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Feeling Free – The Complete Recordings 1971-1973

Review by Gary Hill

This is an intriguing band that I've never heard before. The group was formed by drummer Andrew McCulloch, keyboardist Graham Field and bassist/vocalist Alan Barry. While I've never heard this act before, I have heard McCulloch before. He was the drummer for King Crimson on their Lizard album. Field's previous work was familiar to me, too. He was a founder of the band Rare Bird.

This album, as you might guess from the subtitle, collects all their recordings. At the time they were active as a band, they only released one album and single. A second album (on disc two) was recorded, but never released as the label lost interest. . That album was eventually released in the 21st Century, but now all of their music gathered in one place.

The sound here has links to things like the aforementioned Rare Bird and King Crimson. There are a lot of Emerson, Lake and Palmer leaning moments. I can make out elements from Rick Wakeman to The Strawbs and Procol Harum. There is a lot of folk rock in mix, but also a lot of classical music. No matter where you see the references landing, this set includes some vital early prog that's certainly worth checking out.

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Track by Track Review
CD One:
Originally released on CBS Records 69009 in 1971
A Friend Of Mine

This comes thundering in rather like something from Emerson, Lake and Palmer. After a chord-based introduction, this works out to some classically inspired jamming. While ELP is still a valid reference, so is Rick Wakeman. After an extended instrumental introduction, we're taken into a vocal based movement. I really love those vocals, too. They have a great classic prog vibe to them. The music retains a lot of classical music in the mix, and the number keeps evolving from there. Another killer instrumental movement closes the song.

While The Sun Still Shines
With a lot of psychedelic and pop rock in the mix, this has some definite prog angles in the shifts and changes and a lot of the instrumental work. While this isn't as impressive as the opener was, it's certainly not without its charms.
Not So Good
There is plenty of classical music in this number. I'm reminded of Queen as the vocals soar over the top of the piano on this. And, yes, I know this predates Queen. There are hints of things ranging from Procol Harum to the Beatles as the number fills out a bit.
Three Minstrels
This is an interesting track. There are parts that are percussive. Other sections are nearly acapella. There are plenty of other intriguing parts to this. The cut has a real old-world folk music vibe to it, but informed by progressive rock angles. It's quite intriguing stuff.
Slow Susan
As you might guess, this is a slow moving song. It's all on keyboards and is quite enchanting.
Over And Over Again

This is a powerhouse prog that has tons of that ELP kind of thing at it. This has some great shifts and turns. It's classy stuff. There is some great keyboard work on this powerhouse tune in an instrumental movement that seems firmly entrenched in that ELP zone.

Feeling Free
The title track, this comes in with some tasty piano that brings an almost gospel vibe to it. Organ joins as it continues to work its way forward. They turn out into some cool folk rock from there.
Fair-Haired Lady
Delicate guitar paints a picture at this cut gets underway. It has a real folk aspect as that part serves as the only backdrop for the vocals. Other instruments join later as icing on the cake, but it still remains a folk number with a lot of old time music at its core.
A Place To Lay My Head
There are some definite gospel angles to this cut along with prog and folk rock ones. This has some dynamic changes and powerful instrumental passages.
The Eagle
A fast paced guitar parts. The song works through some shifts and changes along the road before settling to a mellower, slower motif that calls to mind Procol Harum. They work this through some changes before it drops back to a piano solo that gets a bit odd at times.
Bonus Tracks:
Mixed at BBC Studios, London in 1971
Slow Susan (alternate version)

This version of the earlier track feels more grounded and organic somehow.

A Place To Lay My Head (alternate version)
I love the organ and percussion heavy introduction to this version of the tune. I like this take of the tune quite a bit. It's sort of a mainstream rocker, less proggy, but still quite effective.
BBC Radio One Sounds of the 70s session
Recorded 23rd December, 1971
A Friend Of Mine

This a smoking hot prog rocking jam. It's so much fun and has so much style. There is an announcer at the end.

Wouldn’t You Agree
A dramatic and classy prog jam ensues right out of the gate here. This number has more of that folk prog concept. I'm reminded a bit of The Strawbs and Procol Harum on this tune.
CD Two:
Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Peace
Recorded in 1972
Let Her Sleep

The sound of sirens starts this. Keyboards rise up in classical style to drive it outward from there. This makes me think of both Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz as it drives forward. There is a rhythm section backing it, but nothing else until it drops to a more stripped back vocal section. This thing drives outward after the vocal movement to some powerhouse prog jamming, and a number of twists and turns ensue.

Wedding Bells
More of a mainstream rocking sound drives this number. It has an intriguing vocal arrangement. There are still plenty of proggy elements at play here, too, though. This is a real powerhouse number with a lot of style and charm. The song fades down later, and a violin solo brings a full classical treatment to bear. That violin eventually segues into the next piece.
Someone To Trust
Coming right out of the last one via the violin, this has more of a Beatles-like pop rock turned art concept at play.
Wonder Why
This is a fast paced prog jam that has an intriguing and multilayered vocal arrangement. There is some smoking hot synthesizer work as this jam continues driving forward.
Music Was Their Game
I love the playful folk music that is at the heart of this piece. The cut has some real prog shifts and turns along the road, but that folk concept is present in some ways throughout. This has a driving, energetic vibe, too.
The Old Canal
A dramatic and evocative musical concept drives this piece. It has some real old world sound brought to the forefront by the violin. This is another track that makes me think of both The Strawbs and Procol Harum.
Put Out To Grass
A bouncy proggy jam, this features lots of cool keyboard work and a really fun arrangement.
A real folk music turned prog approach is on the menu as this comes with a mellow vibe. I'm definitely reminded of King Crimson's first album as this grows outward. The vocal arrangement is classy, but so is the instrumental one. It powers into some killer up-tempo prog as it marches forward. The sounds of nature take over at the end of this.
Bonus Tracks:
Set Yourself Free

Energized acoustic guitar brings this into being. The cut works out from there to a sort of psychedelic prog romp that's quite tasty.

The River
I love the keyboard textures on this playful and enchanting piece of music. It's a tasty instrumental.
Even more playful than the last cut, this short instrumental is quite entertaining.
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