What does it sound like?:
Come with me back in time, almost forty years in fact, to the advent of the NWOBHM era. May of 1979 saw the release of the début album by a promising young band hailing from South Yorkshire, formerly known as Son Of A Bitch, now rechristened Saxon. This album, although showcasing a band still in their infancy, gave a taste of things to come. A combination of hard rock, glam and even prog, all thrown into the melting pot, to put the band firmly on the map. Sure it’s a bit rough and ready at times, but the prototype of their sound was already in evidence on tracks like Stallions of the Highway and Big Teaser. The bonus material has some original demos from their SoB incarnation, together with BBC sessions and a live cut from 1980.
The following year’s sequel, Wheels Of Steel, was the one that really broke them into the big time, and with songs such as the title track and the fantastic 747 (Strangers In The Night) you can hear why. 747 even made the singles chart, resulting in an appearance on TOTP. The other tracks have rather been neglected in comparison to those two biggies, but overall the band are tighter, the vocals are spot on and the twin guitar attack is in absolutely blistering form. Again, there’s a healthy collection of bonus material, albeit available on previous reissues, including more demos and live stuff from 1980’s Monsters of Rock.
Unbelievably, a mere six months passed before the band released their third album, their second of 1980, a work rate that wouldn’t even be contemplated today. By now, the band had really hit their stride and seemed unstoppable. The opener, Heavy Metal Thunder, shows that this album is every bit the equal of its predecessor, a fact also borne out by the classic title track and the epic Dallas 1pm. More BBC sessions, this time from 1982, plus a handful of alternate mixes, complete the package.
All three of these albums are superbly packaged and presented in heavy duty cd sized ‘mediabooks’, containing lyrics and numerous rare photographs, although it would have been nice to maybe have had lengthier sleeve notes about the background to, and making of, these albums. Nevertheless, these are wonderful items and the music still cuts the mustard without a doubt.
What does it all *mean*?
It looked liked the band were on the same route to global success as Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, but they never quite managed to recapture the glory of this trio of early albums. Certainly the follow up, 1981’s Denim and Leather, was excellent, as was the subsequent live album The Eagle Has Landed, and I hope those albums will also get a reissue in this format in due course. After that though, with the world seemingly at their feet, things just seemed to slip away with the inevitable fall outs between members. They were never this good again, and sadly it was a case of so near and yet so far.
Goes well with…
Rocking out, remembering the golden days of the late seventies and early eighties.
Might suit people who like…