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RECORD RACK

Good Company

February 16, 1986|TERRY ATKINSON

"MEAN BUSINESS." The Firm. Atlantic. If you were dreaming of some exciting blend of Led Zeppelin and Bad Company when Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers formed this band last year, but were disappointed by the debut album, don't give up on this hot combination. "Mean Business" sounds like the best Bad Company album since "Run With the Pack" and the best Zep LP since . . . well, those were all pretty terrific, so let's just say since the final one.

While "Mean Business" comes up with Zep-level rockers ("Fortune Hunter," "Tear Down the Walls") and grade-A Bad Co.-style material (the down-and-dirty crawler "Cadillac"), a few songs suggest that the Firm actually may turn out to be a fresh hybrid.

These find Page moving beyond I-can-do-'em-in-my-sleep guitar trademarks and Rodgers slipping into the lyrical, searching mood of the solo LP he made just before joining this group. (One example, "Live in Peace," is from that album--basically similar here though given a more dynamic arrangement).

Some of these step-forward songs' special flavor comes from a sensitivity in Rodgers' best songwriting and from the variety of texture achieved when his compositions are built around piano figures ("Live in Peace," "Spirit of Love"). One of the four Page-Rodgers collaborations, "Free to Live," is especially nice--a sultry shuffle featuring Rodgers' most low-key and pleasing vocal on the LP.

Unfortunately, "All the King's Horses," the LP's most mediocre song, is being released as the first single. Its routine rock sound may dilute the claim that a Firm foundation has finally been found for these veteran rockers to remain a vital force in the '80s. But don't be misled. "Mean Business" means business.

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