The Firm

The Firm

Atlantic Records, 1985

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Years after their untimely breakup, it's not surprising that some people would do anything to try and recapture the feeling of the magic that was Led Zeppelin. Following John Bonham's death in 1980 and the dissolution of the band, diehard fans grabbed at any straw they could which was Zeppelin-related in the hopes of feeling that same excitement.

But guitarist Jimmy Page had not had a terrible amount of post-Zeppelin success. He had scored the movie Death Wish II, and did a nice set at the A.R.M.S. Concert for Ronnie Lane. But when it came time for Page to take the driver's seat again in terms of a band, the end result hit the wall like a NASCAR racer out of control.

The Firm was another attempt at a supergroup which was unable to live up to its own hype. Pairing Page with former Bad Company vocalist (at least at the time) Paul Rodgers seemed like a good idea on paper -- after all, their two former bands were label-mates on Zeppelin's Swan Song imprint. Add in the rhythm section of bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Chris Slade (who was better known for his work with Manfred Mann at the time), and you had a group which seemed to hold promise.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Alas, The Firm, the group's debut release, fails on many levels. The songwriting is poor, the overall sound is surprisingly muddy, the energy level is almost non-existent, and -- the cardinal sin for many people -- the group sounded neither like Zeppelin nor Bad Company.

On that last note, it really is unfair to have expected Page or Rodgers to have tried a carbon-copy of their past successes. After all, those two bands were now in their collective past, and they wanted a chance to create a fresh sound for themselves. Fine, I can understand that… if only the sound they created was worth the effort.

The biggest problem with The Firm is the sound of the album. Unlike other works Page has been on, the instrumentation sounds like it's had layers of sonic grit caked onto the tapes, creating an end result that is damned hard to listen to for an extended length of time. In terms of Page's supposed perfectionist manners, this hardly would qualify as acceptable.

Then there is the music itself. In terms of songwriting, The Firm just doesn't have any real magic in any of the songs. Yes, "Radioactive" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed" were minor hits back in the day, and they remain the stand-out tracks on this disc. But two songs hardly qualify as a legacy - especially when the remaining seven tracks are so weak. Songs like "Someone To Love," "Closer," "Make Or Break" and a lugubrious cover of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" come dangerously close to being painful to listen to.

Part of the problem, as well, is the instrumentation itself. There is no denying that each musician is a master of their own craft, but there was just not enough sound coming from these four men to fill the void. At times, it's almost like the emptiness is begging for a second guitar line or a keyboard to burst forth as the missing puzzle pieces. Alas, they're not coming.

The Firm would record one more album together before all involved would move on to other projects. The Firm is a disc which dares to suggest that this grouping was doomed from the very beginning.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


It's hard to give an album with Page and Rodgers on it a D-... but this one deservesit. This disc is a sad heap of 80s cliches and failed attempts at songwriting. The only thing I could add is that The Firm's cover of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" isn't just "dangerously close" to being painful to listen to... it is acutely painful to hear and should be avoided at all costs.

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