Wow: this two-album compilation is a line drawn in the sands of self-belief. You won’t find many bands that a mere five years after their inception merit a collection of such perceived importance and value as this one. Gatefold sleeve; numbered (“The Free Story is released in a limited edition”, state the huffy liner notes); printed inner sleeves that themselves contain further record-protecting bags; and a stapled-in four page booklet that talks through, in more detail than most people would like to know about, the history of the phenomenon known as Free. And you thought that they were just that band that did ‘All Right Now’? Hell, no. If you’re taken in by the majesty of this tribute, you’d be justified in thinking that they’re the greatest musical event of the past fifty years.
There’s a whole ton of long-haired, flare-trousered, coke-fuelled 1960s-fallout self-confidence on display here. It’s hard not to be seduced. Bands these days just don’t seem to mean it quite so desperately or convincingly as those that emerged blinking from the excesses of the ’60s into the mysterious 1970s. I want every band to mark their fifth anniversary with this kind of double-album tribute to their Story So Far. It’s like the music industry equivalent of a celebrity kiss’n’tell (ghost-written) biography.