Smugglers (Tarantura TCDF-1)
Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas – March 23rd, 1985
Disc 1: Closer, City Sirenes, Make Or Break, The Morning After, Together, Cadillac, Prelude, Money Can’t Buy, Radioactive, Live In Peace, Midnight Moonlight, You Lost That Loving Feeling
Disc 2: introduction, bass solo, The Chase, guitar solo, drum solo, I Just Want To Make Love To You, Full Circle, Someone To Love, Cut Loose, Boogie Mama, Everybody Needs Somebody
Smugglers on Tarantura features a brand-new soundboard recording from The Firm’s first US tour. Recorded weeks after their first album, this is an authentic recording from the March 23rd, 1985 show in Austin, Texas which has never circulated before. It is very clear and the mix between the instruments is very good, but the audience sounds very far away giving it a clinical feel. There are also three cuts in the tape: after “Live In Peace”, at 2:27 in “Full Circle”, and between the final number “Cut Loose” and the first encore “Boogie Mama”. Only the second cut results in any loss of music.
This joins a small list of commercially released titles covering the Firm. An early vinyl title was released called European Tour ’84 with the show on December 3rd, 1984 in Frankfurt. Boots on compact disc include The Firm with the December 8th, 1984 from Hammersmith Odeon, London show and You Never Close Your Eyes with the Costa Mesa, California show on March 16th, 1985 (a unique show where “Fortune Hunter”, a song that dates from the XYZ sessions but not released until 1986’s Mean Business, is given its debut) both on Midas Touch which were released in the early nineties.
Jimmy Page’s Firm (BM 029) is listed as a Los Angeles show but is really a tape from December 12th, 1984 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Double Closer on Blimp (010/11/12/13) is a four-disc set with soundboards from the LA Forum on March 14th, 1985 and Oakland Coliseum on March 15th, 1985 and is one of the most popular titles.
Somethin’ Else (misspelled Something’ Eles on the cover) on Rag Doll (RDM-942010A/B) contains the May 11th, 1985 Spectrum Philadelphia tape and Radioactive on Dakota has a soundboard tape from the May 22nd, 1985 in the Wembley Arena in London. Playhouse Theater (Luxor-006) is a 2cdr set which contains the May 20th, 1985 Edinburgh soundboard and most recently United Kingdome, a 4cdr set on the Perfect Stranger label surfaced with the May 22nd, 1985 and December 8th, 1984 London tapes.
The common assumption about The Firm, that they were long on potential but short on execution, is true. Rodgers belts out powerful vocals and Page plays interesting riffs on the guitar, but they seem undermined by the rhythm section who play the standard arena-rock beats translated for the eighties corporate rock consumer. The set list begins with the juxtaposition of the opening songs from The Firm, “Closer” and “Make Or Break” with the Jimmy Page solo tune “City Sirenes” from the Death Wish II soundtrack and the Paul Rodgers song The Morning After” from his 1983 solo LP Cut Loose.
The set list is compiled from The Firm LP except for “Satisfaction Guaranteed”, three songs from Page’s movie soundtrack, four songs from Cut Loose and the Mean Business song “Cadillac”. Before the third song “Make Or Break” Rodgers says, “How are we doing tonight? Nice to be in Austin, Texas” confirming the location of the tape. “Prelude” is introduced as “a classical piece by Chopin, I think was his name. Anybody ever hear of him?” and the instrumental is segued directly with the following song “Money Can’t Buy”.
“Radioactive” was the band’s only real big hit and is received warmly by what can be heard of by the audience. Rodgers begins the introduction to “Midnight Moonlight” by saying, “we got a number that is very special to us. We firsted it on the ARMS tour. And actually Ronnie Lane is here somewhere tonight. We’d like to say a big hello to him…” Page chimes in by saying, “I can tell you folks without him and the ARMS tour we wouldn’t even be here”. After a version reminiscent of the ARMS tour Rodgers says, “that was for you, Ronnie.”
The lengthy solo section of the show follows the band introduction with Franklin producing some melodies on the fretless bass leading into “The Chase”. Page plays a guitar solo that is very similar to the one he played at the 1979 Knebworth shows including using the violin bow before a four-minute drum solo. They play a very heavy version of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” and “Someone To Love”, which Rodgers introduces as a favorite. “Boogie Mama” is the first encore followed by a fun version of the Solomon Burke standard “Everybody Needs Someone To Love”.
Right when they arrive at the “you, you, you” Page has a malfunction and the band stop playing, leaving a minute of crowd noise between 3:15-4:15 until they pick it up again. The song runs for another two minutes and unfortunately fades out right when Page plays perhaps his most furious solo of the evening. The ending is the only disappointment on this tape. Smugglers is limited to one hundred numbered copies and is packaged in a thin cardboard sleeve and is another interesting release by the Tarantura label.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)