Featured image: Axe
Would recommend if you’re a fan of: Kak, Tea Company, Ant Trip Ceremony, Ford Theatre, Jefferson Airplane
Back in 1969, psychedelic music had already been exposed to the masses for a number of years. In fact, many major recording artists of the time that had previously experimented with music in the psychedelic vein, had already moved passed it. However, in certain circles, psychedelia was still a major ingredient to the music that artists were making.
The band, Axe, were prodigiously obscure, only 12 acetates of the original record were made. It was not until 1991 that an extensive version of the sessions were released. It tacks on three more studio songs and a live cut. One of the biggest shames of this record being so unknown is that lead vocalist Vivienne Jones’ (stage name: Countess Vivienne) mesmerizing voice has been lost in time. A talent found only rarely.
A greeting to any listener, album opener, “Here To There”, is a very brief sample of what’s to come on the rest of the album. This goes into the instrumental “Ahinam (Take 2)”, which embraces phaser effects on the heavy guitar sounds, impressive drumming by Steve Gordon makes up for the lack of vocals on it.
Those two songs are all fine and dandy, but then we get to ‘the meat and potatoes’ of the record. “Another Sunset, Another Dawn” is quite possibly the best track on here, with the listener getting the first real experience of Countess Vivienne’s alluring vocals. The lyrics are equally sublime…
“Today a thousand children born
Another sunset, another dawn
Tomorrow someone’s life is gone
Who’s to say what is right or wrong”
…brilliance if you ask me. The track includes the scorching guitar sound that is featured on the rest of the album. A perfect example of ethereal female vocals accompanied with hard driven ‘trippyness.’
We then get into the longest song on the album, “The Child Dreams”. Clocking in at just over nine minutes, it does not take long for the captivating guitar riff, mixed with Count Vivienne’s gentle vocal touch to put you into a state of hypnosis. With extended instrumental passages, percussionist Steve Gordon really knows how to insert himself into the hallucinatory environment. His skills are not to be overlooked, since it accentuates the rhythm of the songs incredibly. The track then concludes with a nightmarish feeling on the vocals that still haunts me to this day (In a good way, I might add.)
Even with all the examples of Count Vivienne’s majestic voice the listener has witnessed so far, none have been as apparent as her greatness in “A House is not a Motel”. A cover of a song by the band, Love, from their album Forever Changes, Axe completely makes it their own. Sure, the Love version is enjoyable, but it is no match against the phantasmagoric version that Axe displays. That familiar mind-bending guitar tone, the astounding drum-pounding, and incredible craftsmanship, certainly only goes to show that Axe deserved to be way more famous than they were.
After three A+ songs, we get into “Peace of Mind.” Nowhere near my favorite on the album, but it’s pleasant nonetheless. The difference here compared to the rest of the album, is that the overwhelming excitement is missing. As usual, however, the vocals are more than exceptional, and saves the song. The album then goes into it’s second instrumental piece, the piercing “Dark Vision”. The whole album sounds like one big dark vision, succumbed in a heavy apocalyptic feeling.
The final studio track on the album, “Strange Sights & Crimson Nights,” is similar to “Peace of Mind,” in that the astonishing lead vocals save whatever elements of the song seem to be misguided. Vivienne has the ability to make a song that might make you want to ‘do a Van Gogh’ and cut your own ear off (not that this track would make you want to do that,) into something beautiful. Finally, we get to the over 8 minute long live version of album opener, “Here to There.” The rhythm squirms into your head with great intensity. The sound quality to this track is not that great, but it is an interesting time capsule regardless.
This would be the only studio album that Axe released. Highly unfortunate, as the music found on this album is beyond imperative. It’s the perfect album to put on if you are in the mood for heavy-sounding psych or angelic female vocals, or both! Although nothing more would come of this Northampton (U.K.) based band, they made one of the finest pieces of musical art in the psychedelic genre, one that has undoubtedly stood the test of time.
The album was released in 1993 on CD/vinyl by U.K. rare folk/psychedelia specialist label, Kissing Spell Records. Copies can occasionally be found on Ebay/Discogs but it’s rare. Thankfully you can also listen to the album on Youtube!
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