[Intro: I Feel Free]
I feel when I dance with you,
We move like the sea.
You, you're all I want to know.
I feel free. (3x)
I can walk down the street, there's no one there
Though the pavements are one huge crowd.
I can drive down the road; my eyes don't see,
Though my mind wants to cry out loud.
[Repeat B Section]
Though my mind wants to cry out loud.
Dance floor is like the sea,
Ceiling is the sky.
You're the sun and as you shine on me
[Coda & fade]
The lyrics to I Feel Free are the first in this collection to evoke the act of dancing in the singer. (Stop Stop Stop by the Hollies had been the first lyric to evoke a dance floor; however, the singer is a spectator. Whereas Stop Stop Stop wants to cease the movement of the dancing, I Feel Free wants to let loose with the dance partner.) The A section describes the dance as if moving on the surface of sea waves; the club lights are diminished by the sunshine beaming from the dance partner, and the club's roof blows away in the imagination so that the dance seems to happen out of doors in nature, where the "ceiling is the sky", a beautiful metaphor of freedom and optimism. The B section contrasts both in tune and tone describing urban life as dulling loneliness in a crowd, quite the opposite of the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City's urban excitement. The dance partner in the club is like an oasis in a desert.
Richie Unterberger of allmusic describes the sound of the first minute of I Feel Free well: "The song starts with a sustained clangorous chord, an aural equivalent to the table being cleared, before moving into a wholly unexpected segment of breezy a cappella vocals, almost like modern doo wop. The track then glides into a far crunchier full-out rock'n'roll tune, hard rock but not without pop hooks, and given a grace by Jack Bruce's light vibrato vocals." But the song has several different textures following. For the B section a single piano note keeps a triplet beat while an electric bass provides a muted background to a change in voice from crooning to a shout. Following this comes a mellow humming vocal of the A section accompanying an introduction to Eric Clapton's "woman tone" of guitar playing, which he described somewhere in an interview (according to songfacts) as turning the amp all the way up, boosting the treble, cutting the bass, and playing sustained guitar notes. The guitar weaves around the melody until the humming stops, the chorus begins and Clapton swings out into a quick improvisation that ends emphatically with a blistering guitar note. When we are returned to the B section there is further excitement in the vocal, and the song begins to wind down again with a return to the A section, which now has picked up the triplet piano beat. The song fades on the chorus to Ginger Baker's nearly constant flurry of cymbals only occasionally and briefly interrupted by a drum roll.
Had I Feel Free or the album on which it was included, Fresh Cream, become better and earlier known in the United States, this song would have been America's introduction to Eric Clapton's style of playing guitar. It wasn't entirely unique; it had its roots in the great Black blues and rock musicians of a previous generation, such as BB King and Chuck Berry. Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds, in particular, had developed a similar style. But the Yardbirds, by this time, were no longer a vital force in psychedelic music and Clapton seemed to be taking their sound to the next level. Clapton was a more restrained and formal in his guitar lines than Beck, and thus appeared to have more technical control over the practice of guitar playing. The psychedelic era would continue to foster and stretch the style of guitar playing developed by Clapton (and his psychedelic contemporary, Jimi Hendrix) into several manifestations that would continue on for further development as acid rock and hard rock into the next several decades. However, I Feel Free did not chart in the U.S. The album Fresh Cream reached as high as #39 in August 1968, after the release of more popular Cream albums Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire. However, in England, the members of Cream were already well known, and Fresh Cream got so far as #6 on the UK charts almost immediately, while the single I Feel Free reached #11.