Thursday, July 12, 2012

Free and Joe B? Here's Why I Like The Idea (and it's only my idea)

Late last year, I watched Joe Bonamassa and Paul Rodgers performing two Free classics, Fire and Water, and Walk In My Shadow at the Beacon Theater in New York. It wasn't until then that I thought it might be a great idea - what if the surviving members of Free reassembled for one more record, and maybe a few shows with Bonamassa standing in for the late Paul Kossoff?

I can already hear the complaints this will generate. I know that Joe doesn't play just like Kossoff - nobody does. However, I do have some genuine insight on just how much the young blues rocker reveres Kossoff, and his legacy. I have stood on a stage with Joe as he tested out a vintage Les Paul for the first time, and the sound he mentioned first, with a huge smile on his face, was Kossoff's. I also realize that you can't recreate history - and that is not even close to what I am suggesting. I do, however, think that given his regard for Free and Kossoff's history, his total love of the music, and his obvious talents, that Bonamassa would be the perfect guy for the gig. To those who think that Bonamassa would play in the exact same style as he would for his solo act as he might on a Free record, I disagree, and strongly.

I believe that Joe Bonamassa would be the first to say that what he would have to write and play for another band's reformation would have to be different than his normal workday. I think he'd be smart enough to keep it lean, soulful, and of the right spirit. Sure, he played more like himself than Kossoff at The Beacon Theater, but you have to understand - he was playing for an audience who came to see a Bonamassa show. My guess is that if he were to pinch hit for Paul Kossoff, he'd be wearing a different hat, and that he'd even change his rig appropriately. It's also my guess that my writing this may make him cringe uneasily, and for that I am sorry.

Of course, this is all my fan's eyes dreaming here. None of the principles have embraced this idea - I had first mentioned it back in February on my Facebook page:
"Can anyone watch this (Bonamassa and Rodgers at The Beacon) and not come to the conclusion that the three surviving members of Free and Joe Bonamassa should book some time in 2013 and record an album? I have to think the prospect would make Paul Kossoff smile from ear to ear."
One of the first people to 'like' my post was Andy Fraser's manager - we had a brief chat and it seemed to indicate that the Fraser camp not against the idea in principle. I certainly can't say more, or insinuate anything else, but even that was very heartening.

I smile broadly when I think what producer Kevin Shirley could do with Rodgers, Fraser, Kirke, and Bonamassa in the studio. Shirley is known to be a big fan of no-nonsense, get in and get it done tracking, and there is surely some magic to be yet mined out of this vein of rock.

Does the world even need a Free reunion?

If you're at all like me, you're of the opinion that Free's catalog is entirely too small, and it always feels decidedly unfinished. Most of the fans I talk to wish there was a larger collection of the magic that was made by this band - I'm always amazed at how many views the band's classic clips get on YouTube, and how often these clips pass by my Facebook news feed.

Now, as I said earlier, this is all just a fan's dreamings. I would dearly love to again hear Paul Rodgers fronting a band that matched his incredible talents. Andy Fraser has carved out a completely different and engaging musical career since leaving Free, but his die-hard fans would give plenty to hear his bass playing and compositional skills in a hard rock setting once again.

I'm not like most fans, I think Bad Company was not just a great band, I think they were perfect for their time. Mick Ralphs joining up with Rodgers was an inspired musical marriage, and as much as I revered Mott The Hoople and Free, I also adored Bad Company. Just because a great band no longer exists, it does not mean that the remaining members shouldn't continue to ply their trade in the way it suits them. I don't see any blasphemy with a reunion (of sorts) that is done for the right reasons - and those reasons should only be the musicians desire to make music, and the fans desire to hear it.

I have seen other names bandied about when the wishful thinking of a Free re-make is discussed, but I think from several standpoints, Bonamassa would be a great candidate. He has plenty of fans on his own, and he can tremendously aid the marketing viability of a project such as this. I've already stated why I believe him to be a great guy for the job musically. Mick Ralphs' name has come up, but I think that is preposterous - the existence of Bad Co would transmogrify this into something completely different, and messy.

One of my reasons for dreaming this dream is that I would dearly love to hear another great album from Paul Rodgers. He's had a stellar solo career, and he did heroic work with Queen - perhaps proving that this type of scenario can work. He didn't make a foolhearted attempt to become Freddie Mercury, he just did a great job at singing the Queen catalog in his own style and voice.

Rodgers will be the tough one to corner, I'm guessing. And, I respect that he has his reasons for any decision in his life. I know the situation is not simple, and there are many issues to which I am not privy that effect this scenario. But I think it would be great to hear him fronting that quality of band again. I like the possibility of magic. It's also a beautiful thing that Rodgers is still in great voice, and good shape. This thing could rock.

I'm not suggesting a long termed commitment, just an album, and maybe a short tour of very select cities. I am of the opinion that it would be great for the fans, great for the players, and great for the history of rock and roll.

I apologize to the musicians I am writing about in this story, especially Joe Bonamassa, who is already the busiest guitar player on the planet and a man who enjoys controlling his own destiny quite well without my help. If you're not interested, not able, or even just can't be bothered, I fully understand, and I sincerely regret any discomfort this could possibly cause. We fans are like that sometimes, only thinking for ourselves. I know that everyone is busy, has lives and careers of their own, and issues that I cannot possibly understand. As I've said - none of the principles have ever mentioned even the remote possibility of this lineup - it's just me, dreaming.

But if there's a way, there is a great possibility of some great music and music history to be made, don't you think?

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