Concert albums have become almost instinctive for bands these days, with some artists releasing live material after issuing only a couple of studio records. Lillian Axe is a notable exception to the rule, as has always been the case with the criminally underrated New Orleans' band that unfortunately got lumped into the hair-metal category by playing an addictive and melodic hybrid of Hurricane and Dokken. But Lillian Axe also threw in some progressive overtones to avoid copycat comparisons. After five studio albums, three labels and getting royally screwed by the music industry, two of the band's original five members (guitarist Steve Blaze and singer Ron Taylor) reunited with three other players in May 2002 to record Lillian Axe's first live album - a double whammy that captures all of the band's best tracks performed in front of a club crowd in Houston. A new studio album, the first since 1993's Psychoschizophrenia, could also be in the works.
Why should Live 2002 matter to anyone who's not related to or a friend of someone in the band? Well, for starters, the first two Lillian Axe albums (1988's Lillian Axe and 1989's Love + War), from which the live album draws lots of material, have been long out of print - with copies fetching high prices on eBay. Then, there's the impressive do-it-yourself factor, as the band that once toured the world with the likes of Queensr˙che, Stryper and Ratt for the better part of eight years now toils at the grassroots level playing clubs throughout the American South. But the main reason this album appeals is the music. Lillian Axe was balls ahead of most of their sleazy hair-metal counterparts, playing catchy yet edgy songs that weren't just about getting laid and having a good time - although there were plenty of those, too.
Granted, there is something slightly discomforting about a middle-aged man singing about a 19-year-old chick "with legs up to here," as Taylor does on one of the band's best songs, "All's Fair in Love + War." But many of these tunes have aged well, and when Taylor emphatically sings "The Day I Met You" - Lillian Axe's most moving ballad - his words, made wiser by time, sound more sincere than they did nine years ago. The band plunges into all five studio releases for this 21-track set, which includes "Show A Little Love" and "Dream of a Lifetime" (which you may remember from MTV) and more progressive pieces like "Mercy," "Ghost of Winter" and "Those Who Prey."
Decent sound quality, Taylor's surprisingly strong voice, and an enthusiastic crowd that sings more of the ballad "Nobody Knows" than the band does solidify Live 2002 and make it a respectable entry in the group's diverse catalog. Lillian Axe deserves at least this - and probably much, much more.