|Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock||Produced By: Mike Layne|
|Record Label: LNJ||Country Of Origin: Varies|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Liberty N' Justice|
|Tracks: 18||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 65:51|
Liberty N’ Justice formed in 1991 as a result of a collaboration between founding members Justin Murr and Patrick Marchand. Releasing the bands full length debut Armed With The Cross one year later on Glory Rock Records, the two followed up in 1994 with a sophomore effort entitled Big Guns. The third Liberty N’ Justice album, Forever Till The End, hit the shelves in 1996, while Murr and Marchand regrouped to put out Bargain Bin on Innate Records in 2000. After a tour that took place the same year, the two parted ways with Murr dropping out of the music scene until his pastor told him, word for word, "God is going to renew the fire from your youth." Murr, in response, began the writing process for a new album and, since he is not a vocalist, asked Jamie Rowe Rowe (Guardian/AdrianGale) and Dale Thompson (Bride) if they would be willing to sing one song each. To Murr’s great surprise, both agreed and the fifth Liberty N’ Justice album, Welcome To The Revolution, subsequently came together in 2005 in which guest appearances were made by eighteen different vocalists, including Michael Sweet (Stryper), Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Ken Tamplin (Shout) and John Schlitt (Petra).
One month prior to the release of Welcome To The Revolution, however, Murr began work on the very fine 2006 follow up effort Soundtrack Of A Soul. The album picks up where Welcome To The Revolution leaves off in that several talented vocalists and musicians – some of the best in the business both past and present – where brought in to complete the recording process. A literal all star if not dream team project that represents a “who’s who” in today’s music scene, Soundtrack Of A Soul features the combined vocal talents of Ez Gomer (Jet Circus), Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Jamie Rowe (Guardian), Ted Poley (Danger Danger), Dale Thompson (Bride), Josh Kramer (Saint), Stephen Pearcy (Ratt), Mike Lee (Barren Cross) and many others. Guitarists Troy Thompson (Bride), Tommy Denander (Radioactive) and Sayit (Jet Circus) were also brought in along with bassists Ez Gomer (Jet Circus) and Tim Gaines (Stryper) and drummers Mikkey Dee (Motorhead) and Michael Ulvsgaard (Jerusalem).
The best way to describe Soundtrack Of A Soul would be a throwback to an era when “big hair” dominated FM radio and MTV. Showcasing a polished but guitar driven sound heavily rooted in the eighties, the album delivers a compelling combination of melodic metal, commercial hard rock, melodic rock and glam metal. Hooks, hooks and more hooks abound that stand in perfect complement to an abundance of soaring vocals, shredding leads and pounding drums. The end result is a consistent effort in which energetic hard rockers such as “Kings Of Hollywood”, “Grenade” and ‘Killer Grin” stand alongside several quality radio friendly ballads in “Malice In Wonderland”, ‘Up That Hill” and “If The World Could Be Mine”. An effective use of the acoustic guitar can be found on classy mid-tempo numbers “State Of Grace” and “Thy Will Be Done”, while “Show Me The Way”, with its infectious melody, and the modern flavorings of “Flinch” stand out as two of the albums better compositions.
Production values come across full and polished and help to bring out the best in the top notch material here.
“Intro” gets the album underway to a humorous clip from the movie School Of Rock featuring Jack Black leading a prayer to the God of Rock.
When considering the albums better tracks one of the first that comes to mind is “Kings Of Hollywood”, a groove-laden hard rocker combining a catchy hook in its chorus with a rumbling bass heavy low end. Ez Gomer (Jet Circus) perfectly complements the environment with his gritty, mid-octave ranged vocal style. As a matter of act, this one would sound right at home on the most recent Jet Circus effort Look At Death Now.
On the guitar driven “Another Nail” Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) proves in no uncertain terms he has not lost his touch, adding some grit and gravel to his vocal delivery during the songs verse portions before cutting loose in a more even manner upon reaching its smooth sounding chorus. Second great song in a row.
“State of Grace” moves the album in an acoustic laced melodic hard rock direction. An acoustic guitar stands in support of Russell Arcara’s (Surgin, Prophet, Arcara) full sounding voice during the songs first verse, gradually leading the way until the rhythm guitar steps forward in time to back a pristine, background vocal driven chorus.
“Malice In Wonderland”, the first of the albums four ballads, features the unique raspy vocal flavorings that only Jamie Rowe (Guardian, AdrianGale) can lend to a song. And what a song it is, carried its full extent by a crisp rhythm guitar while showcasing one of the albums more compelling melodies. AdrianGale is the first thing that comes to mind when listening to this one.
Soundtrack Of A Soul does not hit its stride, however, until it reaches the energetic hard rocker “Grenade”. Penned by Dale and Troy Thompson, the song kicks in to a fury of up-tempo impetus, the all out raw energy maintained as it rages its way to a resounding chorus delivered in good hook filled fashion. Highlighted by Dale’s impassioned vocal delivery and Troy’s soulful guitar licks, “Grenade” is certain to appeal to any fan of Bride.
I enjoy the edgy rhythm guitar that makes its presence felt on “Show Me The Way”. The song reflects a gritty vibe as a result of Oni Logan’s (Lynch Mob) classic rock flavored voice, crunching through its first verse only to briefly pick up in pace before tapering off for a bluesy chorus with a huge hook that will pull you in and refuse to let go. Definitely one of the albums finer moments.
One of the biggest surprises here has to be the appearance of Leif Garrett on “Sight Unseen”. Leif, however, does not disappoint as he smoothly accents the song as it is slowly compelled by a blend of acoustic and rhythm guitar, not culminating until reaching a vibrant but strong emotionally charged chorus.
Saint vocalist Josh Kramer contributes a stirring performance on the heartfelt semi-ballad “Up That Hill”. Now, I have read several reviews that were a bit critical of this song, wishing that Josh had been matched with a more Saint-style hard rockers. However, I beg to differ in that I find Josh’s performance a perfectly complementary one; if in doubt, then check out his work on two of Saint’s more “mellower” numbers in “The War Is Over” (from Too Late For Living) and “He Reigns” (off the bands most recent effort The Mark) to gain an understanding of my point. “Up That Hill”, if anything, proves quite the notable selection, pushed ahead by just the right amount of rhythm guitar while giving rise to an equally distinct melody along with an atmosphere of a moving nature.
“Surreal” is short (1:32) spoken word piece featuring studio banter between Justin and Whitecross vocalist Scott Wenzel. While there is nothing wrong here, I wish Scott had been give the opportunity to lend his vocal talents to a full length number instead.
“Flinch”, a hard rocker with a modern vibe that brings to mind some of the material off Stryper’s Reborn, features the gravelly vocal delivery of Tony Harnell (TNT, Starbreaker). A tough as nails rhythm guitar carries this one through its first verse and pre-chorus hard and heavy, the song reflecting a radio friendly feel as it transitions to the catchy chorus that follows.
The raspy vocal qualities of Mark Slaughter (Slaughter) and Pete Loran (Trixter) bring out the best in “Thy Will Be Done”. An acoustic guitar holds sway over the songs first verse in a near laid back manner, the pace not picking up until the rhythm guitar takes over and shores up a chorus carried at a spirited upbeat tempo.
“Killer Grin” finds Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) delivering the goods with his trademark raw and scratchy vocal style. The song proves quite the raucous hard rocker, taking off in high-octane fashion before rushing its way to a hook driven chorus giving rise to a plethora of sass-driven attitude. Nothing but non-stop hooks and energy here.
The beautiful ballad “If The World Could Be Mine” opens gently to a graceful touch of piano, gradually moving ahead only to gain momentum as the slightest hint of rhythm guitar takes over and drives a chorus with a hook of the abundant and copious variety. Clean but raspy would be the best way to describe how Joe Cerisano (Silver Condor, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) accentuates this one.
Ted Poley (Danger Danger) lends his bountiful vocal abilities to the stylish mid-tempo sounds of “Always Tomorrow”. The song begins slowly to a keyboard driven introduction before picking up in pace to a crisp sounding rhythm guitar. Proceeding to punch its way ahead strong and steady, “Always Tomorrow” peaks as it obtains a commercial flavored chorus underlined by a trace of lush backing vocals.
I was already familiar with vocalist Phil Naro (Talas, Peter Criss Band) as a result of his work on Canadian guitarist Slav Simanic’s 2002 solo effort Let It Go. While he does a commendable job on “Hope & Pray (Ballad Of King David)”, the song – a groove-laden melodic rocker – actually proves one of the albums least desirable compositions. Perhaps it is the lackluster feel to the songs delivery or the exclusion of a notable hook in its chorus, but more often than not I tend to pass on this one.
“Make Believe”, with Mike Lee of Barren Cross handling lead vocal duties, also falls a bit flat. The song proves one of the albums more laid back numbers in being driven its distance by a blend of acoustic guitar and keyboards. Nothing wrong with that, but I was expecting something a bit more up-tempo and hard rocking from Lee. But as far as acoustic numbers go, “Make Believe” does not quite rank with the better acoustically driven material Lee handled while in Barren Cross such as “Light The Flame” (Rock For The King) and “Let It Go Let It Die” (Rattle Your Cage).
The album ends with “Outro”, a spoken word piece featuring a closing message from Justin.
Soundtrack Of A Soul, all in all, is a very good commercial hard rock album that does an effective job reflecting the “big hair” sound of the eighties. Production values come across polished while an excellent selection of vocal talent was recruited to complement the quality material here. Yes, the album does get a bit thin near its end, but it still proves a solid effort that will make a valuable addition to the collection of anyone into eighties influenced hard rock and metal.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Intro” (:24), ”Kings of Hollywood” (4:00), “Another Nail” (4:20), “State of Grace” (3:49), “Malice In Wonderland” (4:34), “Grenade” (4:02), “Show Me The Way” (4:18), “Sight Unseen” (4:42), “Up That Hill” (3:59), “Surreal” (1:32), “Flinch” (3:36), “Thy Will Be Done” (4:22), “Killer Grin” (3:36), “If The World Could Be Mine” (4:43), “Always Tomorrow” (4:13), “Hope & Pray (Ballad Of King David)” (3:51), “Make Believe” (3:49), “Outro” (1:54)