In the winter of 1992, there was something different going on with me. Now out of high school and firmly ensconced in my first year at Nassau Community College (when I bothered to show up) I spent quite a bit of time by myself. Not that I didn’t still have my friends, what was missing was, for the first time in almost four years, a girlfriend. I had been on my own since October of 1991, and except for a bit of dating hither and yon, I wasn’t serious. It was actually kind of nice, as I had always gone from one relationship to the next. Anyway, not having a lady meant that I often flew solo to friends’ houses and parties. This also provided ample time to listen to whatever the hell I wanted in my ’88 Sundance without hearing any bitching, you see?
That winter one of my go-to tapes for the deck was none other than LILLIAN AXE’S Poetic Justice. I’ve had this argument with a few people as to whether this one or its predecessor Love + War is better, and while I do love most of the former, and saw them twice at Sundance on that tour, this one just resonated with me more from top to bottom. After the title track/intro, guitarist Stevie Blaze uncoils a winding lick to start off “Innocence” that the rest of the band slips into easily. Rhythm guitarist Jon Ster, bassist Darrin DeLatte, and new drummer Gene Barnett all are at the top of their game on this and every other song, but the shining star here is vocalist Ron Taylor. His voice is more commanding and authoritative on each and every lyric. Now freed from the clutches of MCA (Musicians Cemetery of America) Records and freshly signed to I.R.S. their budget obviously allowed for better production, because his voice, and also the drums and cymbals have this green apple crispness to them that I had never heard before.
First single “True Believer” is as good, if not better than anything on previous efforts, and this is one that also hit home for me, as the last girl I had been serious about hurt me pretty bad. Looking back, I think that’s what it is about Poetic Justice that did it for me. It’s a very jaded and cynical album for a lot of it, but it is also raw and emotional. Of course, a record from that era wouldn’t be complete without a sexual anthem of some kind, and “Body Double”, another favorite, fit that bill nicely. These two back-to-back wreaked havoc on the REWIND button on my stereo. Immediately afterwards is this heartfelt love song that can still get to me, “See You Someday”. It is timeless in that it speaks to losing someone, and that can be through a break-up, or that someone passing away. The melody is beautiful, and it’s Taylor’s finest singing on any LILLIAN AXE record.
“Living In the Grey” is an all-out rocker whose guitars remind me that these guys were a thousand times more talented than some of the hack bands whose signings spelled doom for the scene by year’s end, and after another brief interlude of “Digital Dreams” comes “Dyin’ To Live”. This is more of a mid-tempo song and is another one I can’t listen to just once when this album’s on, especially that ending. The harmonies are picture perfect. I don’t even know how to describe “Mercy” and still do it justice. A little classically-tinged guitar to start, then BAM! Balls-out as only LILLIAN AXE could do, the rhythms humming like the engine of a finely-tuned sports car. The push and pull dynamic was something else when I saw them do it live in 1993, too. But in the car on the Seaford Oyster Bay or Southern State, this was the song that brought out my lead foot time and time again.
We slow down once again for “The Promised Land”, and the writing on this number is right up there with classics like “Ghost of Winter” and “The World Stopped Turning” for me. One of my favorite cover songs is this band’s take on “No Matter What” from BADFINGER. They inject new life into a song I could never stand and turn it into a rollicking good time, and Blaze has some fun with the solos. That darkness that permeates much of the album returns on “She’s My Salvation”. The opening riff sounds like it could rip through steel cable like a hot knife through butter, and the metronome beat and heaviness remain steady throughout as Blaze rips off a solo that simply pours hot lava over everything in its path.
Everything winds down for outro “A Moment of Reflection”, which I find very calming after the roller coaster that Poetic Justice takes me on whenever I listen to it. The winter of 1992 was very cold, and there’s a certain level of emotional coldness I was feeling at the time that this album tapped into for me, but at the same time, putting it on always put me in a better mood. Strange, I know, but it’s that connection, that emotional response that makes this a Classic Album…for me, anyway. ~dc