Work Commute Takes On A 70s Groove

by Kevin Burton

   You don’t often get a break like this one, and I’m riding with it.

   The ride service that takes me from my rural town back and forth to work in the big city will not be charging its usual fee for the fourth quarter of this year. 

   That’s right, free transportation! For this largess, all I had to do was prove I had been vaccinated.

    Why would they do this?  Are they that intent on encouraging Covid vaccines? Two very good questions that I will not be asking.

   This ride service is a county government program for blind folks such as me and anyone else who can’t drive, to get to work.  

   My guess is that ridership is way down because of the pandemic and they have not spent much money out of that part of the budget. I think they need to show the federal government they actually need the money to get the next chunk of grant money.

   But that’s just a pure guess and I’m not asking any questions.

   And what does this have to do with our usual Tuesday time talking music on Page 7? 

   Well how about we celebrate my good fortune by talking about the song “Free Ride” by Edgar Winter Group? 

   I either never knew or I forgot that Edgar Winter Group did this song.  Somewhere within the confluence of “Slow Ride,” “Free Ride” and “Free Bird” I forgot who did what.

   “Slow Bird” anyone?

   Free Ride is a rollicking great song, or rather two great songs, according to Wikipedia.  

   “The single 45 version is distinctly different from the LP version,” reads the song’s entry. “The 45 version contains a significantly brighter guitar track (that opens the song only on the left channel), added harmonics, a fuzz bass added to the bridge and other changes that contrast sharply with the dry LP mix.”

   “Most classic rock radio stations play the LP version, and the original 45 mix is much less commonly available online,” according to Wikipedia. 

   “Free Ride” was released as the first single from the album “They Only Come Out at Night” but it did nothing.  After the instrumental “Frankenstein” hit number one for the group, “Free Ride” was released again. It peaked at number 14 in the US, number 8 in Canada.

   And did you know Tavares covered the song? I had no idea.  That version percolated just under the top 40, peaking at number 52.   Tavares did a good version. Most anybody would sound good doing “Free Ride.”.   

   That song came out before I really started digging into lyrics and what pop heroes were actually saying.  Though I love the sound and feel of the song, I can’t endorse the message, if has captured it correctly.

   “The ‘free ride’ can be literally interpreted as a road trip, but it’s really about a spiritual journey,” Songfacts writes.

   “The song was written by Dan Hartman, who had recently joined the Edgar Winter Group, but Winter added the lyrics: ‘We got to do better, it’s time to begin. You know all the answers must come from within.””

   “The song offers salvation of sorts, with Hartman offering us direction when we don’t know where to turn: ‘So I’ve come here to give you a hand and lead you into the promised land.’”

   “The song isn’t an endorsement of a specific religion, but a call to look inside ourselves for answers,” Songfacts wrote.

   Looking within never got me any kind of currency I could take to the spiritual bank.  So whatever promised land he is talking about I will not sign up for. 

  But I can endorse Winter’s eclectic take on music. He’s recorded jazz, blues, pop, soul and progressive rock.

   “I don’t believe in musical segregation,” Winter told an online rock writer. “I blame the record companies; they prefer to put people into boxes: here are the pop people and the folk people and the country. It helps them sell you.”

   “Winter is adept at keyboard, synthesizer, saxophone and drums,” Songfacts wrote. “On Free Ride, he played a Hohner clavinet, which is what Stevie Wonder played on Superstition.”

   Found out from a story on the Montana Public Radio website that Winter and his musician brother Johnny are both legally blind.  So it’s likely they can relate to my enthusiasm for free rides the rest of 2021.

   I may never tour with Ringo Starr as Winter has, but at least in the sense of free transportation, I’m going places.

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