The Firm

 

     The Firm forms: Tony Franklin (bass, synthesizers), Jimmy Page (guitars), Paul Rodgers

       (vocals), Chris Slade (drums).

 

1985.02       A1.RADIOACTIVE                                     US.28

              7PRO: US Atlantic 7-89586 [ps]

              12PRO: US Atlantic PR-698

              B1.Together

              7”: US Atlantic 7-89586 [ps], UK Atlantic A-9586 [ps], UK Atlantic A-9586P

              [picture disc], CAN Atlantic 78 95867, JPN Victor VIPX-1799 [ps]

              B1.Radioactive (Special Remix)

              12PRO: US Atlantic PR-714

              A1.Radioactive (Special Mix)  B1.City Sirens (Live)  B2.Live in Peace (Live)

              12: US Atlantic 86896, UK Atlantic A-9586T, GER Atlantic 786905

              1.Radioactive (Special Mix)  2.Together  3.City Sirens (Live)  4.Live in Peace

              (Live)

              12: UK Atlantic A-9586TE

(reiss)       B1.All the King’s Horses

              7”: US Atlantic Oldies Series 7-84966

 

1985.03.02    THE FIRM                                 UK.15     US.17

              Produced by Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers

              A1.Closer  A2.Make or Break  A3.Someone to Love  A4.Together  A5.Radioactive 

              B1.You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling  B2.Money Can’t Buy  B3.Satisfaction Guaranteed 

              B4.Midnight Moonlight

 

(orig lp)     US Atlantic 81239-1 [ps], UK/CAN/GER Atlantic 78 12391 [ps], COL Atlantic 6076,

              JPN Victor VIL-6157, MEX Atlantic LWA-6352

(orig cs)     US Atlantic A4-81239, CAN Atlantic 78 12394

(orig cd)     US Atlantic 81239, UK Atlantic 78 12392

 

3 stars. Apparently the contract read “guitarist in the greatest rock and roll band” and not “the greatest rock and roll guitarist.” Just another reason to bring a lawyer with you when you’re dealing with the devil. If Jimmy Page sold his soul for rock and roll immortality, he sold whatever was left in this unholy alliance with Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers and a rhythm section (Chris Slade, Tony Franklin) of little “L” lemures. Now I love Zeppelin (who doesn’t?), but I lost that loving feeling pretty quick with this album. Paul Rodgers is no Robert Plant, no Lou Gramm, not even a John Wetton, and Chris Slade was booted out of Uriah Heep for goodness sake. That leaves us pretty much with Page, a burned-out waltzer who used to be one hell of a dancer. The mighty riffs and black sheets of rain never arrive, just a light drizzle and an acoustic epic at the end that sounds like “The Rain Song.” That last track, “Midnight Moonlight,” is far and away the closest thing to Zeppelin (I refuse to repackage the same information and tell you that it is) and thus the most likely to please long-suffering Leddites. Otherwise the Zeppelin comparison is slim. Some of the riffs from Page (“Closer,” “Someone to Love”) deliver on a Bled Company union, but unless you thought Billy Squier really rocked you won’t be happy with the results. The hit, “Radioactive,” is probably the best thing about the record, a classic crotch rock song from the 80s (back-handed compliment that it is). The trick to appreciating this record lies in the direction you’re coming from. If you’re following Paul Rodgers, proceed without caution since for him The Firm is an elevated platform. If you’re following Page, there are more interesting chapters in Zeppelin’s archives, from Coda to... well, okay those are some pretty slim archives so better to proceed directly to Pictures.

 

1985.04       A1.SATISFACTION GUARANTEED                         US.73

              7PRO: US Atlantic 7-89561

              B1.Closer

              7”: US Atlantic 7-89561 [ps]

 

1985          A1.SOMEONE TO LOVE

              12PRO: US 1985 Atlantic PR-735

 

1986.04.02    MEAN BUSINESS                            UK.46     US.22

              Produced by Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers & Julian Mendelsohn

              A1.Fortune Hunter  A2.Cadillac  A3.All the Kings Horses  A4.Live in Peace  B1.Tear

              Down the Walls  B2.Dreaming  B3.Free to Live  B4.Spirit of Love

 

(orig lp)     US Atlantic 81628, UK/CAN/GER Atlantic 78 16281 [ps], JPN Victor VIL-28022, MEX

              Atlantic LWA-6483 [ps]

(orig cs)     US Atlantic 81628-4-E, CAN Atlantic 78 16284

(orig cd)     CAN Atlantic CD 81628

 

3 stars. It was mean business then The Firm collapsed, another example of an arena-rock supergroup that ultimately rejected its new organs. Shame, since they were really better than most gave them credit for. I missed their debut (when buying stuff, I follow fortune) but was surprised to find their second album stays true to the promise of a marriage between Led Zeppelin and Bad Company. No, Paul Rodgers doesn’t burn the way Robert Plant does, and Jimmy Page’s guitar riffs don’t fall like black sheets of rain out of a troubled sky, but The Firm does suggest what BadCo would have sounded like in a serious mood. In fact, Mean Business could be seen as BadCo on an epic scale. Like John Wetton, Rodgers has his lyric eye on bigger issues, summoning the last wave on “Spirit of Love” and “Live In Peace” or feeding the unquenchable fire on “All The Kings Horses.” The singer is clearly the lead force here, with Jimmy delivering a few Pageworthy riffs but otherwise invisible save for the sleepy exoticism of “Cadillac” and “Free To Live.” Tony Franklin also contributes one track, “Dreaming,” which further frees Page from the troublesome task of writing songs. I suspect that those disappointed with Mean Business had pinned their hopes for a Zeppelin lovechild on The Firm, which is shaky reasoning. Robert Plant’s music better delivers on that promise, whereas three quarters of The Firm weren’t responsible for (or likely interested in) keeping Zeppelin’s dim flame alive. Approaching their music from the BadCo angle proves to be their better side, a vantage point from which The Firm’s stature is elevated. Mean Business lacks the instrumental chops of Asia’s debut, but it’s not the sophomore slump that Alpha was either. Put aside squinting for Zeppelin’s shadow and you just might develop a soft spot for The Firm’s last stand.

 

1986.04       A1.ALL THE KING’S HORSES                           US.61    

              7PRO: US Atlantic 7-89458 [ps]

              12PRO: US Atlantic PR-834

              B1.Fortune Hunter

              7”: UK Atlantic A9458 [ps], US Atlantic 7-89548 [ps], CAN Atlantic 78 94587 [ps],

              JPN Victor VIPX-1842 [ps/promo], SPA Atlantic 789458-7 [ps]

 

-à The first single from The Firm’s second album. “All The King’s Horses” isn’t bad at all, just the sort of thing to fortify young love. The B side, “Fortune Hunter,” is the more interesting track. Sounding like a Zeppelin outtake from the late ‘70s, it is (according to the ever-reliable internet) based on an instrumental that came out of the XYZ (Ex-Yes and Zeppelin) sessions between Page, Chris Squire and Alan White. Both tracks on the single appear in identical form on the elpee, The Firm Mean Business.

 

1986.05       A1.LIVE IN PEACE

              7PRO: US Atlantic 7-89421

              12PRO: US Atlantic PR-878

              B1.Free to Live

              7”: US Atlantic 7-89421, CAN Atlantic 78 49217

 

-à I (as in eye) is the trouble I have every time with this title. (Eye blame John and Yoko.) Five minutes of hand-wringing over war, with a guitar solo that reminds me of Stairway for a fraction of a second. But we’re not playing spot the zeppelin with The Firm today. The band was following the coast of Asia and Foreigner, and Rodgers’ voice makes BadCo the home port for me. At five minutes, “Live in Peace” didn’t stand much of a chance as a single. Plus, no one wants to hear about war on the radio. That’s what we have television for.

 

1986          THE FIRM TALKS BUSINESS

 

(promo lp)    US Atlantic PR-883