- A superb copy of the band’s third studio album with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound – reasonably quiet vinyl to this title too
- Stunning Live-in-the-Studio Rock Sound that must be heard to be believed – All Right Now sounds fantastic
- The recording sounds more alive than 99 out of 100 rock records we’ve played, and we’ve played the best sounding rock records ever made
- Top 100 and 4 1/2 stars: “From Paul Kossoff’s exquisite and tasteful guitar work, to Paul Rodgers’ soulful vocals, this was a group that was easily worthy of the mantle worn by Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek & the Dominos.”
To find a copy that plays this quietly and sounds this good is no mean feat, but here one is!
This is one of our favorite recordings and a member of our Top 100, but it only works when you get the right pressing. This one has the big, spacious soundstage and punchy bottom end to bring it to life!
This is the sound of a real rock ‘n’ roll band — no gimmicks, no tricks — just guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. This album has stunning Live-in-the-Studio Rock Sound that must be heard to be believed.
It’s got exactly what you want from this brand of straight-ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound that Free practically invented. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.)
What the best sides of Fire And Water have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Side one leads off with Fire and Water, and boy does it ever sound good. This track will show you exactly what we mean by live in the studio sound. You can just tell they are all playing this one live; it’s so relaxed and natural and REAL sounding.
One thing that really took us by surprise on the first track is how BIG and FAT the toms are on the best copies and how thin and small they are on the average copy. Play a few copies for yourself and just listen for the size and power of the toms. Most copies will leave you wanting more.
What We’re Listening For on Fire And Water
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Roy Thomas Baker in this case — would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Roy Baker engineered the album (later to be known as Roy Thomas Baker), the man responsible for the amazing recordings of The Cars, Devo, Queen, T-Rex and too many others to name. His work here is hard to fault.
We had a similar reaction to the sound of Bad Company’s Straight Shooter. The comments below are taken from that listing with minor changes, and in some ways are even more true for Fire and Water (!).
This is a true Demo Disc. (On our system anyway. Our stereo is all about playing records like this, and playing them at good loud levels as nature — and the artists — intended.)
We revamped our Top 100 List in 2012 and this bad boy is now on it.
Fire and Water
Oh I Wept
Don’t Say You Love Me
All Right Now
AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review
If Fleetwood Mac, Humble Pie, and Foghat were never formed, Free would be considered one of the greatest post-Beatles blues-rock bands to date, and Fire and Water shows why. Conceptually fresh, with a great, roots-oriented, Band-like feel, Free distinguished itself with the public like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple did (in terms of impact, only) in 1970. Free presented itself to the world as a complete band, in every sense of the word. From Paul Kossoff’s exquisite and tasteful guitar work, to Paul Rodgers’ soulful vocals, this was a group that was easily worthy of the mantle worn by Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek & the Dominos.
Simply Vinyl did this title way back when and it’s passable at best. This is not the kind of record that anyone is ever going to remaster properly, in our humble opinion.