|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Liberty N' Justice|
|Tracks: 17||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 76:52|
A compilation albums key selling point is its predictability. Most, for instance, are exclusive to an artist’s radio hits with a variety of fan favorites, concert staples and quality deep cuts added to round things out. To generate further interest and increase sales, it is not uncommon for a couple of new songs to be included as well. Those in doubt need consider how one might predict the track-listing if Stryper were to release a new compilation: “Honestly” and “Always There For You” (radio hits), “To Hell With The Devil”, “In God We Trust” and “Soldiers Under Command” (fan favorites/concert staples) and “Lady” and “Free” (deep cuts). To understand my point, it must be noted how the previously referenced seven songs formed the backbone of the two Stryper compilations already released, Can’t Stop The Rock (1991) and 7 (2003). And if in case you were wondering, the former featured two new songs (“Believe” & “Can’t Stop The Rock”) and latter two others (“Something” & “For You”).
Sometimes, however, an artist will approach a compilation album from a completely different standpoint. Liberty N’ Justice is one such act. Consider the most recent LNJ compilation, Before The Revolution: Best Of LNJ The Early Years from the spring of 2013, which sidesteps the pitfall of predictability as a result of the unique manner in which its track-listing was chosen.
Most associate LNJ with being an “all star” project. And rightly so, at least when factoring how founding member Justin Murr has followed the tried and true method of recruiting numerous guest vocalist and musicians - some of the best in the business both past and present - to appear on LNJ albums starting with Welcome To The Revolution (2005) and culminating with The Cigar Chronicles (2013). What many do not know, however, is that LNJ actually got its start in the early nineties as a two man band in which Murr was joined by vocalist Patrick Marchand. The two went on to record four albums, starting with Armed With The Cross (1992) but also including Big Guns (1994), Forever Till The End (1996) and Bargain Bin (2000). It is from these four - long out of print and hard to find collectors items - in which Before The Revolution draws 14 of its 17 tracks. The remaining three are made up of two unreleased demo cuts and one new studio recording.
Hence, the different approach from LNJ by basing the Before The Revolution track-listing from albums that are not household names. In other words, it is not possible to fall into the trappings of predictability when there are no “radio hits” to choose from (LNJ, much to the music worlds great loss, is not an FM radio staple), and since the music is not immediately recognizable it is difficult to identity with any “fan favorites” or “deep cuts” (keeping in mind the quality of the material at hand). And to be quite frank I find this to be a refreshing change of pace.
LNJ has gained renown for basing its sound on a foundation of eighties melodic metal and hard rock. Yes, some variety will be found therein, including AOR and melodic rock (Chasing The Cure from 2011), acoustic rock (Independence Day from 2007), melodic hard rock (Light It Up from 2010 and The Cigar Chronicles from 2013) and a heavier, metal based sound (Hell Is Coming To Breakfast from 2012). Before The Revolution does not disappoint in this regard in that the early LNJ material leaves little doubt in terms of its eighties influences. That being said, the initial LNJ incarnation is also not afraid to throw us a few musical curveballs, reflected in some styles long term fans might not readily identify with the group, including classic rock, groove and funk overtones and some made for radio contemporary pop flavorings.
Let’s take a closer look at things (due to the high volume of material at hand I thought it would work best to eschew one of my standard track by tracks in favoring of breaking things down by source instead):
Armed With The Cross
Perhaps it is due to its 1992 release, but Armed With The Cross reflects the heaviest eighties metal and hard rock influences of the four albums. As a matter of fact, one could make a strong case for opening track “Jesus Love Shout” as being the best all time LNJ song. Yes, it is that good in drawing upon a bluesy Whitesnake meets Sarepta hard rock vibe in which Marchand does a very creditable Coverdale impersonation. Otherwise, the song presents with the total package: moving emotion, standout melody, tons of groove and radio friendly aura to match. I am surprised that LNJ has not chosen to re-record this at a later date.
The eighties slant continues with melodic hard rocker “Heaven”, albeit taking the more tempered tone but also playing up a notable (almost commercial) melody. Same with “All Your Love” due to its smooth AOR touches and use of keyboards over an edgy guitar backdrop.
The lone complaint is that only three songs were taken from AWTC. If the quality to the three is any indicator then I want to hear more! As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t complain if sometime in the future the artist decided to re-issue the album in its entirety.
Some stylistic diversions begin to emerge with Big Guns. And no means is that a bad things, at least when considering the quality of acoustic based tracks “Foolish” (as a result of its poignant sensibilities) and “Heroes Never Die” (upholding a heavier rocking proclivity). The two prove in no uncertain terms that the acoustic Independence Day material can trace itself to the early LNJ days.
The only track to fall short is “Mona Lisa”, which can be attributed to a punk-wave pop influence lending to some quirky (almost techno but without the keyboards) overtones. Not to be critical, but I cannot help but feel that Big Guns must have better material to offer.
Forever Til The End
Forever Til The End finds LNJ experimenting with a groove and funk based sound. “Shout 96" is the heaviest of the albums represented tracks, with abundant backing vocals and happening low-end aligning with a crunchy guitar presence. “More Than A Pretty Face” and “Lost Soul Café” present with a lighter touch but prove no less able. Former makes a horn section and spicy lead guitar its centerpiece, while latter represents LNJ at its “funky” best with analogical lyrics comparing this fallen world to a “lost soul café”. Great punchy bass line as well.
“Forever Til The End” stands out with its laid back AOR flavorings (almost approaching pop territory) and abundant shoo-bop-shoo-bop backing vocals. Sweet Comfort Band comes to mind as a result (by no means a bad thing).
Bargain Bin features the mellowest of the early LNJ material. It starts with bookend ballads, encompassing “Hey Eddie” (with its relaxed and bluesy southern influences) and “Breathe” (joining atmospheric touches with string accompaniments), but also includes the pop based sounds to “Nowhere Man” (and its big Beattle-esque vocal melodies). Of the Before The Revolution material this one least brings to mind the classic LNJ sound (observation and not critique).
The albums title track captures the essence of Independence Day with its acoustically driven heavy rocking mentality. Lyrically, the song reinforces how fame and recognition are nowhere nearly important as making sure that the truth be known: “Put my album in the bargain bin/I don’t care as long as somebody let’s Jesus in/And hears the truth/You can say my sound isn’t in/I don’t care as long as everybody let’s Jesus in/Even if they get it from the bargain bin”.
Bonus tracks take an acoustic heading, as can be found on unreleased demos “Born With Beggars”, highlighting a warm sense of melody, and “Crown Of My Heart”, with its lush flavorings and polished backing vocals.
“In Time”, a new studio track with LNJ members vocalist David Cagle and guitarist JK Northup (following the release of The Cigar Chronicles LNJ turned into a full time band), maintains the acoustic penchant but with some folk aspects and bluesy lead guitar.
Before The Revolution sidesteps the predictability associated with most compilation releases as a result of its material being so obscure. If you are like me then the chances are you have not heard the first four LNJ releases; as a result, the true Before The Revolution selling point comes to the forefront: And that it proves less of a compilation and more like an album of previously never heard before studio tracks instead.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Jesus Love Shout” (6:25), “Heaven” (4:32), “All Your Love” (4:45), “Mona Lisa” (4:52), “Foolish Child” (4:18), (Heroes Never Die” (5:09), “Shout 96” (4:44), “Forever Til The End” (4:33), “More Than A Pretty Face” (3:41), “Lost Soul Café” (4:51), “Hey Eddie” (5:12), “Bargain Bin” (5:15), “Nowhere Man” (2:51), “Breathe” (4:37), “Born With Beggars” (3:22), “Crown Of My Heart” (5:00), “In Time” (2:38)