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Paul Rodgers is Free at last with tribute to his former band

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Paul Rodgers is still keeping Bad Company. But he's happy to be Free -- at last, as far as some fans are concerned.

The British-born singer has christened his latest band Free Spirit in homage to Free, the group he fronted between 1968-73, producing the iconic hit "All Right Now" and releases six studio albums before splintering and sending Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke off to form the more successful Bad Company. The troupe has released a "Free Spirit" album and live video recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and Rodgers' shows this summer include a healthy dose of Free material alongside Rodgers' Bad Company favorites.

"It's possibly the most famous unknown band in the world," Rodgers, 68, says with a laugh by phone from Vancouver, where he now resides. "There are so many memories. It was magical when we came together; We were four kindred spirits who liked the same things musically, a lot of blues and R&B. And when we started writings songs the band found its own voice, its own identity.

A lot of people tell me they've been influenced by this music. It's not as popular as something like Bad Company, but I feel like it made its mark."

Rodgers' memories of Free -- which also included guitarist Paul Kosoff and bassist Andy Fraser, who have both passed way -- was of a strong bond shared by the four musicians. "We were so tight," he says. "We were such good friends, and we were always together, in the vans and up and down the motorways and onstage, just doing everything and facing the world together and all that." But that made the group's splits -- briefly in 1971 and then for good during 1973 -- even more volatile.

"We sort of exploded away from each other," Rodgers recalls. "We were young, and we tried to manage ourselves. A wiser head would've said, 'OK, you guys have been working solidly for three years. Take a break. Go do whatever you want to do and come back in six months' time.'

"If we'd had that we may have held it together. But after we broke up in '71, we just couldn't get the magic together. Something happened that ripped it apart."

Rodgers, of course, has enjoyed a rich career since Free. Besides Bad Company he's been in The Firm with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and The Law with Kenney Jones from the Faces and the Who. He's maintained a solo career and also fronted Queen from 2004-2009, releasing studio and live albums. Free Spirit started three years ago to play benefit concerts for the Willows Animal Sanctuary in the U.K., and those shows were so well-received that Rodgers decided to turn it into a touring act.

"I'm writing songs," adds Rodgers, whose last solo album, "The Royal Sessions," came out during 2014. "But this (Free Spirit) is really what I'm doing now. It's such great music and was such a great time in my life. I'm happy to have it part of my life again now."

Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, Ann Wilson and Deborah Bonham perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets start at $25. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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