The Firm - Mean Business
On February 3, 1986 "The Firm" released their second and last album "Mean Business".
As well known, "The Firm" is a supergroup consisting of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Paul Rodgers, bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Chris Slade.
The group released their successful debut album "The Firm" in 1985 and the expectation of the record company was to produce a follow-up album that would maintain the streak, as soon as possible.
This album did not succeed in surpassing its predecessor, but it is still a good album that is worth listening to, after all, this is a tremendous collection of talents that are responsible for this work and we are here to convince you to give it a try.
One of the reasons that this album was not as successful as the previous one, was because of the band itself. The members of "The Firm" decided to break up shortly after the release of the album, thereby conveying a message to the audience and critics, that even we do not believe in our work. It's a bit strange that this wonderful supergroup didn't give itself a chance and performed a quick "Hara-kiri", especially considering the fact that the name of the album is intended to convey exactly the opposite, with a double meaning in which "Mean Business" can be interpreted as the music market is a "tough business" and on the other hand can be interpreted that the band "Mean Business" (The Firm Mean Business).
At first listen, this album seems to be less flowing and more uniform than its predecessor. There are some songs that feel underdeveloped and some that feel overproduced. But with each listen, every song seems to get better and better and slowly we discover that this album is actually quite good and original in its own right.
The album opens with "Fortune Hunter", a song originally written for another supergroup called "XYZ", in 1981. It was a short-lived project formed following the death of drummer John Bonham and the breakup of "Led Zeppelin". Robert Plant and Jimmy Page decided to join forces with Chris Squire and Alan White from "Yes". Where the name of the supergroup alludes to the two "mother bands" (XYZ = eX Yes, Zeppelin). However, this promising supergroup disbanded within a year without producing any recorded material. "Fortune Hunter" is a song from that project, originally written by Jimmy Page and Chris Squire and reworked for the album. A song that faithfully represents the band's sound. Strong and well-known riffs by Jimmy Page, powerful and effortful vocals by Paul Rodgers, the frenzied bass guitar of Tony Franklin who is also responsible for playing the keyboards and the steady and solid drumming of Chris Slade who a few years later will join "AC/DC" to create the album "The Razors Edge".
This is followed by "Cadillac" written by Page and Rodgers, with Franklin's "doped up" fretless bass, a slow trance-like blues fueled by Page's moaning guitars, which we like to call "stoner blues". This is without a doubt one of the more interesting songs on the first side of the album, which is held by the rhythm unit of Franklin and Slade.
Singer Paul Rodgers contributes the next two great songs - "All the King's Horses" which is probably the "hit" of the album. A catchy and beautiful pop-rock song driven by Franklin's synthesizers and the beautiful melody in Rodgers' voice, but leaning quite a bit on Page's beautiful guitar work (although there is no solo here at all) and especially on his four-note arpeggio right before entering the chorus. "Live in Peace" closes the first side of the vinyl with a strong and clear message. The song opens with the piano playing of Paul Rodgers which creates an atmosphere that is very reminiscent of "Bad Company", especially in view of his sweeping vocals. Page's strong and surprising guitar blasts, his crazy solo and Franklin's very special bass work enhance the enjoyment of this special song. Interestingly, the song was originally recorded for Paul Rodgers' first solo album from 1983 - "Cut Loose". The versions differ mainly in the rhythm of Chris Slade playing the mid-pace here compared to the original version, except for the end of the song, but this is actually the strength of the current version, as it adds the necessary drama to the song. Apart from that, it is clear that the accompaniment of three professional musicians is far superior to the Rogers version, who insisted on playing most of the instruments himself on his solo album. Rogers also released a new version of the song on his compilation album "Live in Peace".
The second side of the vinyl opens up with "Tear Down the Walls" written by Page and Rodgers. A good and catchy pop-rock song that could have been the next hit from the album, had it been released as a single. In this case, the song leans on the rhythm division of Slade and Franklin when Page pads the song by playing an acoustic guitar that wraps around the streetcar sound from all directions.
Next comes the jazzy "Dreaming" written by Tony Franklin whose guitar work and general vibe, for some reason, reminded us of "King Crimson" and Robert Fripp. This is undoubtedly the unique gem of the album, which contains some very surprising turns.
It is interesting to note, that in the solos of the last three songs ("Live in Peace", "Tear Down the Walls", "Dreaming") Jimmy Page uses a special device that is mounted on his Fender Telecaster guitar and is called a B-Bender. This is a device originally used by country and country-rock artists to mimic the sound of a pedal steel. This rig gives Page the ability to bend his guitar's B string up a whole note and provide a smoother sound in his solos.
We come to a close with "Free to Live" which starts with another Jimmy Page rooted riff, but immediately takes a turn with bass work, vocals and a beat very reminiscent of "Bad Company".
"Spirit of Love" written by Paul Rodgers was chosen to close the album, and it is very clear to us why this choice was made. It's a song that opens in an epic way with Rodgers' piano work, but also closes in an even more epic way with the chorus and the choir that accompanies Rodgers until the end and creates a "rock opera" atmosphere. This is probably the song that Page had the least influence on this album, although it does feature a number of solos.
In conclusion, although it probably doesn't quite reach the level of the debut album "The Firm" from 1985 "Mean Business" is without a doubt an album worth listening to. It's an excellent rock album with many strengthsת that left a taste for more from the excellent supergroup that could and should have done more and last longer than its short life.
For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music