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Brian Downing [allmusic.com]
Anticipation was quite high when it was announced in 1984 that Paul Rodgers, the past voice of Bad Company, and Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin's former guitarist, were creating a ''supergroup'' called the Firm. Page and Rodgers had first tinkered with the idea of an album after their successful collaboration on the ARMS benefit tour for Ronnie Lane in 1983. Based upon the fact that it had been over five years since Page's last band effort, and two years since Rodger's lackluster finale with the original Bad Company, pundits were more than eager to hear what new material the duo would unleash. However, when the band's self-titled debut was actually released in 1985, it received a critical drubbing and was all but ignored by the record-buying public. That's too bad, for the album is quite good and does nothing to taint the sterling reputations of either of its key players. Page and Rodgers were joined on The Firm by veteran drummer Chris Slade and Roy Harper-alum Tony Franklin. Slade's Bonham-esque sledgehammer attack on the skins, coupled with Franklin's fretless basslines, added dimension to Rodgers' smooth vocals and Page's layered guitar textures. Page's tone throughout is very reminiscent of the sound of his overdubs on Coda, as well as the sound he would subsequently employ on 1988's Outrider. Opening track ''Closer'' cleverly uses a subtle horn section to good effect, while ''Someone to Love'' represents all the good elements of the band in one number. Rodgers' ''Radioactive'' was actually a minor hit for the band, its quirkiness overcoming the goofiness of the lyrics. The album's best cut is ''Satisfaction Guaranteed,'' a mid-tempo gem with a snaky and exotic Page riff and a heartfelt vocal performance by Rodgers. The only weak track on the record is the unnecessary cover of the Righteous Brothers' ''You've Lost That Loving Feeling,'' which feels totally out of place. The album-closing ''Midnight Moonlight'' could have been the Firm's best song, but the underwhelming arrangement and superfluous backing vocals partially destroyed it. The fact that ''Midnight Moonlight'' was actually an unfinished Led Zeppelin cut entitled ''Swansong,'' left over from the Physical Graffiti sessions, led some to believe that Page had run out of new ideas for the project. While it is true that this album isn't as uniformly excellent as Led Zeppelin's work, it is the best from this short-lived band and turned out to be Page's most consistent effort from the entire decade of the '80s.