In early September of 1989 I was a free man. Free from the clutches of that horrific all boys Catholic high school Chaminade, and I was in full-on dirtbag mode 24/7. The hair was growing out, the denim jacket was always on my back, and the trusty Walkman was there in the right inside pocket where it belonged. I came into Massapequa High School a new man, ready to rock, as was evidenced by my attire. My girlfriend Chrissy and I were finally in the same school, and life was good. I was already a LILLIAN AXE fan with their debut, but seeing first single “Show a Little Love” from new album Love + War on Headbangers Ball one Saturday night sent me into a frenzy and I was at Uncle Phil’s the next day buying my copy!
Right from the start I was, and still am enthralled with this record. If there was ever a defining statement from a band, here it is. The boys were firing on all cylinders, and the songs, each and every one of them were nothing short of brilliant. Opener “All’s Fair In Love and War” is a high watermark for how to start your album right, and singer Ron Taylor nails it. Alongside him are guitarists Steve Blaze and the late Jon Ster (R.I.P.), and the formidable rhythm section of Rob Stratton (bass) and Danny King (drums), kicking ass and taking names. I remember walking and/or biking around Massapequa and feeling like I could take on the world when listening to this song. This is one of the greatest album openers I’ve ever heard…PERIOD.
“She Likes It On Top” is one of those tunes that 30 years later will pop into my head and all I can do is smile, as I cue it up to listen to over and over. The same can be said for “Diana”, and all things being equal, if I wasn’t dating Chrissy I’d have loved to have a girlfriend named Diana at that time. I know, we think stupid shit when we’re 16, right? “Down On You” is next, and the dual guitar work of Blaze and Ster fucking kills. If this band wasn’t on MCA Records back then this is a song that would have been YUUUUGE!! Things take a very dark turn with “The World Stopped Turning”, which manages to be beautiful and sinister at the same time. P.S. I saw the band do it live in December of 1990 and it was glorious!!
Side Two opens with “Ghost of Winter”, and this is without a doubt one of the greatest songs in this band’s catalog. It is a thing of beauty, very majestic, and I can remember sitting in my bedroom with this playing and saying, “Holy shit, this song is amazing!” You really have to hear it to understand. Plus Ron Taylor sounds phenomenal. “My Number” is dirty and sleazy, as it should be, while penultimate single “Show a Little Love” swoops in and smashes everything in sight. I fucking loved this song then, I love it now, and I will love it forever. My white cassette tape got worn the hell out due to me rewinding this one over and over again. If you want to hear LILLIAN AXE at the peak of their powers, this song is it. Case Closed.
“Fool’s Paradise” features a serpentine riff and sexy groove that was impossible not to get caught up in, while closer “Letters In the Rain” is very powerful, and certainly one of the more ambitious tracks in the band’s repertoire. I remember the first time I saw them at Sundance in 1990 with my buddies Steve and Mike, and this was the song they opened the show with. Love + War is a phenomenal album from start to finish, that’s obvious. But the memories I have of buying the tape in the store, then sharing it with my crew, and watching them get into this greatness, that’s the kind of stuff you can’t ever put a price on. Thank you LILLIAN AXE for the memories, and that’s why Love + War will ALWAYS be a Classic Album. ~dc