Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Andy Fraser, 3rd July, 1952 - 16th March, 2015

Sorry to just hear of the sad passing of Andy Fraser on Monday, aged 62. He had been fighting illness for a while.

The best tribute I can pay is to re-post here a blog entry I had written about him and his solo work in October 2011:

Signature Sound

At 15, Andy Fraser began a brief tenure playing bass in the John Mayall Bluesbreakers, was considered a ‘little snot’ - Andy’s words - by drummer Keef Hartley, and smoked his first joint with Mick Taylor in Holland having left school and been given permission by the court to tour abroad as a minor: providing he would be in bed by a specified time [1]. He wasn’t tucked up as agreed that night. At 16, and able to go to sleep when he pleased, he was a member of new band Free.

It is as bass player with Free that Andy Fraser is understandably and rightly best known. Perhaps less well known by many is his significant songwriting partnership with Paul Rodgers, producing and co-writing, for example, theirs and one of the world’s biggest rock hits All Right Now, but also so many more outstanding Free numbers, a fact I have already mentioned in writing about their first great album Tons of Sobs.

Andy split from Free in 1971, rejoined briefly in ’72 and then left again. He flirted with starting new band Toby, recording some tracks; jammed and might have produced something spectacular with Frankie Miller in his Rumbledown Band [*] - but didn’t - and then went on to record the album First Water with guitarist Chris Spedding in their band Sharks.

In 1975, Fraser released two albums as the Andy Fraser Band, the first eponymously and the second titled In Your Eyes. It is this first release that I want to write about here. It is excellent. The songwriting, not surprisingly, is superb and without doubt reflects the signature Free sound of which he was so instrumental [incidental pun]. Whilst some reviewers don’t see this clear continuation, I can’t comprehend how that’s possible. More surprising than the songwriting thread is how Andy’s vocal also echoes that of Paul Rodgers – not exactly, obviously – but for me it is a strong rock voice, and Andy acknowledges Rodgers as a natural influence as well as many others, Frankie Miller included.

Opener Don’t Hide Your Love Away immediately stamps the signature sound: driving rhythm with thumping bass and the melodic line sung strongly above this. Second Changed Man is bluesier and uses effects on the bass to produce a ‘new’ sound within the funky whole. Ain’t Gonna Worry is back to the signature sound of Free ballads and would have nested easily in any of their albums. The same applies to seventh track Keep On Loving You.

Eighth Love Is All Around is interesting in that Fraser’s vocal is at its most characteristic, and therefore clearly not a Rodgers’ clone, and definitely not as distinctive. The chorus ‘all around’ carries the stamp I have been proclaiming, but the bass effects again provide that difference too: what I trust I am characterising is a songwriting and performance that bears the praiseworthy and recognisable roots of Fraser’s Free period yet with movements away from this – but not too far. Not until the second release In Your Eyes.

[1] interview with Dmitry M. Epstein, DMME.NET – Classic Rock and Beyond
[*] Listen to Kossof playing I Don't Know Why The Sun Don't Shine in this band here:

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