This March the Free Forever DVD was re-released in expanded form, this time as a 2-DVD set – which is the first I’d heard about Free Forever. I couldn’t wait to get, watch it and tell you all how it is.
Overall, it’s great. GREAT. What’s not to like? The songs are great, the singing is great, the band is great and Paul Kossoff’s tone is all old-school Les Paul into a Marshall – with judicious use of the guitar’s volume knob (more on that later). The video is sharp, the sound is excellent. And that is what you’re buying it for – to see and hear the band. Not for extras and whatever other frills may be on there.
(Thankfully, there’s only a little of the annoying-as-hell jerking around that plagues some ’60s-’70s music videos as well as concert DVDs – VH’s Right Here, Right Now and “The Immigrant Song” on the Led Zep DVD come to mind.)
But since this is a blog about guitar tones and read by fellow tone knuckleheads, the real gem of this DVD (though it’s hard to call Paul Rodgers anything but a gem) is Koss. His playing is great, his tone is great and it’s a treat to see him play these riffs, notably “All Right Now” – which isn’t like I and many other guit-players thought it was played. (Props if you figured it out right.)
It looks and sounds like the video was shot yesterday – the quality is that good.
Before getting into more about the songs and Koss, I’ll note the one negative (for me): It’s not a solid two DVDs of video performance. That’s unfortunate but it’s because there just wasn’t that much shot of the band, so much of disc 2 is just audio. Still, that’s far outweighed by the positives – which for me included drummer Simon Kirke (solid, good) and Andy Fraser, a killer bass player.
Here are my semi-random notes on the discs.
Beat Club, Germany, 1970
> Koss obviously wasn’t a big fan of trimming his string ends!
1. Mr. Big
> He’s playing through an Orange(s) on these tracks. Joe Bonamassa is a huge Koss fan, and as he has noted Koss clearly rides the volume knob, turning it up for the solo and outro. He’s playing a darker burst Les Paul of some kind, and stays with the bridge pickup the whole time.
> Sick bass playing! Bass solo over outro chords.
2. Fire and Water
> Totally different look here and Paul’s voice is a little raspier. Koss is playing a gold top, starts on the bridge pickup, cranks the vol knob for more snarl and is in the middle position on the solo. He clearly knows what he’s going for tone- and feel-wise every time.
3. All Right Now
> Same setup/era as Fire and Water.
> Stupid ’60s effects messing up the visuals! You can hardly see the band or Koss playing at all.
> Extended solo jam – KILLER performance of the tune – but can can barely see it! But you can see Koss ride the volume knob down after the solo to play the verse.
> Snarlier version than on the album.
Doin’ Their Thing – Granada TV, July 1970
> This stuff looks like it couldn’t been filmed yesterday – stellar!
4. Ride On Pony
> Burst-ish (tri-burst?) Les Paul, Marshall Major?, maybe an Orange – looks like another band’s stacks behind him.
5. Mr. Big
> Again he clearly rides the vol knob.
> I like the tone of the Oranges better! Maybe until he cranks the guitar vol.
> This lead is a finger-vibrato fest – wow!
> A rock star performance – in front of an English crowd that doesn’t move a muscle.
6. Songs of Yesterday
> Koss gets some wah-like sounds. Don’t know if it’s the recording or him playing with his tone knobs and pickups (likely), but I don’t see a wah!
7. I’ll Be Creepin’
> A lot of vibrato again .
> Lots of glorious midrange when he cranks.
8. All Right Now
> Lots of Marshall midrange – still not as nasty/sweet-sounding as the Orange!
> Top left input only, no bridging of the channels.
> I think I learned from watching this that I and I think everyone I’ve seen play this riff has gotten it flat wrong. Koss’ right hand never moves from frets 2 (A major chord) through 5. So how the heck can he play that G that descends to the inverted (or whatever) D chord? He doesn’t play it! He plays the F# both times, the first time with an open G and the second time he throws in the A on the G string (2nd fret). I’m serious!
> On song #11 on disc 1, “My Brother Jake,” Koss is playing a white Strat with a maple board!
> In interviews about how “All Right Now” came about, Koss said he tried to get Townshend-like chords because Townshend was the chord master. Cool!
Isle of Wight (1970) Videos
> Seems like only three of the 10 songs were filmed. Bummer!
1. Be My Friend – Mellow tune, sounds like Skynyrd might have picked up on it.
2. Mr. Big – Crazy good performance. Koss goes nuts in the solo.
3. All Right Now – GREAT tone, classic Les Paul through a Marshall.
Here are the Isle of Wight audio tracks:
1. Ride On Pony
3. The Stealer
4. Be My Friend
5. Mr. Big
6. Fire and Water
7. I’m A Mover
8. The Hunter
9. All Right Now
Some of the interviews with the band members and Koss’ brother were cool. A few quotes:
> Rodgers: “Paul was a lot more talented than people knew. He played a whole bunch of Spanish music one time…all fingerpicking and everything. I said, ‘That’s fantastic,’ and he said, “No it’s not, it’s crap. Let’s play a blues.’ So he had that in back of his blues talent…a classically-trained guitar player back there. And I don’t think many people knew that.”
> Koss’ brother: “At 9 [his parents] started him on classical guitar lessons. For a long time he fooled us all into thinking he was reading music, and…in fact, such was his gift, he wasn’t reading music. He was just imitating what [the teacher] did. He was watching her hands, and it was going straight into his technique. I think it was that point everybody recognized there was a real gift.”
> Rodgers: “He did all the driving as well. He drove 100s and 100s of miles and then walked in a did a show.”
> Kirke: “The more I think about it, the more I’m astounded that no one [took any real action on Koss’ behalf because of the drugs].” He noted that addiction wasn’t treated then like it is now, where rehab is the obvious next step.
> Rodgers: “At the end of the day, Koss really is my guitar soulmate.”
> What a band. It makes me wonder if there ever was a better rock singer than Paul Rodgers. You know what I mean.
> Order it here: Free Forever DVD