Before there was Bad Company, there was Free, and before this very young group of guys established their soulful, groove-rock staple, they showed off their bluesy undertones in their debut album: Tons of Sobs.
Even if my old school interests and collection of friends twice my age make me feel like I was alive during the sixties and seventies — I wasn’t, but I can only imagine all the kooky stuff that went down when Free’s debut album surfaced. It was 1969 and people were getting freaky as the traditional characteristics of rock and roll began to change. The Doors in themselves opened up new opportunities for innovation, especially those of weirdness. Simple rhythms and lyrics were thrown out the window, forcing every new-comer musician to step their game up. The defining question developed as the seventies neared in: who could be the most different in this new, funky decade?
Now I’m certain that the blues will never die, but it’ll be hard to top what it once meant for the music industry. Tons of Sobs plays a mean game that doesn’t just preach about a sorrowful love interest. It’s an array of songs that detail the sentiments we think about all day long. The album’s lyrics are unexpected; somewhat dark yet carefree. Paul’s voice sounds young and fresh, but pleasantly sparks and kicks like an old, classic vinyl. The album is truly a great introduction for these musicians, and I don’t think anyone was prepared for the success that was about to come. Well, except maybe Free.
Tons of Sobs starts and closes with a haunting two-parter: “Over the Green Hills.” Part one gives the album a subtle start, and for about 30 seconds you’re completely mystified; deeply sinking into a certain mood. Then, boom! Abruptly, a wild ride starts. Paul Rodgers begins to curse us with his lyrics to the next banger: “Worry” — shouting out feelings that disregard every other sappy pick-me-up song holding the norm.
Then worry baby worry
There’s a reason for you to.
There’s a silent, deadly message
In the wind that’s meant for you.
Although some may get discouraged by confronting these kinds of actualities, I really appreciate the reminder here. As much and I want to believe the road to happiness is worry-free, it’s impossible not to ponder the major decisions and events that occur in our daily lives. Our worries shouldn’t consume us, but it does no good to ignore them. Sometimes the only way to understand them is to throw on a song and sing them out. That’s what I believe really makes the blues the blues.
The juiciest track on the album for me is “Walk In My Shadow” — majorly due the sexiness of what Paul Rodgers is alluding to. I think I would pass out if he sung this to me in person. “Sweet Tooth” is a straight up jam session; crazily sporadic but somehow in line. I love the bass in “Goin’ Down Slow” — rocked out by then 16-year-old bassist Andy Fraser, who sadly passed away in 2015. It’s not hard for songs to overshadow the bass, but on this album, its sound is extremely clear, which I really dig.
It’s quite easy for me to get lost in a song; to fully commit to a relationship with the music itself. I, like any emotional being, can easily drown out to the blues. KQ listener Jared, who calls in frequently during the KQ Morning Show, recently reminded me that if you’re having a bad day, you just have to go through it. Things don’t always work out the way you want, and sometimes the only thing you can do is blast some tunes and get over it. Take worries as they come and work them out with yourself, on your own time.
It sure is comforting to know that no matter what happens, I can always stomp my foot to a heavy beat from Free, and that’s the one thing I’ll never fall out of love with.
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