Free – Scotland 1972 (Heart Breakers HB-936)

Scotland 1972 (Heart Breakers HB-936)

Empire Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland – September 14th, 1972

(67:10):  Heartbreaker, I’m On The Run, Lady, Like Water, Child, Unseen Love, Ride On A Pony, Everyday I Have The Blues, Wishing Well, Fire And Water, Happy Birthday Paul K, All Right Now, Crossroads

Free made a valiant attempt to continue resurrect their career after reforming in 1972.  Bassist Andy Fraser had left and was replaced by two musicians, Tetsu Yamauchi on bass and Rabbit Bundrick on keyboards.  In September they began rehearsals for their final album Heartbreaker (which would be issued in early 1973).  And, almost simultaneously, they had a short tour of the UK beginning in  September. 

Also about this time guitarist Paul Kossoff was suffering from addiction.  Some of the shows on this tour, such as October 14th in Coatham, are among the biggest disasters because of him and truly show the band on its last legs.  However, there are others that show how far the band have progressed from their early days and hinted at their true potential.

The September 14th show Scotland is among the latter.  It is one of the tightest performances of the era before a typically vocal and appreciate Edinburgh audience.  Although some now claim this is a soundboard recording, it’s clearly an audience tape with the recorder very close to the stage.  There is good balance in the instruments and audience and, if it weren’t for the faint distortion in the louder passages, would rate excellent. 

It captures the entire set played on Kossoff’s twenty-second birthday.  The only cut is one in “Everyday I Have The Blues” about four and a half minutes into the track.

Scotland 1972 captures Free on a very good night.  Not only is Kossoff focusing, but the band as a whole are very tight and focused and adventurous.  Earlier in their career their songs seems too similar to one another, but by this time in their career they began to master the use of dynamics in their songs for dramatic effect.  They rarely stray from their comfortable beat, but with the addition of Bundrick on keyboards they expanded their musical vocabulary and have become much more interesting.

The set begins with many newer songs including “Heartbreaker,” the title track for the yet-to-be-recorded album.  They follow with Bundrick’s tune “I’m On The Run” from the Kossoff/Kirke/Tetsu/Rabbit side project, brilliantly sung by him and played. 

After “Lady” there is a brief delay when Kossoff’s guitar goes out of tune.  “I’m always out of tune” he jokes as Paul Rodgers says the next song is “about the passage of life” and is called “My Life Is Like Water.”  This is one of Rodger’s three songs from his side-project Peace demo of 1971 (along with “Heartbreaker” and “Seven Angels”).  Rarely played live, it would ultimately be released by Bad Company on Burnin’ Sky in 1977.  

A brief tune up including checking the monitors for the acoustic guitar precedes a weak performance of “Child” from Free At Last.  Maybe they were distracted by the faulty equipment, but Rodger’s vocals sound unsteady and the band a bit too loose.  Bundrick does add pretty little fills on piano and the audience are respectful and give them a nice ovation at the end. 

“Unseen Love” is the second mellow song which, along with “Child,” forms a brief semi-acoustic interlude.  Bundrick wrote and sings this gorgeous little tune that was never used by Free in the seventies.  The only other recording of this rarity can be found in the July 22nd, 1972 Tokyo show and on the official box set Songs Of Yesterday.

The rest of the show is more relaxed, loose, and rocking compared to the first half starting with the more familiar tune “Ride On A Pony.”  Before “Wishing Well,” which would be the opening number for the next album, Rodgers tells the audience to clap along in time and after “Fire And Water” they sing “Happy Birthday” to Kossoff. 

The set ends with the expected “All Right Now” (beginning with the band singing the chorus in harmony!) and the Robert Johnson cover “Crossroads” in the encores, the same two songs that ended their Isle Of Wight set two years before. 

Scotland 1972 has very good sound, has an excellent concert, and is one of the best Free documents to obtain.  Released in 1999, at that time Heart Breaker and Gypsy Eye were releasing many Free titles (including the Croatham show) producing a very nice collection of essential shows from one of the more under appreciated British groups. 

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