Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stone Axe - (2012) II (Expanded Edition)

So we get finally get all those sweet vinyl only & compilation releases on one cd.  As a fan of the band, and a person who doesn’t own a record player, this is like a gift that keeps on giving.  This is no ordinary, cheap throwaway “extra” songs, just to expand a cd.   If you’re not familiar with Stone Axe, I’m not sure where you’ve been.  The have released two great “retro” sounding hard rock albums.  A superb s/t album.  They actually bettered that one, with their second one, II.  It picks up where the s/t left off, but adds some much more, in terms of growth.   Everything is so vibrant and so much bigger on II.   We now get an extra special gift with a reissue of album II, with an expanded second disc.

It starts off with a tight version of Creams Swlabr.  You actually get the feeling that you’re hearing a really really great outtake from Cream themselves.   The next gem is Black Widow (a song off of their s/t debut).  A bit shorter than the album version, it is still hard hitting and a riff master’s dream (recorded with their MK1 line-up).  Shine on is a great studio version of a song that was recorded live for their Extended Play E.P.   Rhinoceros is up next, again another song off the debut, however this is the original version which includes an extra minute or so of this smokin’ instrumental with a short but sweet drum solo added.  One has to wonder why this was not the version included on their s/t  album.  King of Everything shows their love of AC/DC, and is another cut that appeared on the Extended Play E.P.

In 2009, Stone Axe released a limited edition 7” with 4 songs (Until There Was Rock You Only Had God).   All 4 songs appear on here, in order as they appear on the 7” single.   Again, I must add how lucky for those of us that does not have a record player, have to feel.  I’m sure, as I have been, that others have been waiting to get their hands on these songs.  They do not disappoint.  When I Came Down is a tireless hard rocker that keeps you on your toes.  They follow with a scorching live version of a song called Taking Me Home.  I definitely get the feeling that Stone Axe is a band that you need to see live to really appreciate all they bring.   This song is just a barn burner.  Stonin’ is like a runaway train, a short super-fast instrumental, the guitar playing is pure genius on this number.  Last but not least from the 7” we get the Devil’s Hand.  It is more of a slow burner, not quite the blues, but very soul filling, with simple yet elegant guitar musicianship.

Metal Damage is exactly as the title suggests.  This could easily fit onto a hard rock record from the 80’s (no, not the hair metal, make-up wearing bands).  It says something to me, when a band can channel so many influences and take them all, and turn them into something of their own.  Paying respect to these influences, yet at the same time, making the music their own.  For All That Fly is a beautiful slow rocker, a song that would not look out of place on an Allman Brothers, Skynyrd or MTB record.   We quickly get back into a punchier number, Nightwolf, which leads us into a nice slow blues, The Last Setting Son.  Both these songs, have a David Coverdale feel to them, which is to say, a great vocal recording.   I have to admit, the Last Setting Son really explodes for a slow blues, the rippin’ guitar work is astonishing, and really bring out the pure quality of Tony Reeds musicianship.  The man knows his music.  We are coming to the end here (too bad as I could go on listening to another 5 – 10 songs).  Time, unfortunately to bring the album to a close, the second last song is Slice of Darkness, a feedback drenched loud guitar mash up, with nice silent spoken word play from the band.  Finally to end the album off, we get a fuckin’ killer instrumental.  Like rolling thunder, this is how one must feel when they are struck with lightning.  Another feedback drenched guitar slaying dream killer.  At almost seven minutes, it just feels too short to me.  I could listen to this for another 7 minutes.  Pure bliss to my ears.

Stone Axe II (Expanded Edition) is a hard rock fans dream.  Not only is the original album a classic, the second disc could easily hold its own as Stone Axe – III.   Tony Reed if not the best, has to be considered one of the best musicians of our time.  It just keeps getting better for him and his band.   You would ultimately have to be out of your mind to not want to pick this album up.  If you wanna hear some Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Skynyrd etc…. it’s all wrapped up in here with Tony Reeds take on these wonderful bands and the influences that they have played in his songwriting and music playing.   I guarantee any fan of hard rock will come away thinking this band could be the next big thing, and that isn’t a bad place to be.

~William Bissonette

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