Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Firm ~ The Firm (aka debut)



(No official website.)
Style: hard rock, blues-rock
Label: Atlantic Records
Year: 1985
Home: England (disbanded)

Members: Paul Rodgers ~ vocals/guitars
Jimmy Page ~ guitars
Tony Franklin ~ bass/keyboards
Chris Slade ~ drums/b. vocals

Additional: Steve Dawson ~ trumpet
Paul "Shilts" Weimar, Willie Garnett, Don Weller ~ sax
Sam Brown, Helen Chappelle, Joy Yates ~ b. vocals



This is one of those albums everyone has in their vinyl collection ... & probably don't want to part with it but neither listen to it much either. Even when Paul Rodgers joined Queen ... the album probably got pulled out, looked at nostalgically & maybe Side A listened to ... & well, that says it all about this wanna-be powerhouse. This is one of the legendary supergroups of the 80's, up there with Asia & GTR, staying together long enough to release 2 albums, but the idea is stronger than the outcome as became particularly obvious to the follow-up to this debut Mean Business. It's got all the pieces there for something great - all the recognizable musical bits that forged their own legacies decades earlier - but something just never clicked for The Firm. The foundation just wasn't ... firm enough. Paul Rodgers of Bad Company & Free on vocals is in fine form as always, albeit, as demonstrated in his work with Queen, it's the limited range of a blues belter who doesn't always let loose enough that is his weakest trait. Led Zeppelin guitar god Jimmy Page creates his trademarked layered riffs & arrangements that at moments are reminiscent of later Zeppelin, albeit few of the songs ever really seem to rock out or even dig deep into his blues roots that laced so much of the Zep repertoire. Putting this together with his later reunion with Robert Plant one begins to realize how much John Paul Jones affected Plant's arrangments giving them a spice he seems to often miss & pushing Zeppelin to the forefront of music. Steady beats are laid down by famous bald-headed drummer Chris Slade of Manfred Mann & Uriah Heep & later AC/DC. The relatively unknown Tony Franklin from Roy Harper is on bass, his largest credit being the introduction of the fretless bass into metal, playing a thick & funky bass that gives the album a definite 80's feel. The Firm largely plays it safe, almost too safe at moments. It's an enjoyable listen & Page is always a pleasure, but his joining with David Coverdale a decade later would be far more exciting. Perhaps one of the problem is that this smells of its obvious commercial appeal, something Led Zeppelin never did, proof being that in Britain they refused to allow the release of singles, while Bad Company & Uriah Heep both existed in the shadows of prog-rock that believed in the art of music over pretty much everything else. Albeit, it should be said The Firm is better than I'm probably describing it & there's a reason somewhere why it appears in everyone's collection, unlike the few people that probably claim a GTR album featuring Steve Howe of Yes & Steve Hackett of Genesis. It's just that these musicians are put up to such high expectations that one imagines that the album should be better. These guys came from good bands & would return to them in various ways. The Firm just wasn't meant to be, though it did nothing to damage any reputations.

(featured on the Roman Midnight Music CD Reviews & Interviews podcast: episode 10 "Rockin' Comebacks", January 2011, click here to listen)


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