Counter Action: Edition 3


Our monthly feature series allows us to enter the mysterious world of one record shop employee. He wishes not to be named, it's all a bit top secret to be honest. Each episode he will reveal to us the story behind a record which has passed through his hands. This is your top secret guide to the genius which exists behind the counter. This week our man amidst the dusty shelves is getting just a tad hot under the collar after finding this little known 1970 hard blues rocker from the imaginatively monikered ‘Freedom’…

Active in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Freedom were ahead of the curve musically, eschewing the whimsy of much late ‘60s British psychedelia, they instead peddled a tasty mix of hard-blues-psych. The line-up was fluid and centred around two key members, Ray Royer and Bobby Harrison. Flushed with cash after a court settlement found in their favour that Royer and Harrison had been unceremoniously kicked out of Procol Harum they decided to strike out on their own. 

Making full use of the dials on their amps marked ‘11’ they quickly enlisted the help of like-minded individuals Steve Shirley and Tony Marsh (who, before he had time to unbutton his greatcoat was replaced by pianist/organist Mike Lease). The band put out a couple of low key releases, two German only 7” singles and a soundtrack (now that’s low-key), before going for the hard rock jugular, securing support slots with like-minded rockers Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and the James Gang.

By 1970 they’d inked a one-off deal with US ABC Records subsidiary Probe Records, and released this rather tasty self-titled blues rocker.

With a sleeve that to these eyes resembles those down-with-the-kids Christian type pulp fiction novels of the ‘70s, like the Cross & The Switchblade (google it) it’s not entirely sure what you’re getting into, place the needle down on the first track however….

…….for an album choc-full of unabashed rockers it’s a fairly restrained intro, chiming, fuzzed guitar lines, a Ringo-esque drum fill and we’re off, close harmonies (definitely a hang-over from their Procol Harum days) lull you into a false sense of security, but, by the time you get to the two and a half minute mark the gloves are off – guitar overload = check, freak flags flying = check.

More blues power moves can be heard on the longer, free-flowing ‘In Search Of Something’ and ‘Dusty Track’, yes more close harmonies, but this time with generous lashings of wah-wah and an all-round loose feel, making it just that tad more ‘psychedelic’ than some of their more famous counterparts Free, Led Zeppelin et al. 

We shall skip ‘Ain’t No Chance To Score’, the nudge, nudge title is the best thing about it, musically it’s a bit of a lumpen 12-barre blues-fest with definite Quo vibe – yikes!

‘Pretty Woman’ (no not that one) is a dead ringer for Free, sweaty and earnest with some nimble fretwork throughout, in an alterna-world the band are still earning royalties from it as it’s just been licensed for another ‘drive-time’ comp…..

Our mystery record shop employee is at pains to point out “it’s not a classic by any means but deffo on a par with their contemporaries with some killer moments. It makes you realise forty years on how fickle fames brush can be” he was heard to mutter sagely….err, right on!

What happened next?

The band released a further three albums, ‘Freedom At Last’, released by cult French imprint BYG, before signing with uber-collectable Vertigo Records for two long players, needless to say they sunk without trace and that album, like just about anything released on the highly coveted Vertigo ‘Swirl’ imprint goes for big bucks. In a pop-nugget- curveball Steve Jolley who played on the later Vertigo LPs is the same Steve Jolley who, as part of ‘80s production duo, Swain & Jolley produced and wrote hits for Imagination and Bananarama…. definitely didn’t see that one coming!



Comments are closed.