|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Liberty N' Justice|
|Tracks: 19||Rating: No Quote|
The albums recorded by Liberty N’ Justice during its “all-star project” era were immensely popular, for good reason. The group followed the tried and true method of recruiting many of the best musicians and vocalist in the metal and hard rock scenes to appear on critically acclaimed albums starting with Welcome To The Revolution from 2005 and culminating with the 2013 swan song effort The Cigar Chronicles. A “who is who” in the music business was the upshot during the eight year span, with the likes of Michael Sweet & Oz Fox (Stryper), Jamie Rowe (Guardian), Sebastian Bach (Skid Rowe), Stephen Pearcey (Ratt), Mark Slaughter (Slaughter), Dale & Troy Thompson (Bride), Josh Kramer (Saint), Les Carlson (Bloodgood), Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Louis St. August (Mass) and Jani Lane (Warrant) - just to name a few! - making guest appearances.
Of course, all good things must come to an end and such is the case here in that LNJ officially has turned into a full time band, with founding member and bassist Justin Murr joined by guitarist JK Northrup, vocalist David Cagle, keyboardist Eric Ragno and drummer Michael Feighan. To bring a fitting closure to its “all-star project” era, the group made the wise decision to release (forthcoming in the fall of 2013) a compilation capturing many of its better songs from the time, 4-All: The Best Of LNJ Volume 2. Yes, that is correct in that this is the second in a two volume series, with the first LNJ compilation, 4-All: The Best Of LNJ, having come out in 2008.
What is the difference between the two? While both represent collections of songs from the LNJ “all-star project” era, Volume 2 is the most comprehensive in taking the majority of its tracks from the post 2008 albums, Light It Up (2010), Chasing A Cure (2011), Hell Is Coming To Breakfast (2012) and The Cigar Chronicles (2013). Volume 1, obviously, was limited to what had been released up to that point: Welcome To The Revolution (2005), Soundtrack Of A Soul (2006) and Independence Day (2007).
In terms of specifics, Volume 2 features one song each from Soundtrack Of A Soul, Independence Day and Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, 2 from Chasing A Cure, four from Light It Up and six from The Cigar Chronicles. You will find four new bonus tracks as well (one thing I have always appreciated about LNJ over the years is how generous it is with bonus material). Let’s take a closer look at both the new songs and those chosen from each album:
The four new songs highlight the trademark LNJ melodic hard rock sound. My favorite is gritty blues rocker “Grace & Gravity” as a result of its slide guitars, horn section and catchy chorus (it reminds of the new material from the off the latest King James album Maximus). “No Honor Among Thieves” comes across as crisp acoustic rock (with hints of keyboards and fitting big backing vocals), while “Memphis” takes a classy hard rock approach (gutsy guitars in abundance and blues emphasis overall). “Lost And Found” represents a commercial ballad with piano, keyboards and orchestration leading the way.
All four are very good in showcasing the new LNJ line-up as Cagle shines with his gravely vocal qualities and Northrup with several stretches of adept lead guitar (ranging from the bluesy to the blistering). We are in for a treat if this is what the group is capable.
Soundtrack Of A Soul
SOAL, my first exposure to LNJ, remains an underrated example of eighties influenced metal and hard rock. No qualm with the selection here, “Show Me The Way” being a groove drenched melodic hard rock cut in which Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) highlights his impassioned vocal abilities. Those not familiar with the album will find several other choice tracks, including the aggressive focus of “Grenade” and “Killer Grin” and more melodic flavorings to ballad “If The World Could Be Mine” and commercial melodic rocker “Sight Unseen”. You will even find a rumbling example of bass driven hard rock in “Kings Of Hollywood”.
It also cannot be understated the quality production. That said, in coming in at 18 tracks SOAS does feature a couple of skip buttons (I would have liked to seen the album trimmed to its best 12 or 13).
The acoustic rock if Independence Day (in my opinion) represents the most underrated LNJ release. The inclusion of “Fade”, accented by Jamie Rowe’s (Guardian) recognizable gritty and raspy style, cannot be questioned from its joining of the up-tempo and laid back. Again, this is not a hard rock album but proves relevant nonetheless, as the somber “Snake Eat Snake”, rollicking “Bullet, Train Breakdown” and bluesy “Soldier” all would have made notable picks. Same can be said for the Gospel influenced “My Sacrifice”.
Production, once more is done just right, while same can be said for track-listing in that you will not find any filler among the 14 tracks. I wish, however, a bit more lead guitar had been provided (several songs here would have been better rounded out with some bluesy soloing).
Light It Up
Light It Up remains one of my LNJ favorites. Specifically, it represents a return to the melodic metal and hard rock of SOAL but more consistent.
Cannot argue with the selections here, with “Best Time We Never Had”, Chris Jericho’s dogged vocals adding to the songs muscular aura, and “Wrestling With God”, a high energy number bolstered by Peter Loran’s (Trixter) gritty delivery, stand out. Equally solid is the acoustic blues to “Do What You Believe”, gravelly touch from front man CJ Snare (Firehouse), and bottom heavy “Man vs. Mother Nature”, imbued by the low-key register of Ted Poley (Danger Danger).
If not acquainted with LJN then Light It Up is a good place to start due to being made up of several other choice tracks. “Treading On Serpents” delivers a low-end groove presence and the albums title track every bit as much of a commercial mindset. Metal laced guitars characterize “Uncle Sam”, while unremitting high energy upholds the anti-drunk driving song “Drunk Dead Gorgeous”. Not a skip button among the lot.
Chasing A Cure
LNJ switches gears for the pleasing AOR and melodic rock of Chasing A Cure. Originally a 5 song EP that came out in 2010, Chasing A Cure was re-issued by Roxx Productions the following year with 8 bonus tracks to turn it into a full length release.
Of the two Chasing A Cure cuts, “Throwing Stones” gives rise to an acoustic flair, while “Chasing A Cure” impresses with its catchy, radio friendly mentality. Vocals shine as well, as Donnie Vie (Enuff Z’ Nuff) lends his soul presence to the former and Benny Mardones (Firehouse) a pristine touch the latter.
The full length version comes recommended in that it also includes a couple of very well done covers, (Skid Row’s “Quicksand Jesus” and Kerry Livgren’s “Ground Zero”) in addition to the superlative electric version of the Independence Day track “Snake Eat Snake”.
Also note that Chasing A Cure was recorded with the goal of raising awareness for epilepsy research. This hits close to home for Murr, whose oldest daughter Trinity was diagnoses with epilepsy at age 7. All proceeds from the sales of Chasing A Curse, as a result, have been given to The Epilepsy Foundation in Trinity’s name.
Hell Is Coming To Breakfast
Hell Is Coming To Breakfast draws its material from a variety of sources, including six songs that are outtakes from the bands forthcoming (at the time) release The Cigar Chronicles along with several previously unreleased and demo tracks. One new song is included as well.
Some of the heaviest LNJ material can be found on HICTB, almost to the point of all out metal. The lone complaint being that only one song was chosen. “Stretch Armstrong”, nevertheless, is a worthy pick with its staunch guitars and every bit as robust leanings from vocalist Louis St. August (Mass). That said, I wish a couple more HICTB tracks had been included in that the likes of heavy duty rockers “Whack A Mole” and “Nakatomi Plaza” shine as does classy Petra cover “Thankful Heart”. Also of note is worshipful ballad “Get Down”.
The Cigar Chronicles
The Cigar Chronicles represents the quintessential LNJ release. A two CD set, TCC breaks down evenly (13 songs each) with the first made up of covers of mainstream pop hits and second original LNJ compositions taking a melodic metal and hard rock heading.
If I were to choose one of the “cover” tracks it would also be the Kip Winger fronted “Stayin’ Alive”. Of note is how LNJ takes a unique spin to the song by approaching it from an acoustic standpoint (as opposed to the disco direction of the first rendering). Actually, one of the finer covers I have heard in some time.
Five excellent selections were made from the original material. The uplifting “The Greatest” is my favorite (David Cagle adds his husky vocal presence) with the electric version to “Sin” (Jani Lane’s trademark smooth vocal flavorings) and haunting ballad “Under Construction” (emotional feel from Eric Dover of Slash’s Snakepit) close seconds. No complaint regarding the selection of bluesy metal piece “Cupid’s Gonna Bleed” (Gunner Nelson providing the even vocal touch) and perseverant “Cut Me Mick” (complemented by Ron Keel’s muscular vocal style).
Similar to Light It Up, the track-listing of original TCC material proves consistent in that no skip buttons will be found amidst its 13 tracks (coming with a strong endorsement as a result).
4-All: The Best of LNJ Volume 2 adds up to a worthwhile compilation of the better material from the LNJ “all-star project” period. You will encounter not just a fine roster of songs and guest appearances but corresponding styles as well (again, ranging from AOR to melodic rock to hard rock to metal to acoustic). The only thing I might have done differently would be to cut the songs from Soundtrack Of A Soul and Independence Day (since both albums were previously covered on Volume 1) in favor of two more off Hell Is Coming To Breakfast. The four quality new cuts add to the appeal of Volume 2 and provide foreshadowing of some great things to come with LNJ.
Track Listing: “No Honor Among Thieves”, “Grace And Gravity”, “Memphis” , “Lost And Found” , “Show Me The Way”,
“Fade”, “Do What You Believe”, “Man vs. Mother Nature”, “Wrestling With God”, “Best Time We Never Had”, “Throwing Stones”, “Chasing A Cure”, “Stretch Armstrong”, “Stayin' Alive”, “The Greatest”, “Cupid's Gonna Bleed”, “Under Construction”, “Cut Me Mick’