Sharks "First Water" (1973)

Andy Fraser, the former bass player for Free, passed away in California earlier this week at the age of 62. As of this writing, the cause of death has not been officially determined, although Fraser was known to have struggled with AIDS and HIV-related cancer.

Fraser was a mere lad of 15 when he became a founding member of Free in 1968. He was still in his teens when he co-authored the British blues-rock band's international chart-topper "All Right Now" in 1970, reportedly conceiving the classic rock anthem in no more than ten minutes.

After Fraser departed from Free in 1972, he formed a band called Sharks, and played piano and bass on their 1973 debut album First Water. Fraser’s bandmates in Sharks were British journeyman guitarist Chris Spedding, Canadian session drummer Marty Simon (formerly of Life and later of April Wine), and a singer named Snips (aka Steve Parsons, who later joined the Baker Gurvitz Army).

First Water was not a commercial success, but it did receive some critical acclaim, and it still has its admirers today. The album has long been out of print in the U.S., but has been reissued on CD a number of times in the U.K., most recently in 2011.

The music of Sharks resembled a more bluesy variation of the hard rock sound that Fraser’s former Free-mates would soon purvey in Bad Company. Instrumentally, First Water is an impressive record. Fraser gave the album plenty of class with his tasteful piano and bass playing, and Spedding’s sophisticated lead and slide guitar sounds added a unique flavor to the songs. But Snips’ gravelly vocals were not a good match for this material. The singer mercilessly growls and howls like Joe Cocker on most of this album, and it often has a jarring effect. While such a strong presence undoubtedly helped Snips pass his audition for Sharks, his obtrusive manner unfortunately clashes with the economical sophistication of the musicians on their finished album. At best, Snips comes on like a domineering Rod Stewart on “Snakes And Swallowtails”, “Doctor Love” and “Steal Away”, but the album’s better moments come when the instrumentalists are allowed to shine through.

Fraser left Sharks after the recording of First Water. Spedding and Snips recorded two more Sharks albums without Fraser: Jab It In Yore Eye (1974) and Like A Black Van Parked On A Dark Curve… (1995). Fraser formed another group called the Andy Fraser Band, who recorded two albums in 1975. After that band's demise, Fraser mainly concentrated on songwriting for the remainder of his lifetime, and recorded two far-between solo albums: Fine Fine Line (1984) and Naked…And Finally Free (2005).

Sharks - First Water

Sharks "First Water" (MCA MCA-351) 1973

Track Listing:

1. World Park Junkies
2. Follow Me
3. Ol' Jelly Roll
4. Brown-Eyed Boy
5. Snakes And Swallowtails
6. Driving Sideways
7. Steal Away
8. Doctor Love
9. Broke A Feeling