Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stone Axe - Stone Axe II

When it comes to mid-tempo heavy rock, Stone Axe are the most dedicated muthas on the planet right now. Too old and unfashionable to be considered “retro,” Stone Axe eat, shit and breathe the full gamut of classic rock from the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s.  Stone Axe II picks up where 2009’s full length debut left off but also offers quite a few surprises. The first album was heavy on British style blues rock of bands like Free, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green era, only), etc. This new one touches on just about every style of classic rock. Listening to Stone Axe II from start to finish is like listening to a good rock radio station with a good DJ and no format restrictions.

Once again, Tony Reed Smith plays most of the instruments and vocals are handled by the incredible Dru Brinkerhoff. How the hell do these guys make records that sound so natural and live when Tony’s overdubbing one instrument on top of the other? Production is top notch and the guitar sound is great. Tony’s guitar playing is always inspired, he makes it sound kind of like Paul Kossoff sitting in with some of the best rock bands of all time. Dru’s voice is powerful and brings to mind Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale and Ian Gillian at their peak. Touring bassist Mike DuPont and drummer Mykey Haslip make a few appearances and it’s hard to tell the difference from the songs where Tony plays all the instruments.

Fans of the first album will love songs like “Old Soul” and “Live For The Day” because of the strong Free influence. “We Know It’s Still Rock N Roll” takes inspiration from AC/DC’s “Big Balls” with Dru doing the best Bon Scott impression I’ve ever heard. “Chasing Dragons” could be from an old Faces album while “Just A Little Bit” recalls early 70’s Rolling Stones. They hinted at this style a little bit on the first album but these are full blown tributes. “One More Time Before I Die” is an instrumental that boils down The Who’s Tommy into about 3 and a half minutes.

Thin Lizzy fans will love “Those Were The Golden Years” because it sounds like “Little Darlin” with Tony doing a spot on Phil Lynott impression. Tony also sings on album closer “Turn To Stone,” the biggest departure for Stone Axe. This is pure Procol Harum worship bordering on Moody Blues with a Jethro Tull middle section. There’s enough mellotron and Hammond organ to make Keith Emerson jealous.

Stone Axe make the kind of classic rock that real classic rock fans want to hear. Buy their album so they can go on tour and spread the gospel. As good as the records are (and there are a bunch of cool singles and EP’s to check out, too) they are best witnessed in yo face. They’re not afraid to set up full stacks in the crappiest punk rock dive and blow the toilet seats off.


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