Ah, the mighty Saxon. The band that turned me into a metal head back in 1986. Up until that point it was all about the top 40 and whatever was on Top of the Pops for me! A friend from school did me a mix tape and lent me his vinyl copy of the compilation ‘Strong Arm Metal’ and I was hooked. It was all about heavy metal for me from that pivotal moment. There was something about early Saxon that I connected with and I’ve (mostly) been a fan ever since. They have been through their ups and downs over the years and a few line up changes, but Saxon have had a resurgence over the last 10 years or so and have released some fantastic albums. 2013’s ‘Sacrifice’ and 2015’s ‘Battering Ram’ is up there with their best work, as is 2018’s ‘Thunderbolt’. Enlisting Andy Sneap (Sabbat/Judas Priest) as producer gave their sound a thunderous edge and pushed Saxon back into the big leagues of metal.
The band had been busier than ever in the live arena until the dreaded virus put paid to any dates that were scheduled. What do you do when you have lots of free time on your hands? Put out an album of covers from the bands and artists that have influenced you of course! That’s exactly what Saxon have done here with some fantastic results. It’s a celebration of the music that makes Saxon the band they are. They have gone down the old school route to record the album at Brockfield House near York, using real drums, and lots of Marshall amps! Frontman Biff Byford along with Jacky Lehmann have produced the album and it benefits from a great mix.
The band have dabbled with covers in the past with a great version of The Sweet’s ‘Set Me Free’ on 1984s ‘Crusader’ album and this foray into the bands influences throws up some tracks I would never have dreamed of a band like Saxon covering. The albums kicks off with a crunchy version of The Rolling Stones ‘Paint it Black’, this was the first release from Inspirations and there’s a cool behind the scenes video to accompany it. Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ is up next and Biff shows his vocal prowess here (yes, he handles the high notes in his own inimitable style), the bands groove is relentless behind him, this is a great version. The next track is one of the songs that shouldn’t work but it does somehow! The Beatles ‘Paperback Writer’ sounds great with heavier guitars and the vocal harmonies really work well.
We get back on more familiar ground with Black Sabbath’s ‘Evil Woman’, a real showcase for Tim ‘Nibbs’ Carter who is undoubtedly one of metals most underrated bass players. Next up we have a version of Jimi Hendrix’s classic anthem ‘Stone Free’, the band sound like they are having a blast with this one, you can feel the energy. I don’t think Saxon fans would be very happy if there wasn’t a Motorhead cover on here, of course they deliver with a brilliant version of ‘Bomber’ with drummer Nigel Glockler in full double bass monster mode. A great tribute to their old friends.
A frenetic take on Deep Purple’s ‘Speed King’ again highlights the vocal range of Biff Byford, he screams like a man possessed here and guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt play an absolute blinder with some serious shredding. A lesser know Thin Lizzy track gets the Saxon treatment, ‘The Rocker’ is a welcome addition instead of the usual Lizzy covers. Byford surprises again here with his range and really carries the song. A true to the original version of ‘Hold the Line’ by Toto grooves along nicely with Glockler showing he can handle the famous ‘Porcaro Shuffle’ with ease. (Google it kids). AC/DC’s ‘Problem Child’ doesn’t have the raw energy of the original, but it’s a solid effort all the same with Biff doing his best Bon impression. To close the album, we have a version of The Kinks ‘See My Friends’ which is probably the only track that doesn’t transition very well over to the metal titans even though it does chunk up towards the end.
Saxon have done a great job here and the main thing is to remember that it’s a bit of fun to try and lighten up these darkest of days that we have all been experiencing over the last year. Don’t take it too seriously, Saxon certainly haven’t. Crank it up with a beer in hand and sing along, you know the words!
Buy Inspirations Here
Author: Kenny Kendrick