As an avid fan for more than a quarter-century (hey, I'm only 40) of the legendary, soulful, heavy blues-rock British band Free, I've always been somewhat aware of Andy Fraser, the group's bass player and co-songwriter. The inventive nature of Fraser's bass playing is impossible to deny even for the most fledgling of rock music fans, but it turns out that this is simply an amazing guy across the board. Even if the only thing he ever did was play bass and compose Free classics like "All Right Now," "Fire and Water" and "Heavy Load," Fraser would be a complete musical legend and convincing example of the proverbial rock prodigy. But a quick read of the thoughtful autobiographical section of Fraser's website demonstrates that this guy has lived a remarkable and fascinating life thus far both in terms of music and on a personal level. Lucky for me, he also released some worthy music as a solo artist during the '80s.
"Fine, Fine Line," the title track from Fraser's 1984 album, exhibits a certain degree of dated production elements, but it's also an excellent showcase for this artist's underrated vocals, whose richness compares rather favorably with former Free bandmate Paul Rodgers. Ultimately, though, what cuts through the tinkling keyboard opening and aggressively AOR instrumentation is Fraser's impressive songwriting prowess. Free and Bad Company - Rodgers' better-known classic rock supergroup of the '70s - have both always relied heavily on a daring eclecticism that at times blends aspects of R&B, hard rock and even country music. However, until now I haven't realized how much of that fluidity can be attributed to the contributions and even just the lasting influence of Fraser himself. Having been forced into an impressively contemplative maturity by repeated brushes with mortality - including a bout with a rare form of cancer, the contraction of AIDS and nearly suicide-inducing levels of depression - Fraser perseveres still today to make the most of life and his ample musical talents.
- Listen to "Fine, Fine Line" in its entirety here.
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- Andy Fraser Official Website
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Island Records