AXE

"The Albums 1979 - 1983" (Deadline Records; 2021)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I discovered Axe when their first album, the self-titled "Axe," was released in 1979 (yes, I'm that fucking old, deal with it). The band's melodic, hard rock sound won me over at once and I followed them closely until the death of founding member Mike Osborne when the band first broke up, and a little beyond that (as the reviews below will attest).

This collection from Deadline Records was an instant purchase for me. The band's first few albums were difficult to locate on CD and I spent a fortune doing just that, buying Japanese imports, etc. But now, the band's first four albums are gathered together in one package, re-mastered, with bonus tracks and new liner notes.

Included in this package are:
"Axe," the band's first album from 1979, with nine tracks, including "Life's Just an Illusion," "Back on the Streets" and "Battles."
"Living on the Edge," from 1980, with ten tracks, including the title track and a cover of The Four Tops' "Sugarpie, Honeybunch."
"Offering," from 1982," with  fifteen tracks, including arguably the band's biggest hit, "Rock and Roll Party in the Streets" and six bonus live tracks from 1982.
"Nemesis," from 1983, with eleven tracks, including "Heat on the Street," "Girls, Girls, Girls," and "Foolin' Your Mama Again"

I can't recommend this collection enough for fans of 1980s melodic rock'n'roll. Nobody did it like Axe, and this "The Albums, 1979-1983" is all the proof you need.

"Live in America 1981" (NEH Records; 2001)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Live in America" is a five-song, EP, recorded in Axe's heyday, the early eighties. It's a little rough in spots (due to editing, I believe) and it's recorded a little hot (it's loud even when your CD player is not) but, overall, it's a solid collection of live Axe tunes, something that - due to the death of founding member Mike Osborne shortly after this recording, is pretty rare. (The band is still recording today but with a new line-up. See "The Crown" review below).

Featured on "Live in America" are "Holdin' On," "Steal Another Fantasy," "Jennifer," "Silent Soldiers" and probably the band's biggest hit, "Rock And Roll Party." Each selection is played with explosive charisma and style. I never saw Axe live, but always wished I had. This EP had me making that wish again.

"Live in America 1981" is still more evidence that, if Axe hadn't been slowed up by the tragic death of Osborne, they may have gone on to enjoy much greater stardom.

"The Crown" (MTM Music; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"The Crown" is a collection of ten new songs by veteran melodic rock band Axe and it's a rock-hard CD with only the occasional misstep. Overall, however, it's a terrific, hard melodic record.

The CD begins with the title song which is a solid rocker with great, fuzzy guitars and sweeping vocals. The thing I've always liked about this band is its ability to deliver walls of clear, chunky guitar and back it with terrific singing. That's what melodic rock is all about and Axe has the mix down-pat. "The Crown" also features a very Jon Lord-like keyboard solo that will leave Deep Purple fans smiling.

Next up is a fantastic rock anthem and it's been too damn long since we've had one of those "Together We Fly (Together We Fall)" is another excellent blending of hard guitar chords and a Bon Jovi-esque chorus that will have you singing along.

"Prelude" is the CD's brief third track and it may be its first misstep. Although it's not a bad little instrumental number, it's slow, it's acoustic and it's distracting. It's followed immediately by "Fire and Water," another very slow number with fine vocals but we'd rather the band stuck to its hard-rocking ways. "Fire and Water" finally kicks in but it's almost too late.

"Restless Angel" is another "ballad"-type tune that, again, isn't bad, but never really grabs the listener either. Soulful vocals, however, give it a boost. Again, it kicks things up a bit about half-way through but it's almost too late.

"Children's Memory" is up next and it starts out with a wicked guitar riff and slowly rumbles into a strong rocker. There's also something strange about the recording of this track that almost sounds like unwanted distortion in the background. Maybe it's just my copy, but it really bugs me. 

"Good Times" follows and it's a throbbing rocker that oozes attitude and real emotion. One of the CD's best tracks.

"Torturous Game," about the games that men and women play, has a great, pounding riff throughout and again showcases those strong guitars and vocals.

"Sunshine Again (Mario's Song)" is another of the slower tunes on the CD, but this one is loaded with emotion - musically, lyrically and vocally. It's a bluesy song with sighing, heartfelt guitars. The other "slower" songs weren't bad - this one's pretty damn good.

"Foolish Deception" finishes the CD off and does so with power and style. It's another hard-rockin' tune that anyone who's ever heard an Axe song will find familiar. It's the classic Axe sound here and a great way to end the CD.

It's great that Axe is recording again and "The Crown" is a terrific example why. If melodic hard rock is your thing, then you need to do yourself a favor and pick up "The Crown."

"The Crown" was produced by Bobby Barth.

Axe is: Bobby Barth - guitars, vocals, keyboards; Bob Harris - vocals, keyboards; Blake Eberhard - bass, vocals; Edgar Riley Jr. - Keyboards, vocals; Christian Teele - drums, percussion; Danny Masters - guitars.

For more information, please visit http://www.nehrecords.com

"Twenty Years Volume II" (MTM Records; 1999)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Axe was one of the very best melodic bands of the early 80s. Their guitar-heavy rock anthems were heavy enough not to embarrass hard rock fans and yet accessible enough to generate the occasional hit.

This volume, actually the second in a two-CD series, contains 11 songs from the classic Axe albums, recently re-recorded so that the sound is richer, brighter and fuller than on the original releases ("Axe," "Offering" and "Nemesis", none of which are available on CD). The best songs include the very appropriate "Let the Music Come Back," "Young Hearts," and "Masquerade." In addition, there are two songs from original member Bobby Barth's solo album, "2 Hearts 1 Beat" and a bonus track, "Midnight Drives Me Mad."

The liner notes, provided by Barth, are interesting and telling. Many revolve around the auto accident that took founding member Mike Osborne's life and seriously injured Barth.

This is classic ballad rock at its very best. Those looking for something to bang their heads to should probably stay away. Those looking for the type of melodic, guitar-driven rock that used to get a lot of airplay in the good ol' days of radio will eat "Twenty Years Volume II" (and Volume I, for that matter) up.

For more information, please visit the MTM Records website at http://www.nehrecords.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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