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AXE - The Albums 1979-1983 (4CD)

Bringing together their first four albums, this CD boxset is a most welcome opportunity to reappraise the early work of singer and guitarist Bobby Barth’s band, AXE. Flanked by Teddy Mueller (drums), Michael Osborne (guitar), Michael Turpin (bass) and Edgar Riley Jr (keyboards) the self titled debut from the Florida based outfit arrived in 1979 and with its strong Styx influence would go on to be something of a cult classic amongst AOR/Pomp rock fans, even if its Michael Lloyd production was, for want of a better word, perfunctory. The songs however were sublime and it’s easy to hear why “Back On The Streets” and its infectious chorus and stinging guitar solo still live long in the memory. Barth’s vocals are excellent throughout, able to bring the likes of Tommy Shaw and Steve Perry to mind alongside the other melodic rock greats of the day. Add in the smooth “Doin’ The Best I Can”, the more Styx like “Life’s Just An Illusion” and latter day Rainbow-esque “How Come I Love You”, and the only thing left to wonder is why this album didn’t explode back when this style of music was dominating the airwaves.

A year later and Living On The Edge would appear, the band adding more of a touch of Boston and Angel to their sound without ever losing the essence of what had made the debut so exciting. The result maybe wasn’t quite so instant, but as follow up albums go Living… still has a lot about it to like and a lot that also showed the slightly harder edged attack that would follow. Highlights again come thick and fast, with “Carry On” a sprightly rocker, “Fantasy Of Love” a Foreigner meets Styx like march of melody, while “Save Our Love” takes us into the world of Survivor.

The third AXE album, Offering, would be released in 1981 and while they’d always been a guitar driven, but synth infused outfit, it has to be said that both here and on the following year’s Nemesis, the sound of the band would add a little more grit and grime than had previously been on offer. Barth too brings a tougher edge to much of his vocals, while there’s also a slightly more theatric side introduced into the AXE attack, the excellent “Video Inspiration” providing some ‘cutting edge’ robotic background vocals to its energetic chorus. However, the order of the day on album number three remained a slightly tougher hard rock sound, “Steal Another Fantasy” also showing a heavy bluesy side, while “Holdin’ On” melds that approach with the Styx like organ and riff trademark that marks out so much of this excellent material.

Nemesis, as mentioned, followed suit, with yet more upper end 80s melodic hard rock served up with excellent vocals, tight arrangements and convincing performances. Here it’s the likes of “She Had The Power”, “Keep Playing That Rock n Roll” (which certainly hints at Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love” long before that song was released…) and the frantic “Heat On The Street”, with more robotic backings and more than a hint of synth era Blackfoot about it (maybe not so surprising given what happened later), that really stick in the mind.

Tragically AXE, who had previously opened for the likes of Iron Maiden and Scorpions would suffer a great loss out on the road with Motley Crue as they promoted the Nemesis album - a major road accident taking the life of guitarist Michael Osborne and seriously injuring Bobby Barth. Not too surprisingly it also signalled the end of the band. Barth would resurface in Blackfoot and go on to be an influential producer and supporter of many a rock act over the ensuing years. And the singer and guitarist would also go on to resurrect AXE, who would release three further albums, although none of those would feature any other original band members and none are included in this four disc set. Those albums that are contained, however, also feature a collection of six live bonus cuts, which arrive on Offering.

Possibly due to their name suggesting that of a much heavier act, or just the very fact that the 80s rock scene was positively bursting at the seams with bands offering up this style of music, AXE never quite gained the attention their albums deserved - Bobby Barth, his band and his music always remaining more of an undiscovered gem loved by those in the know. This excellent boxset is a fantastic way to at least go some way to righting that wrong. If you love 80s hard rock and don’t have any AXE in your collection, then put quite simply, The Albums 1979-1983, verges on being indispensable.


Track Listing
DISC 1: AXE (1979)
1. Life’s Just An Illusion

2. Hang On

3. Sympathize

4. How Come I Love You

5. Forever

6. Back On The Streets

7. Doin’ The Best I Can

8. You’re Out Of Line

9. Battles

DISC 2: LIVING ON THE EDGE (1980)

1. Living On The Edge

2. Fantasy Of Love

3. First Time, Last Time

4. Carry On

5. Running The Gaunlet

6. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)

7. Just Walk Away

8. Let Me Know

9. Save Our Love

10. For A Little While

DISC 3: OFFERING (1982)

1. Rock ‘n’ Roll Party In The Streets

2. Video Inspiration

3. Steal Another Fantasy

4. Jennifer

5. I Got The Fire

6. Burn The City Down

7. Now or Never

8. Holdin’ On

9. Silent Soldiers

BONUS TRACKS - Live In America 1981

10. Holdin’ On

11. Running The Gauntlet

12. Steal Another Fantasy

13. Jennifer

14. Silent Soldiers

15. Rock ‘n’ Roll Party In The Streets

DISC 4: NEMESIS (1983)

1. Heat in The Street

2. Young Hearts

3. All Through The Night

4. I Think You’ll Remember Tonight

5. She’s Had The Power

6. Girls, Girls, Girls

7. Eagle Flies Alone

8. Keep Playin’ That Rock ‘N’ Roll

9. Foolin’ Your Mama Again

10. Let The Music Come Back

11. Masquerade

Added: March 3rd 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: AXE The Albums at Cleopatra Records
Hits: 414
Language: english

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