Hardly a month goes by in 2012 without a new release from a Tony D. Reed-related band. And if it's not one of his own bands, than its an album which he produced. But I have no reasons to complain, because I really, really like what he does or, put differently: I'm a fan. Therefore, dear reader, I have to tell you that it is time again for my monthly hymn of praise, but I can assure you that my praises are honest at least. This time my attention turns to the second STONE AXE album that was originally released on the band's own label Music Abuse Records in 2010. Ripple Music have certainly done an excellent job on the 2012 re-release, just like last time with STONE AXE's first album (review here). But instead of a bonus DVD, 'Stone Axe II - Deluxe Edition' contains a second disc of 15 tracks that were only available on vinyl until now. In other words, if you missed the opportunity to buy one of these rare singles and split releases of STONE AXE, then there is a good chance now to make up for the failures. And if you have never ever heard about STONE AXE before (and want to change that now), then this luxurious 2CD set is a perfect start.
We'll kick off with the first disc which contains the original second album, 'Stone Axe II'. Basically, I have not changed my mind about this killer album, so that my old review keeps its validity. So, If you're interested in reading it, please click here. The second disc bears the titel 'Vinyl Only & Assorted Bits' and is chock-full of great songs. These include a magnificent early version of 'Black Widow', (featuring bassist Marshall Trotland and drummer Harley Trotland), as well as 'Metal Damage' (taken from the split 7" with Mighty High) where STONE AXE display their N.W.O.B.H.M. sensibility. These ripping guitar leads of Tony D. Reed are in a class of their own.
The explosive live version of 'Taking Me Home' makes absolutely clear that STONE AXE really flourish on stage while 'The Devil's Hand' is the perfect combination of early Black Sabbath and Free. 'For All That Fly' by contrast reveals a calmer side and unfolds a southern rock vibe with the help of acoustic guitars. I am particularly pleased that all three tracks from the split 12" with Wight can be found here, as I did not know them. These include 'Slice The Darkness' that is somehow untypical for STONE AXE. It sounds like Joy Division at the beginning, but an organ evokes a 1960's mood and vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff reminds me a little of Jim Morrison. The last song, 'Transmissions pt. II', is also very different from what I already know from STONE AXE. It's more psychedelic and very hypnotic but also very heavy , especially near the end of the track.
Further highlights are two cover versions. First, there is 'SWLABR' from Cream and STONE AXE have actually managed to sound exactly like Cream. It really struck me. Second, there is 'When I Came Down' and if you're a well-informed fan of early Black Sabbath you should know this track. It was written by Norman Haines and dates from the very early days of Birmingham's finest band. Indeed, a very good choice and much better than the thousandth version of 'War Pigs' or 'Iron Man'. All in all, the second disc is as great as the original album on the first disc. There are no fillers or uninspired leftovers, but 15 energetic cuts which will please each classic rock afficionado. An additional advantage is the playing time of more than 60 minutes. That means that you get a lot of STONE AXE for your money, especially when considering that disc one is 40 minutes long. The deluxe edition is completed by an informative booklet where JJ Koczan where he gives his love for STONE AXE full scope. To sum it up, this re-release is very highly recommended.