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Non-Prog Book Reviews


Free - Heavy Load written by David Clayton & Todd K. Smith

Review by Bruce Stringer

The first thing that hit me when I opened this best seller was that it's jam packed with rare and previously unpublished photographs. The layout is very professional and the overall 'look' is that of a genuine biography published in the 1970's, when an author might have written for the love of the subject. But what about the words? Well, the subject matter revolves around the last great British band to come out of the 60's, Free, and all of it's respective off-shoots and is obviously a labour of love for co-author David Clayton (who was kind enough to drive up to Nottingham to hand deliver my copy!)

25 years in the making, the authors have gone to great lengths to substantiate some of the claims made during interviews and to confirm facts, and is possibly the most important source of Free information in printed form to date. Interviews have been included from a who's who of international recording artists and music business personnel from the era, allowing one to step back in time and re-live the ever-so brief period of music history which laid the foundation for such acts.

Although known for their huge hits All Right Now and Wishing Well, Free were much more than this. Consistent in their energetic performances and ground breaking in their approach to music. Highly volatile as a people, explosive as a rock act. This can be heard in their recordings and seen in the visually explosive visuals throughout Heavy Load. I was especially interested in the background information on the equipment used on tour and the photographs from the notes of the original reel to reels

Recently Cameron Crowe, in his highly entertaining Almost Famous, paid homage to Free with certain elements of his cast band, Stillwater. There's no denying that the moves, the camera angles and the lead singer are totally Free!

Clayton and Smith begin Heavy Load with brief biographical introductions on each band member before bringing together the cast in an ensemble of larger than life story telling. Interestingly, information from the Australian and Japanese shows feature strongly, especially considering Free's final show (before their initial break-up) was at Sydney's Randwick Racecourse in front of a record 30,000 fans when their tour (alongside Deep Purple and Manfred Mann Chapter 3) was hijacked by the local mafia!

The band's strong link to the Japanese market and culture also established the band as one of musical diversity. The ups and downs are all here - and from all perspectives and considering my recent meeting with vocal god, Paul Rodgers, this book places all the right emphasis on all the right things.

This brilliantly researched book deserves a place in rock history and is the definite word on Free. Currently in the process of Japanese and Polish translations, Heavy Load has been acknowledged by all surviving band members as the authentic article. Not just a fan biography, this is the story of Free!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at

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