Growing up in Metairie, LA is about as exciting as you could imagine and that’s probably not too much. A close suburb of New Orleans, Metairie at times felt a million miles away. For a city that was so known for its party all night vibe, Metairie was a pretty sleepy, dingy little burb full of shopping malls, car dealerships, and furniture outlets. While not necessarily the most rockin’ town to live, Metairie boasted what I consider to this day to be the greatest record store of all time: Warehouse Records & Tapes on Veterans Blvd. Ok, I’m getting off track. Where was I? Oh yeah. Carrying on.
The 80’s in the New Orleans area was a pretty kick ass time for hard rock/metal. New Orleans was spawning bands like Razor White, Victorian Blitz, Dark August, Killer Elite, Hagan, and Graveyard Rodeo to name a few but there was one band that seemed to rise above them. That band was a little band called Lillian Axe and in my opinion, nobody was doing it better than them.
To be growing up as a young, fledgling metalhead in a city and a time where so many awesome bands were coming out, it was frustrating because at a whopping 12 or 13 years old, I couldn’t get into the clubs. That would change when the aforementioned bands started renting out the gym at a local Catholic school (St. Christopher’s CYO respectively) and suddenly I was able to see these shows. I remember my mom dropping me off and giving me 10 bucks (5 for the cover, 5 for sodas) to see the triple bill of Lillian Axe, Dark August, and Victorian Blitz. I was completely mesmorized by this show and after seeing Lillian Axe that night I was so inspired. These guys were amazing.
If you were a young person between the years of 1984 and 1986, you at some point received a blank 90 minute cassette that was chockfull of Lillian Axe demos featuring the original line up of Stevie Blaze (guitar), Danny King (drums), Johnny Vines (vocals), and Michael Maxx (bass). Songs like “Dream of a Lifetime”, “Inside Out”, “Axe Attack”, “Letters in the Rain” and so on were just so fucking good. Even as shitty as the quality of this tape was, I was able to hear a band doing songs that were every bit as good if not better than many of the bands that were huge at that time.
In 1988, a year before my family moved to Atlanta, it was announced that Lillian Axe had been signed to a major label and was about to release their self-titled debut album. With a brand new lineup featuring former members of the Texas band, Stiff (Ron Taylor – vocals, Jon Ster – guitar/keys, and Rob Stratton – bass), Lillian Axe now sounded like an even more bold, strong, and professional band than they ever did. With no disrespect to former vocalist Johnny Vines, Ron Taylor was indeed the missing element that had now been found that would take Lillian Axe into the big leagues.
The self-titled album was such a huge deal in New Orleans and in Metairie because it was local boys done good. Lil Stevie Blaze and his boys were finally about to get the opportunity to show the world what they could do. The album also served as a very important album to me because all of the sudden the impossible seemed very much possible. You didn’t have to go out to California and starve and roll around broke and flyering the Sunset Strip. You could be from Metairie, New Orleans, wherever and as long as you had talent, worked hard, and dreamed even harder, the sky was the limit and that was a powerful dose of inspiration that I still carry with me to this day.
It’s been years since I sat down with this album and listened to it from start to finish. This is going to be interesting for sure and I’m eager to dive into this one. Ok, enough talking. Let’s break down the debut album by Lillian Axe song by song.
Dream of a Lifetime
This was the first and only single off of this album. This was the song that the label really thought was going to be a hit for the band. Well, back in the day it was my least favorite song by the band and hearing it now I have to say that it’s still the same. While I may not love this tune, I don’t hate it and honestly it was a great choice to introduce the world to Lillian Axe. The biggest problem with this release was the video. My god what an awful video. It even got “trashed” on MTVs show “Smash or Trash.” It’s also a bummer that this was the only single because there are some great songs on this album that could’ve broke the band in a bit more if promoted and released properly.
It’s fun to hear how the sound of this band takes such a dramatic, heavy turn. Dream of a Lifetime is so friendly sounding and “Inside Out” definitely has more gritty, angry sound to it. This is the song I remember some of my friends who were into heavier stuff being surprised to hear from them. This just a solid fucking song.
Vision in the Night
Hands down one of my favorite songs by Lillian Axe. It’s so melodic and Ron Taylor’s vocal delivery on this one is so fucking good. Listening to this album in order like this really shows me just how diverse and dynamic Lillian Axe could be. In just the span of three songs, Lillian Axe flexes their abilities to really stretch things and not nail themselves down to just one type of playing. Also, Steve’s outro guitar playing on this song is absolutely stellar. I really feel like this song could have been a hit for them had it been given the chance. Fantastic song that gets repeat listens from me quite a bit.
For some reason, this particular song always sticks out as one of the most memorable ones from that old Lillian Axe demo. I also have to say that of all the songs, this is pretty much the only one where I feel like Johnny Vines did this one best. Again, no disrespect to Johnny (RIP), but Ron was a much stronger voice and presence but this song was definitely Vines’ all the way. Not my favorite song and kind of cheesy but it’s a fun song and one that I never mind hearing.
The More That You Get
Whenever I see this song title, I always find myself going, “How does that song go?” Listening to it now, it just kind of sounds like filler to me. It’s not a horrible song but it just doesn’t have the character that the other songs have. It almost sounds like it was just tacked onto the album for some reason. Kind of forgettable. Not insulting or intolerable in the least but just kind of “meh.”
Misery Loves Company
Much like with “Inside Out”, this song really has Lillian Axe flexing their ability to really kick some fucking ass. This has always been one of my favorite songs and for the longest time they even opened their live shows with this song. This song sounds every bit as good now as it did back in the day. This is definitely a song where I feel Ron Taylor stepped up and owned the fuck out of this one. Great track for sure.
I consider this one to be yet another missed opportunity to really break the band in. This power ballad is every bit as good as any of the ones that were coming out around this time and if the band had been pushed and promoted hard enough, there’s no reason that this song couldn’t have been a hit. In the arena of ballads, I actually think that this is one of the better ones without a doubt. Nothing deep or thought provoking but it’s a fantastic song with some absolutely gorgeous guitar work. Steve’s guitar work on this particular song definitely channels his Randy Rhoads influence which is something I never picked up on until hearing it now. I loved hearing that.
This is a song that I remember not liking too much back in the day but man, hearing this one now… what a fucking killer song. I love the overall dark vibe of the choruses and the hook in this song. This is a song I don’t remember the band ever really playing much but I would love to hear this song live. This is definitely a sadly overlooked gem on this album that deserves more attention.
Waiting in the Dark
Holy fuck do I love this song. This is such a dark song and once again shows just how Lillian Axe could dip into that kind of dark, heavier sound and style of playing. Also, I hear more of that Randy Rhoads influence shining through in the underlying acoustic guitar parts that totally reminded me of “Diary of a Madman.” This is such a well done song and I even had to give it a repeat listen. Back in the day this was just a song that I liked a good bit but hearing it now, I fucking LOVE this song and it’s without a doubt one of the shining moments of this album.
Laughing in Your Face
While this is definitely not one of my favorite songs, it’s not a terrible song by any means. It’s just a kind of silly, really catchy kind of song but I think it really suffers following “Waiting in the Dark.” Honestly, I also think that this isn’t a great way to close this album out. If I had the ability to sequence this album, this song would’ve been somewhere in the middle and the album would’ve closed with “Waiting in the Dark” because I feel that move would’ve been more dramatic. This song is just silly but again, it’s a fun kind of carefree song.