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The Free Design: One by One+5

Album Notes

This 1972 record would be the last one the band would record for Project 3, and while it may lack some of the great songs that marked their earlier records, it's still marked by charm. Sounding more like the Carpenters than the Association, the band indulge in some covers and light funk, and end up making a record that occasionally betters either of those. On par for a Free Design record, they serve up music and arrangements that are as light and breezy as you can imagine, but the lyrics are often bitter and pointed -- often attributed to the band's frustration at their lack of success. Musically, the harmonies and tight arrangements are in fine form. The opening and title track, "One by One" soars, while "Felt So Good" shows the markings of a new decade with it's less crystallized production, happy, laid-back guitar, and punching horns. Brass sections make repeat appearances on the record, with "Like to Love" aflutter with spirited horn arrangements and hip-swinging ultra-light funk, and their cover of "Light My Fire" uses muted horns and ends up evoking the sounds of some proto-quiet storm radio broadcasts. The high point of the record is the impossibly simple light rock of "Friendly Man," with its orchestral flourishes, country-rock guitar, heavenly harmonies, and the chorus of "friendly man/friendly person." When the tambourine kicks in and the big sing-along refrain follows it's endemic of everything that is great about the band. Another high point of the record is the mid-paced piano ballad "Going Back." The album ends thunderously with "Friends." It's a grandiose affair with a big buildup (a multitude of electric guitar squeals) and a heavy air of drama that almost seems to point out that the band knew they were at the end of their tenure as undervalued pop songwriters. ~ Jon Pruett


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