I can't remember where I first heard about the Crusaders, but as soon as I listened to Free As The Wind, I became an instant fan. Seen by some as the beginning of smooth jazz, Free As The Wind is too good to be lumped in under that label.
The title track is fantastic. There are a few parts where it sounds like the theme for a seventies detective show set in the tropics, but it does the job of getting the listener in the headspace for some excellent grooves and solos.
The pace slows down for 'I Felt The Love', a more mellow, slow-burn. It builds to a pleasant groove.
The good times keep coming with 'The Way We Was', which is almost jaunty, with heavy emphasis on guitar and what sounds like electric organ (by the way, piano man Joe Sample is one of the reasons to check this album out. His work here is truly terrific, like warm syrup on pancakes). Having a backing track of people at a party just adds to the overall atmosphere of the track.
The pace quickens with 'Nite Crawler'. It's a good track, but I tend to skip over it.
My personal favourite track is 'Feel It'. I just love the way it keeps building, with the band chanting in the background. It's spine-tingling.
'Sweet n' Sour' is almost nine minutes long. Your mileage may vary. This is another I tend to skip after four minutes. It's probably a good bet for a party setting rather than a solo listen.
'River Rat' is the opposite. Two and a half minutes of the same melody works far better than nine.
'It Happens Every Day' slows things right down. It almost feels like a ballad or slow jam, without lyrics. Joe Sample's piano work is beautiful here, as is the rest of the band. It's a more romantic piece than the rest of the album, and makes for a nice, understated finish.
Definitely worth having in your music collection.