Praise be to rock bass players who take the fretless road less traveled – foremost. Fernando Saunders with Lou Reed; Freebo with Bonnie Raitt; Pino Palladino with Paul Young; John Giblin with Simple Minds; Boz Burrell with Bad Company; and Kenny Passarelli with Elton, to cite a few who were 100% sans metal strips embedded in ebony or maple necks to ensure an acceptable standard of intonation. Among those who dispatch with the fingerboard status quo to break new ground is Tony Franklin, most notably with Jimmy Page and Paul Rogers’ much maligned ensemble: The Firm.
Franklin’s work on The Firm (1985) and Mean Business (1986) greatly augmented the language of hard rock and heavy metal bass – I consider these albums, though sonically and aesthetically dated, essential listening for all rock bassists. Tony’s remarkable sustain applications coupled with his diverse palette of harmonics, concise melodic phrasing, and a funky percussive articulation duly sparked Messrs. Page, Rogers, and drummer Chris Slade. Akin to Boz and Andy Fraser (Free), Tony didn’t get in Paul Rogers’ way with too many notes. Franklin’s artistry also revealed another side of Jimmy Page, affording the guitar god the rare opportunity to stretch his harmonic boundaries beyond his Zeppelin legend.
You can also hear Tony excel with Glenn Hughes (LA Blues Authority), Jimmy Page (Outsider), David Coverdale (Into the Light), Roy Harper (Work of Heart) Donna Lewis (Now in a Minute), and Tony MacAlpine (Evolution) among many others. Fender has honored Tony with a signature fretless Precision bass.