When reader Tim Kelley recently suggested featuring Free’s “All Right Now” (from Fire and Water) in a future You’re Playing It Wrong, I recognized a golden opportunity not only to clarify the song’s intro and verse figures, but also to showcase the late Paul Kossoff’s (1950-1976) superlative playing and signature vibrato, which is highly regarded as one of the best in the biz. So this month’s Under Investigation is a two-fer (or BOGO, if you prefer).
Perhaps the most powerful guitar sound to permeate both AM and FM airwaves circa 1970, Kossoff’s visceral playing on “All Right Now”—which charted at #2 in the U.K. and #4 in the U.S.—virtually defined all of the guts and glory of a 1959 Gibson Les Paul ’burst plugged straight into a Marshall stack. Koss’s muscular and anthemic playing drove the song, in both edited single and full album versions, deep into the American, Anglo, and Euro psyches, where it remains relevant to this day. Let’s find out how and why.
THE STUDIO INTRO & VERSE FIGURE
Two key elements in the studio version of Kossoff ’s fat-ass intro and verse rhythm figure are his choice of chord voicings and fingerings, and the fact that he double-tracked, but didn’t exactly double the part. Ex. 1 brings both parts into focus and clears up the Y.P.I.W. factor by revealing how Gtr.1 (left channel) utilizes unorthodox A and D/A chord voicings in which Kossoff frets the low A roots on the sixth string/fifth fret with his pinky—often in tandem with the open A string(!)—instead of using the easier-to-play, standard open-A fingering. Granted, there’s no tangible evidence of this on the Fire and Water version, but several live versions available online do provide visual confirmation, so there’s no reason to surmise that Kossoff played it any differently in the studio. Also notable is the four-bar progression itself—A-D/A-A (not A-Dadd4/A-A) in bars 1 and 2, and then Dadd4/A-D/A-A in bars 3 and 4. Note how Gtr. 1 plays half-notes for the Dadd4/A and D/A chords in the first ending, and then gets busier on the second round.
Meanwhile, Gtr. 2 (right channel) utilizes the same rhythm in bars 1 and 2, but employs a partial fifth-fret pinky barre to fret the root and 5 on top of a standard open A5. Koss fills out bars 3 and 4 with dottedeighth- to-sixteenth-to-quarter-note hits on Dadd4/A and D/A, and a slight rhythmic variation during the second ending. You can also discern an open E (the 9) on top of the Dadd4/A in the first half of the second ending, which creates a wonderful harmonic cluster of major and minor seconds. The space between the chords is as important as the chords themselves, so be sure to “play” each rest. As the verse commences, both guitars repeat the first two bars verbatim, but Kossoff chose to double Gtr. 2’s part during both endings. It’s also notable that the intro features only Koss, drummer Simon Kirke, and vocalist Paul Rodgers joining in on the verse—Andy Fraser’s bass doesn’t enter until the chorus.
Except for a few anomalies—Gtr. 1 leaves out the A5 in the first ending, and Gtr. 2 adds a third D/F# hit on beat three of bar 3—Kossoff essentially doubles the song’s chorus rhythm figure with both guitars. Ex. 2 shows how he used a pair of single notes (F# and E) to connect the sparse twelfth- and tenth-position A5 and G5 voicings in bars 1 and 2. He drops the bottom voice in the G5 chord one half-step to form the D/F# hits in bars 3 and 4 before resolving back to A5, which is anticipated on the and of beat four in the first ending, and played squarely on the downbeat in the second ending. (Tip: For total authenticity, sustain that final A5 for another measure before returning to the second intro/verse figure.)
THE FIRST SOLO
The bass lays out once again for Kossoff’s first solo, an A pentatonic-minorbased guitar-and-drum breakdown played over a pseudo-march beat following the second chorus. Ex. 3a illustrates how Koss begins with a partial 3/16 hemiola (see this month’s Rhythm Workshop), superimposing the root, b3, and a stray 4 (A, C, and D) over four sixteenth-plus-eighth-note groupings. He finishes this “call” phrase with a pair of eighth-notes in bar 2, and then responds to it in bars 3 and 4 with an Albert King-style pre-bend-release-pull-off move, some trademark unbroken vibrato added to a pair of adjacent A’s, and a staccato octave grace-note slide. Koss repeats bar 1 (with a C in place of the only D), plus the first half of bar 2 before completing the section with the phrase in Ex. 3b, where bar 3 features his signature delayed vibrato added to a gradual G-to-A bend.
THE SECOND SOLO
Immediately following Ex. 3b, Fraser’s memorable bass figure—arranged for guitar in Ex. 4a—transforms the mood and sets the stage for Koss’ second solo section. Half Motown and half classic rock—think James Jamerson and Joe Cocker’s Woodstock version of “With a Little Help from My Friends”— the riff implies a two-bar A-G-D/F# chord progression as Kossoff begins exploring A pentatonic major with single-string moves like the one in Ex. 4b. (Tip: Use the neck pickup.) He repeats bars 2 and 3, and suddenly an interesting anomaly occurs. Five bars in, Koss jumps to the B string (plus a perfectly placed open E), plays Ex. 4c, and essentially turns the progression around— from A-G-D/F# to G-D/F#-A—for the duration of the solo! Check out his phrasing on the almost-country lick in Ex. 4d, the rhythmically displaced partial 3/16 hemiola hammer-ons (plus delayed vibrato) in Ex. 4e, and the expressive oblique double-stop bend and release in Ex. 4f, and how each lick is played in a higher position, building tension and excitement before …
Switch to your bridge pickup before tackling Ex. 5a, which begins with the seventeenth-position, three-against-four, 5-to-b7-to-root hammer-ons—yet another 3/16 hemiola— that bring Kossoff’s solo to its apex. (And check out how the chord progression still sounds reversed!) Delay that wide vibrato in bar 2 until the and of beat two, and follow through with the high bends and succinct moves in bars 3 and 4. Koss repeats the first bar-and-a-half of Ex. 5a, and then wraps up his solo with Ex. 5b, which paraphrases bar 3 of Ex. 5a, and then paves the way back to the chorus via two bars of E, though only one is notated. (Tip: In concert, Koss was known to substitute full G5, D/F#, and E chords for the lick in bars 3 and 4.)
INTRO & VERSE (LIVE VERSION)
In concert, Kossoff had to consolidate his two-part intro and verse figures, and online video evidence backs up the fact that he utilized the pinky-enhanced A, Dadd4/A, and D/A chord fingerings illustrated in Ex. 6a, but also shows how he altered the progression in bars 1 and 2 from A-D/A-A to A-Dadd4/A-A. (Tip: You can check out Free’s 7/70 gig at Manchester’s Granada Studios and freeze-frame the money shots!) Those two measures remain consistent throughout, but Koss freely played with the rhythms in bars 3 and 4, switching from the half-note hits in bars 3 and 4 to the busier variations depicted in Examples 6b and 6c. (Note the muted A-chord “chunks” in the latter.)
FATTEN UP THE BOTTOM
Finally, live versions of “All Right Now” reveal how Kossoff would sometimes voice the 5 on the bottom of his A5 and G5 power chords during the chorus, as in Ex. 7. This simply entails barring your index finger across the sixth string for both chords, while the D/F# (now a D) maintains the same bass note as G5. In conjunction with Fraser’s bass line, this adds extra girth and emphasizes Koss’s talent for creating magnificently huge-sounding rhythm figures in a power trio format. Salute!