing is never predictable and always emotive.
Free didn't seem to have the flamboyance and mystique of their UK brethren, Led Zeppelin. But nevertheless, this was one hell of a band. Great rhythm section in Fraser and Kirke; great choice of covers; great originals; and two all-stars in Rogers and Kossoff.
Bottom line: this band transcends the stigma they inherited from their one major hit, "Alright Now" (not on this album; it appears on their third, Fire and Water). They have much more to offer!