When the "Axis of Justice" CD was placed on my desk a week ago, awaiting a review, I didn't think anything of it. I saw the parental advisory on the front and was unfazed. To tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be a group of artists getting together to protest the war in Iraq. Upon further investigation, I found that "Axis of Justice" is actually a group of musicians, including Flea, Chris Cornell and Serj Tankian, who came together in response to the striking Los Angeles grocery workers.
The musicians put together a concert series to help defend the striking grocery workers. The CD "Axis of Justice, Concert Series Volume 1," puts together 15 tracks from one of their concerts and packages it with a DVD featuring concert footage.
Popping the disc into my CD player I remained hopeful. But as the first strains of the cover of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" came wafting through the speakers I knew I was in for a trying 53 minutes.
The group of musicians does nothing for the classic U2 song. If anything the quality of music the group produces seems to fall closer to something you'd see in the first few episodes of "American Idol."
The second song on the album, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," isn't much of an improvement over the first song on the album. It isn't any better, and there is still something missing...and I think it just might be strong vocals.
As the third song on the CD, "Alice in My Fantasies," started I knew I was in trouble. The entire tone of the CD changes, changes in to something I have never been a big fan of - heavy metal music. For all I know this song totally rocks, but for me, I couldn't wait to fast-forward to the next track on the disc. It was too much for me to handle.
However, what comes next is absolutely surprising. The CD changes directions again, this time going from heavy metal, head banging music to a piano solo imaginatively titled, "Piano Improvisation." The piano piece, played by Tankian, is nothing to write home about. And it smoothly transitions, without any pauses, to the next track on the album, "Charades." This song continues the piano playing, but with the addition of some not so great vocals. I just can't get over how the singing on these tracks sounds like something I could belt out and believe me, I don't sing.
Moving on, the CD stays with its new subdued flavor as it transitions into track six, "Until the End," performed by the Nightwatchman. This song is definitely the high point of the album, sounding like something reminiscent of Johnny Cash. This song is very soulful, bringing with it pictures of concert goers reaching for their lighters.
"I Feel Good Again," is the next song on the track and keeps the momentum going from "Until the End." It's a catchy tune that reminds me of songs played by old-time guitar greats. This is one song where the singer's gravely voice fits rights in.
The CD begins to gradually descend from the high point of tracks six and seven with a cover of the song, "Get Up, Stand Up." I mean, with a song like this, yes it's going to get stuck in your head no matter what, but it just doesn't have the soul that a protest song like this should have when these musicians get together to sing it.
"Union Song" brings the Nightwatchman back, but not as effectively as the first Nighwatchman song on the disc. It has a catchy guitar base, but the pseudo-spoken lyrics aren't put out there as effectively as they could be. The Nightwatchman's gravely voice does add a certain real-world sound to the working man's song, but it still wasn't my favorite song on the CD.
The next song on the album isn't even really a song at all. It's titled "Free Jam," and is exactly that. I'm sure this was the time during the concert when different artists were making the switch between sets and that's ok during a concert, but I don't need to hear it on a CD.
The flavor of the album goes through another distinct change with tracks 11 and 12, "What's Golden" and "Freedom," performed by Jurassic 5. These hip-hop songs are catchy and get the message across that the artists are there to help stand-up for those who are getting walked all over. They are effective for what they are trying to get done.
As the CD begins to wind down the quality seems to go right with it. "Speak on It" is a spoken word track performed by Knowledge. It talks about the injustices in Armenia and genocide. It's a very poignant track, but not something I want to hear blasting through the speakers in the car as I drive down the road.
The next song on the album is a cover of the Bob Dylan song, "Chimes of Freedom." Listening to this song performed by Tom Morello, Serj Tankian, Pete Yorn, Flea and Brad Wilk, makes me happy that this is the second to last song on the CD. It's almost like as things wind down I am actually getting exhausted just having to listen to the tracks. I can't explain this feeling, it's almost like I'm trying so hard to find something I enjoy here that listening to music is turned into work.
Finally, and I do mean finally, the CD ends with "Jeffrey Are you Listening?" This is an interesting song, mixing spoken word and yelling with an almost beatnik-like background music.
Does the "Axis of Justice" work for a good cause? I'm sure they do. Do you want to buy this CD to support them? Don't. Instead, visit their website and donate money directly to their cause, that way you won't have to go through the experience of listening to the CD.