Fire and Water


Fire and Water

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Fire and Water is the third studio album released by the English rock group Free. It became the band’s breakthrough, achieving widespread commercial success after the band’s first two studio albums had faced a more muted response. With the “tremendous” acclaim of Fire and Water at their backs, in the words of AllMusic, Free headlined the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival and “appeared destined for superstardom”.

Specifically, Fire and Water reached #2 on the U.K. album chart, being listed on it for a total of eighteen weeks. In contrast, neither of the band’s prior two studio albums had charted at all.  Fire and Water additionally reached #17 on the equivalent U.S. chart.

The album spawned the popular single “All Right Now“, praised by publications such as AllMusic as a hard rock “smash powered by [Paul] Rodgers’ gritty, visceral vocals”. The song became a Top 5 rock hit in not just the group’s native United Kingdom, but it additionally did well in multiple European countries such as Austria, France, and Germany.

The group had formed in London, England back in 1968, with musician Paul Kossoff of the blues band Black Cat Bones witnessing a project that featured frontman Paul Rodgers. Free came into being once the duo joined up with musicians Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser, the latter formerly from the ranks of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Free’s debut album, titled Tons of Sobs, came out in 1968 to a muted response. The group’s eponymous 1969 follow-up, while expanding on the band’s mix of styles, also failed to achieve commercial success. Neither studio album had charted at all.

Free recorded Fire and Water from January 1970 to June 1970 in London, the group using the engineering facilities of Island Studios and Trident Studios. Mike Sida devised the album’s cover image, with Richard Polak being the band’s photographer. Free produced the work themselves, with assistance from others.

In addition, Roy Baker contributed to the album’s production, providing particular help with the audio engineering. Before getting started with Free, he’d worked with groups such as Savoy Brown and The Deviants in the 1960s. After his association with Fire and Water, he has spent multiple decades serving rock bands such as ByzantiumHawkwindQueen, and The Cars.

Music critic Matthew Greenwald has written for AllMusic praising the album. He stated that by 1970 “Free presented itself to the world as a complete band, in every sense of the word”, particularly with elements ranging from “Paul Kossoff’s exquisite and tasteful guitar work to Paul Rodgers’ soulful vocals” on display for listeners. He also positively compared the group’s work with that of bands Blind FaithCream, and Derek and the Dominos.

Multiple critics have viewed the album as the high-point of the Free discography. Track “All Right Now” in particular continues to receive widespread radio airplay.

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