THE FIRM – Mean Business – (Atlantic) – 1986

The Firm - Mean Business

Fuck this is disheartening.

Listening to crap by a band I have never heard of, or otherwise disdain, is hard work.

Listening to crap by a band I love is soul destroying.

This is in the middle.

That is, it’s disheartening listening to crap by a bunch of guys who I like in other bands.

wikipedia: “The Firm were a British rock supergroup comprising former Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, and Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Uriah Heep drummer Chris Slade and bass player Tony Franklin”.

The band were a basically a studio band with some touring done as a lark (I suspect). wikipedia: “In subsequent press interviews, Page had indicated that the band was never meant to last more than two albums”.

This is their second (and final) album.

I should like this a lot more.

I should like this a little.

I don’t like this at all.

Granted this type of rock was generally antiquated post punk but that didn’t mean it couldn’t exist and still be relevant. The trouble is the 1980s recording techniques ruined many a mainstream act and this is a great example of that. Jimmy Page is still great, and you can hear his guitar trying to unleash itself, whilst Paul Rodgers voice isn’t as muscular as it once was, but it still suits the music. But, ultimately, the music has been de-balled.

This is fisher price hard rock for the mainstream.

The trouble was, times changed.

If you are going to play dinosaur rock you want your dinosaur to be sprightly and more than a little annoyed with his change in environment.

Here the dinosaur has accepted its change of environment.

That is slow death.

The mainstream 80s tried to do away with guitar by making everything synth and keyboard based. OK, that’s a simplification but I advocate that the essence of that is true. In the early to mid 1980s it’s only in the underground scene where guitars sounded like guitars (and drums like drums for that matter). People will say “wtf are you talking about Willis, err Frank, I can hear guitar here”. I respond with: listen to The Lime Spiders, The Cult, The New Christs, The Wipers or any hundred other underground bands, then you will hear guitar.

I’m not advocating all rock should be guitar based …. I’m happy for people to throw an accordion in … but this type music (at least instrumentally) as perfected by Jimmy Page is all about the guitar (err, Ok, all about the guitar and convincing vocals … sorry guitar wankers)

To get over the “dinosaur” tag the music was rebadged “arena rock”, which is apt: mainstream rock in big stadiums. The funny thing is that a lot of these bands had smoke, swagger and knew how to pump a live venue but they got too popular and so they had to play big venues. The sheer size of the stadiums changed their sound (perhaps unintentionally).

Before you knew it other people were trying to emulate that stadium sound and the music became a dog chasing its own tail.

It’s crap.

And worse still, there are no nuances and everything sounds either BIG or PRETENTIOUS.

If this was recorded in the 1970s it would sound 100 times better to my ears. I was (and am still) happy to play Free's first two albums and Led Zeppelin's first six albums.

There is an assumption that Page and Rodgers had too much to live up to and that this may have been better received if it was by and unknown group.

Rubbish.

You can’t polish a turd.

That is proved by the fact that, eventually, the original sound returned and groups like this were usurped by bands that were influenced by them the first time around: The Georgia Satellites, The Black Crowes, Guns n Roses etc.

The title is naff also – The Firm: Mean Business …. The Firm mean business – get it?

A positive: this album would be a lot worse if it wasn’t for Jimmy Page.

I haven’t heard The Firm's first album from 1985 which is supposed to be better but I am in no rush.

One question remains: would Jimmy Page autograph this if I burst through a line and held out the sleeve and a pen?

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Fortune Hunter   – (Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers) – This could have been worse. The guitar is unmistakeably Page but its badly 80s mixed
  • Cadillac – (Page, Rodgers)  – oooohhh, it just got worse and that's bad. A slow grind both musically and on my brain. This is drek of the highest order (and it goes on forever)
  • All the King's Horses – (Rodgers) – passable.
  • Live in Peace – (Rodgers) – from Rodgers solo album in 1983. Fucking awful. This sounds like something from a bad action movie from the 80s where the hero has broken up with his girlfriend who worries about his safety. He sits , somewhere on the Jersey coastline, and looks out sea wondering what it’s all about.
  • Tear Down the Walls – (Page, Rodgers) – Silly, but quite listenable.
  • Dreaming – (Tony Franklin)- me too, of another record.
  • Free to Live – (Page, Rodgers) – OK this goes back to Bad Company territory and it's pretty good though not gritty enough. Rodgers voice hits all the right marks here.
  • Spirit of Love – (Rodgers) -any song with "spirit" in the title is going to be immediately suspect of pretentiousness. No? This one is clearly guilty. Die, die, die.

And …

Sell, sell, sell….I mean business!

Chart Action

US

Singles

1986 All The Kings Horses Mainstream Rock #1

1986 All The Kings Horses The Billboard Hot 100 #61

1986 Live In Peace Mainstream Rock #21

Album

1985 The Firm The Billboard 200 #17     

England

Singles

Album

1986 #46

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/The_Firm/Mean_Business/6af68d2d-745a-37b0-8370-131113122686/

 

Fortune Hunter 

MP3 attached

The Firm – Fortune Hunter

Others

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2cyqnWXdCA&list=PL1DBAD4810FB1A79C

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJf9vUmm7ic

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/mean-business-mw0000650144

http://web.archive.org/web/20090209182536/http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/thefirm/albums/album/283305/review/5940533/mean_business

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_Business

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-firm-mn0000760417

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Firm_(rock_band)

Website

Trivia

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on franklycollectible@gmail.com though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at http://www.franklycollectible.com Cheers
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