Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Firm - 'The Firm'

Rating: 5/C

Do you like Paul Rodgers? I mean, not just occasionally enjoy a song by early Bad Company or Free that includes his vocals, but out-and-out fannishly love him, think he's one of the great rock singers and swear by his voice and style? If you do, you'd best sit this review out. Really. We just won't ever see eye to eye on this, save yourself the aggravation.

OK, here goes. 1985. The charts are dominated by white-boy soul, synth-pop and AOR. So naturally, when rock legendinosaurs Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers put together an honest-to-goodness new band to reconquer the rockin' world and dominate untold score of groupies the world over all over again and generally show a generation of wimpy kids who could never be as cool as the 70s how it's done, they choose to do so by emloying the inscrutable method of releasing an album that employed elements of white-boy soul, synthpop and AOR. All homogenised via middle-of-the-road commercial rock, of course.

Paul Rodgers, the most non-testicular (aside from a few early Free singles), cheaply catchy and unimaginative singer in rock this side of Lou Gramm weighs in with his usual thin, catchy tenoristic stylings and inane lyrics, penning great songs for the low-brow like 'Together', a country ode that states that 'a man needs a woman to share this wonderland together', or Make Or Break' an alleged rocker with a good guitar tone but a woefully penurous riff and lyrics that go 'baby, you got to make your mind up, or you and I are going to wind up out of love and in confusion, doin' time for love's illusion'. Huh what? Deep, man. And so original. Or the touching revelations of 'Money Can't Buy' - 'Now I buy you diamonds and pearls from the orient, now I live in a penthouse suite and I don't owe no nobody a cent - money can't buy me the love that I used to know'. Aww, man. He's a fat, rich rockstar but he can't get no true lovin'! That's so universal and heart-rending!!!

Not that the co-comps with Page are much better. Everything on this album seems to lack distinctive riffs or motiffs, which are supposed to be Page's strong suite. Even when there are ideas, the parsimonious playing and weak production makes Page play the role of general provider of generic rock-guitar backing (which would work better if Rodgers had a more arresting voice and lyrical muse) and lead breaks (which would work better if lead playing were actually what Page was strongest at). Even the epic 'Midnight Moonlight', supposedly a Zep leftover, is ruined by weak arrangements, overwrought backup vocals and Rodgers' lack of imagination (who's been listening to Hendrix' 'Angel'?)or real power. The cover of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' isn't as bad as you might imagine - instead, amazingly, it is ten times worse! The only real spot of overachieving on this album.

The only half-decent song is 'Radioactive', which has a kinda-neat chromatic lick Rodgers copped from a jazz exercise someone showed him. Everything around that lick is moderate-rock crap, though, which may be why that lick seems like such a breath of fresh air.

To make matters worse, they have this bloke who would probably really wow me if he was doing his fretless swoopy-trebly basslines on a Weather Report album or something, but just sounds like a Gacy clown interposed into Rembrandt's Nightwatch here. Not that this album is a masterpiece like a Rembrandt painting - I get a bit wanky and reach for clever ways to say things like 'incongruous' at times.

The Eiderdown-Stuffing Conclusion: If you thought Coverdale/Page was stale (and I'd disagree with you if you did), this is a continent-girding coral reef of fungal eruptions spawned from a slice of toast discarded in the Hadean Eon! Distressingly generic 80s rock claptrap, devoid of soul, verve, taste or fire. I'm sorry I had to hear it a minimum of four times so that I could write a review in good conscience, and save you the ordeal. Now I must go weep.


Hum do Harami do said...

Great review. Rodgers is hideously overrated and I can't believe Brian May and co thought he'd be a good stand-in for Freddy Mercury. The only worthwhile thing he did was the Muddy Waters tribute album and that was mainly cause he somehow managed to draw in a lot of very talented guitarists who did some pretty atypical soloing on that release. And yeah, the first Bad Co album is very liekable.

JP said...

Well, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one!

I love the Muddy Waters Blues album too, although the material, the safety of working in the blues (all these hard rock people from that era tend to be very steeped in the blues) and the rather good guitar spots are what really shine. Can't really go so wrong covering old blues songs with smoking guitar virtuosos on board. The first Bad Co. album was indeed fun, but I think they began their descent into direness rather quickly.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

very entertaining and well-written review...after hearing this tripe, the only time I ever brought them up again was to say when AC/DC had him, "Oh, that's the bald drummer who was in The Firm!"

JP said...

Heh, glad some entertainment came of it after all! :)