|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: Vic Rivera|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website: Liberty N' Justice|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
Sometimes the best recipe for success is following the tried and true method. And such is the case with Liberty N’ Justice, an “all star” projects in which founding member Justin Murr has recruited some of the best musicians and vocalists in the business - both past and present - to appear on critically acclaimed albums such as Soundtrack Of A Soul (2006), Independence Day (2007) and Light It Up (2010). The “all star” theme was maintained by LNJ on its most recent offering, Chasing A Cure.
Chasing A Cure got its start when Murr joined forces with guitarist Vic Rivera (Crunch, AdrianGale) and started writing material with the goal of raising awareness for epilepsy research. This hits close to home for Murr, whose oldest daughter Trinity was diagnosis with epilepsy at age 7. All proceeds from the sales of Chasing A Curse, as a result, will be given to The Epilepsy Foundation in Trinity’s name. Also, all musicians appearing on the album and the cover artist (Rex Zachary) donated their time and talents.
The project was initially released in late 2010 as a five song EP and only available as a download (with a minimum purchase of $7.50). Roxx Productions later re-issued Chasing A Cure on CD in the spring of 2011 with eight bonus tracks to turn it into a full length release. Please note that the CD version will be offered on a limited basis and be restricted to just 500 copies.
Musically, Chasing A Cure stays true to past LNJ projects by featuring an eighties influenced blend of melodic rock, AOR and hard rock. If I were to invite comparison, the project falls in between Independence Day and Light It Up in that it showcases some of the acoustic touches of the former but is not quite as guitar heavy as the latter. In other words, Chasing A Cure strikes the perfect balance: Rhythm and lead guitar make their presence felt enough to gain your full attention but keyboards and vocal melodies are not overused to the point of distraction. How does it all add up? A work certain to appeal to fans of Journey, Giant, Foreigner, Line Of Fire, The Lou Gramm Band, Action and others within the genre.
The original five from the EP include the melodic hard rock of “Say Uncle” and two acoustic laced pieces that hearken back to Independence Day, “Throwing Stones” and “Playing God”. You will also encounter a customary ballad, “Paige’s Song”, in addition to the commercial hooks of the albums title track.
The bonus material comprise three covers - “Black Or White” (Michael Jackson), “Quicksand Jesus” (Skid Row) and “Ground Zero” (Kerry Livgren) - and an electric version of “Snake Eat Snake” (originally off Independence Day). Two eighties influenced hard rockers can be found as well, “Butterface” and “When Mullets Ruled The World”, along with demo versions of two new songs in “Eve” and “Damascus Road”.
Lyrics were written from the heart in dealing with the struggles we face in life, including doubt and trials of faith (and how we need to ultimately rely upon God), challenges a family faces when dealing with illness and the importance of perseverance and maintaining the fight.
The high LNJ standards in the area of production are maintained on Chasing A Cure.
Track By Track
We’ll start the track by track with the five from the EP.
Chasing A Cure gets underway to one of its more hard rocking pieces, “Say Uncle”. The song features a duet between Paul Shortino (Rough Cut) and Ron Keel (Keel), two vocalists that complement one another in terms of style and range. An emotionally played lead guitar run from Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister) rounds things out.
“Throwing Stones” heads in acoustic laced mid-tempo territory. Donnie Vie (Enuff Z’ Nuff) shines with his soulful vocal flavorings, bringing out the best in an environs that borders on the grand and stately. No, not ballad territory but reflecting some poignant sensibilities nonetheless. JK Northrup handles lead guitar this time around- and very well at that!
The ballad “Paige’s Song” highlights a gentle blend of piano and acoustic guitar but with rhythm guitar touches in the backdrop, particularly for its heartfelt chorus. Moving vocal performance from Philip Bardowell (Magdalen), who sounds right at home in the songs relaxed setting, while guitarist Tony Palacios (Guardian) adds more poignant flavorings with his bluesy playing.
“Playing God” proves the perfect vehicle to showcase the gritty presence of vocalist Terry Ilous (XYZ). A classy melodic rocker, this one highlights big doses of polished vocal melodies in addition to an acoustic proclivity that would fit in nicely on Independence Day. Lead guitar work - courtesy of Jeff Paris and Richard Kendrick (Near Life Experience) - is quite flashy.
The albums title track is its most commercial, a particular I reinforce as a positive in that the abundant hook to its chorus would sound right at home on FM radio. I can see Journey doing something like this. As a matter of fact, vocalist Benny Mardones (Firehouse) almost hints at Steve Perry. Guitarist Bill Leverty (also Firehouse) also shines with his stylish playing.
The bonus material starts with “Black Or White”. The song, unfortunately, falls a bit flat in that it stays true to the spirit of the original but almost to a fault. I like vocalist Terry Ilous, but he comes across as if he were trying too hard to sound like Michael Jackson while the rap breakdown at the halfway point, well, loses me. More often than not I hit the skip button.
“Quicksand Jesus” represents the better effort. The song starts slowly and calmly before gradually building into a full blown rocker, mid-tempo and laced with piano but giving rise to a notable melody in the process. Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge) adds to the emotional milieu with his stirring delivery.
The electric version of “Snake Eat Snake” is this reviewer’s choice track. Dark, haunting and moody, the song delivers a crunchy guitar edge and hints of swirling backing vocals to create quite the low-key listening experience. Vocalist David Raymond Reeves, avoiding the high pitched wailing that characterized his Neon Cross days, delivers a complementary gritty and soulful performance.
Up-tempo rocker “Butterface” hits hard and fast. Non-stop energy all the way, “Butterface” might be the heaviest of the Chasing A Cure tracks but is not without its share of catchy hooks either. The high end touch of vocalist Mark Allen Lanoue (Biloxi) is done to perfect as is the shredding of guitarist Joshua Perahia (Joshua).
“When Mullets Ruled The World” hearkens back to an era gone by with its eighties influenced sound. Yes, an abundant melody to draw you in, but it is the powerful vocals of Philip Bardowell (Magdalen) that puts things over the top. I can see this getting some radio play if given the chance.
The Kerry Livgren (Kansas) cover “Ground Zero” is the albums most ambitious. Never thought I would hear LNJ attempt progressive rock, but they pull it off without a hitch. Just over eight minutes, the song captures the majesty and splendor of the original with its sublime keyboard work and vocalist Kelly Keeling’s (Baton Rouge) gutsy flavorings. Tying everything together is the technical drumming of Carmine Appice.
Of the demo tracks, “Eve” brings an up-tempo hard rock sound with walls of guitars and airy keyboards and “Damascus Road” a ballad-like approach highlighting piano, keyboards and string accompaniments. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing more from the two in the future.
Chasing A Cure is represents another solid LNJ effort that would make another worthwhile addition to your collection. The vocal and guitar guest performances, as with past LNJ releases, are impressive while production stands out equally well. If you like the 5 songs from the original release then by all means upgrade to the full length version- you will not be disappointed.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing (EP): “Say Uncle” (4:27), “Throwing Stones” (4:16), “Paige’s Song” (4:09), “Playing God” (3:46), “Chasing A Cure” (4:28)
Track Listing (Bonus Tracks): “Black Or White” (3:56), “Quicksand Jesus” (5:28), “Snake Eat Snake” (4:52), “Butterface” (3:56), “When Mullets Ruled The World” (4:16), “Ground Zero” (8:19), “Eve” (3:17), “Damascus Road” (3:42)