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Free is the second album by English rock group Free, recorded and released in 1969. The band had spent time touring after their debut album Tons of Sobs the previous year, and there is a marked difference in the musicianship of the band as well as Paul Rodgers‘s voice. Whereas Tons of Sobs had been produced by Guy StevensFree was produced by the head of Island RecordsChris Blackwell.

This album saw the burgeoning of the songwriting partnership between Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser, which had been glimpsed on Tons of Sobs with songs such as “I’m a Mover”; here, eight out of the nine tracks bear a Fraser/Rodgers credit. Possibly as a result of the sixteen-year-old Fraser’s influence as a songwriter the bass guitar is far more prominent here than on the previous album. The instrument is used as a rhythm guitar, driving the songs, while Kossoff’s lead guitar develops from it.

While Fraser and Rodgers made a strong writing partnership, tensions in the band increased. Kossoff, whose natural spontaneity had been given free rein up to then, particularly resented being taught very specific rhythm guitar parts by Fraser. However, Blackwell managed to keep the band in line to record the album.

The album performed poorly on release, reaching only No.22 in the UK charts, and failing completely in the US. The single releases, “Broad Daylight” and “I’ll be Creepin'”, also failed. Two songs from the album, “I’ll be Creepin'” and “Woman”, were later covered by the American rock band Three Dog Night.

The album is notable for having innovative artwork from Ron Rafaelli of The Visual Thing Inc. It is featured in the book 100 Best Album Covers alongside better-known examples such as Peter Blake‘s cover for the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and Robert Crumb‘s artwork for Big Brother and the Holding Company‘s Cheap Thrills (1968). The book was part compiled by Storm Thorgerson who had designed many famous album covers such as Pink Floyd‘s The Dark Side of the Moon (1973).

Rafaelli made the cover by photographing his model with strobe lights to make a silhouette of her against a background, on which he could then overlay the design. Hence, the album has a design of a woman made of stars leaping across the sky. The band’s name is printed in extremely small letters at the top of the cover; with CDs being much smaller than LPs, this is almost unreadable.

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