If you only knew Andy Fraser from his bass lines in the Free hit “All Right Now”, then you really don’t know what you’ve missed. Fraser was one of those bass players who were really unique. On the one hand, he could seamlessly play in between what late guitarist Paul Kossoff was tossing into the ears of the audience and what drummer Simon Kirke was laying down. On the other hand, this was a guy who could put himself way out on the line and not fall on his face.
Let’s put it this way, o.k.? Andy could really let you know he could strut his stuff. He was one of those guys who had a pride in his playing that was unmistakably out in the open for everybody to see. He was one of the reasons why Free very often gets remembered with even greater fondness than Bad Company (who came after Free disbanded and Koss and Fraser went off on their own). Bad Company was the roots-oriented commercial success. They were rootsy and musical, but in a different way than Free. Whereas Bad Company was geared towards a commercial market even though they were big with the F.M. and A.M. crowd alike,
Free is the band that gets remembered by the deep catalog fans who were seriously wired to the underground and who held great reverence for the guys who placed great emphasis on Blues roots. Andy Fraser was part of a group who appeared to be completely legitimate in the eyes of their beholders exactly because of that strong Blues bond. Bad Company was a band who relied on a sound for each song and good songwriting as a whole unit. Free was a product of combining Blues with individual players who were each a master at what they did. Many considered Bad Company to have only one virtuoso in the late bassist Bozz Burrell. But that’s selling short the vocals of Rodgers.
A lot of people can argue that Free had four virtuosos. One turned out to be one of the greatest vocalists in Rock history, the other became one of the more solid hitters among the Rock drumming community. Then you had the guitar god in Kossoff who was also highly revered among other musicians. And then there was Andy Fraser. Again, it was that way he could meet a challenge and prove to you that he belonged with those guys.
And let’s consider something else. It’s a good thing that Fraser was the one who ended up being paired with Paul Kossoff. I seriously doubt that anybody who didn’t have Andy’s strut would have been able to hold up to playing with Kossoff as far as dealing with it on an onstage personality level. He had that pride I mentioned and yet he knew exactly when to hold back because of the overwhelming talent that Kossoff brought to the table. A lesser personality would likely have been a shrunken violet next to Koss even if they had the talent to play in Free.
I don’t know what the hold-up has been, but there’s a sizeable multi-disc box set of Free that has been sitting on a shelf for much too long now. What is it going to take to get this thing released so that people can get an idea of why this band was so great?
A lot of us in the music community and among the serious hard-core fan communities knew that this was coming eventually. It still hurts that it happened. Along with his being an incredible musician, Andy brought a fight with him that he took to heart and made his mission as an activist for multiple causes. It’s too bad that he’s not going to be known to more people. But for those of us who came through in the ’60s and ’70s, we knew exactly who he was and why he awed us so much.