Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Firm 2: Mean Business

A tour followed the release of The Firm, with the rest of the set filled in with selections from Death Wish II and Paul Rodgers’ solo album. Amazingly enough, less than a year later, they had a second album, some of which developed out of the songs performed on tour. The packaging on Mean Business was even simpler than the first album, a foreshadowing of the whimper with which the band would end.
“Fortune Hunter” comes crashing through the wall with all the subtlety of a runaway pickup truck, a ferocious rhythm and unintelligible lyrics. Jimmy tries to keep up with the solo and fails, then it switches and changes into another, slower song that seems completely unrelated, only to build back into the original tune. “Cadillac” got most of the potshots upon release, a lumbering stink with too much fretless bass and misplaced bowing effects. It’s also much too long. For ‘80s cheese it’s tough to beat “All The King’s Horses”. The keyboards are canned, the chorus probably took two minutes to steal and the declaration “This ivory tower was built on rock, not sand.” You tell ‘em, Paul. “Live In Peace” fades up from that, a remake of a song from the Rodgers solo album. It’s got the piano to keep Bad Company fans happy, an amazing solo that’s one of Page’s best, and an anti-Cold War sentiment that goes completely against the American mindset at the time.
“Tear Down The Walls” has an offbeat riff that’s hard to follow from the start, with only the drums and bass slap to make it at all outstanding. “Dreaming” is apparently bassist Tony Franklin’s first recorded composition, and the other guys rise to fill it in admirably. “Free To Live” is just a stepping stone to the grand finale, the feel-good anthem to end all anthems: “Spirit Of Love”. If this song doesn’t make you raise both your arms and scream along with the chorus, then there’s no help for you.
They did another tour and that was that. Paul Rodgers went on his own and eventually joined Queen, the bass player ended up in Blue Murder, and the drummer did a stint in AC/DC. So are these albums really any good? Nobody else seems to think so. But they go together very well. When the day arrives that Everybody’s Dummy receives the Pulitzer Prize for Why The Firm Is The Most Underrated Band Of The 20th Century, we hope there will be a quote from Jimmy Page himself for the flyleaf, something along the lines of “I was actually in this band, and even I thought we stank.”

The Firm Mean Business (1986)—

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