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Jon Butcher Axis: John Butcher Axis (reissue)

It's only taken 35 years but finally one of the Holy Grails of the early 80s rock scene is seeing the light of day on CD. Scroll through any of the forums online dedicated to AOR and melodic hard rock and it's only a matter of time before you see the name Jon Butcher crop up� again and again and again. Long a bastion of the MHR sound, the UK's Escape Music follows up the long craved for Snow release with the self titled debut from John Butcher Axis, a band that found their mainman wrongly � at this stage anyway � likened to Jimi Hendrix, probably down to a power trio configuration and the use of the band name Axis. Ironically Butcher would go on to head down a blues path but here on his band's 1983 Polydor debut, radio friendly rock was the order of the day and a mighty fine dish it made as it reminded slightly of Novo Combo or even Hughes Thrall.

Having made an early impact in the band Johanna Wild, Butcher worked through a number of line-ups for his new venture before deciding to be not just the lone guitarist in Axis, but also the singer. Joining him on this debut was drummer Derek Blevins and bassist Chris Martin, while producer Pat Moran rounded out the recording team. The fruits of their labours was a consummate collection of should have been hits backed up by some scintillating guitar work and more hooks than a group high five at a pirate convention. Right from the off "Life Takes A Life" makes this outfit's presence felt, surging with atmosphere and sitting deep in the groove. Butcher's clever guitar licks sit just behind the vocals in the mix, pushing all the right buttons but never looking to dominate. The song received a lot of airplay on the fledgling MTV � Butcher and Michael Jackson the only black band leaders to receive regular airtime back then � while the band would also begin to quite rightly pick up prestigious support slots on the road with the J Geils Band, Rush, Def Leppard and Scorpions.

Therefore how this album never gained wider traction is hard to fathom and harder still when "Only Words" provides one of the most gloriously stick in the mind choruses you could imagine. But at the risk of over stating just how memorable and exciting this album was � and still is � "Ocean In Motion" proves equally exhilarating, but then so do the mid-paced enforcers of "Can't Be The Only Fool" and "Sentinal", the latter again adding a more brooding nature to get its message across.

Side Two, so often the weakness back in the vinyl days, simply refuses to let things slide, "New Man" � even with its ever so 80s drum pound � allows Blevins to shine as he hammers home the beat, before "Fairlight" offers up an altogether more poppy outlook, further begging the question; how were this band not huge?? "Send One Care Of" is a beautifully poised ballad that sits somewhere between The Who and the bombastic movie soundtracks the 80s is still lovingly remembered for. Leaving the upbeat strut of "Walk The Line" and the forcefully staccato "We Will Be As One" to round things out without showing any chinks in this album's armour.

Why it's taken three and a half decades for this record to finally receive the CD release it deserved the first time round, goodness only knows, but arriving with a pleasingly unflashy remaster from JK Northrup, we can only be thankful that Escape Music has finally put things right. I believe that the label are also looking to afford the same courtesy to the 1984 follow up album Stare At The Sun and that too will be reason to celebrate. In the meantime do yourself a favour and feast on one of the 80s most underrated outfits and one of its most sought after albums.

Track Listing
1. Life Takes A Life
2. It's Only Words
3. Ocean In Motion
4. Can't Be The Only Fool
5. Sentinal
6. New Man
7. Fairlight
8. Send One Care Of
9. Walk Like This
10. We Will Be As One

Added: January 20th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: John Butcher Axis at Escape
Hits: 852
Language: english

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