This album, released around the time of Hensley's departure from Uriah Heep, is a much different affair from his previous solo work. Instead of going for a traditional rock sound close to Uriah Heep, Free Spirit utilizes a ‘stylistic shotgun' approach that touches on a number of different styles including synth-pop ("Do You Feel Alright"), disco ("Inside The Mystery"), and even pure pop ("The System"). The end result is an album that offers some strong songs, but lacks the cohesion and consistency necessary for a good album. Some of the experiments work surprisingly well ("Inside The Mystery" effectively contrasts funky, danceable verses with a stately guitar-driven midsection), but others fall flat. For instance, the bouncy keyboard pop that drives "The System" does not sit well with its hard-edged cynical lyrics. The rockers at the songs that work best on Free Spirit: "Brown Eyed Boy" is a punchy hard-rocker built on hard-driving drumwork from Deep Purple's Ian Paice and "Telephone" draws much strength from a well-judged combination of poppy background vocals and chugging guitar riffs. The ballads, usually a highlight of Hensley's work, also work nicely on this album: the best example is "Woman," which contrasts moody keyboard-driven verses with pulsating, guitar-fuelled instrumental breaks. All in all, Free Spirit's lack of a coherent style will probably turn off the casual listener but there are enough strong, well-produced tracks on this album to make it a worthwhile listen for any fans of Hensley or Uriah Heep.
Free Spirit Review
by Donald A. Guarisco