Saxon We’re always a fixture of the Hard Rock magazines when I was a kid and went to see them when they rolled through South Wales and always remember going home thoroughly entertained particularly from Biff Byford and his banter as much as his vocal dynamics on their classic catalogue of songs. Fast forward many years and apart from the odd crossed paths at festivals Saxons popularity ebbed and flowed and in recent years people seem to have given them the respect they deserved and that’s due in no small part to frontman and Bard of Barnsley Mr Biff Byford.
I’ll admit its been quite some time since I played a Saxon record but always read interviews and had a lot of kudos for Biff and when I heard he was set to release a solo album I was intrigued and sought out the press kit in order to catch up with the legend and see if he was going to take this somewhere he could ever take his band Saxon and if so would he stand or fall in what is a super competitive market and with music being the forum it is today it’s easy to get lost in a sea of streams and downloads so I opened the Email quite excited as to what was going to greet me in the ‘School Of Hard Knocks’.
The first thing I noticed was the pipes that have been the silver-haired frontman’s trademark are still impressive and intact even at the tender age of 69. The album tackles topics such as the county that Biff has always championed – Yorkshire. Biff sings from the heart and bears his soul throughout the record and even has time to throw in a cover of ‘Scarborough Fair’ where he excels in his display of power and I come out from behind the sofa and without a hint of irony or sarcasm he did himself proud. There is also time later on the record for a cover of Wishbone Ash ‘Throw Down The Sword’. Of course, there is room for guest appearances to be fair that’s the point of a solo album anyway, isn’t it? Indulge yourself, be the boss and take the record in any direction you choose. This record isn’t short of names with guest appearances by Phil Campbell (Motörhead/Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons), Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire and Turilli / Lione Rhapsody), Nick Barker (Voices), Dave Kemp (Wayward Sons) and Nibbs Carter (Saxon) all present and correct.
worry not there isn’t any cod reggae or disco going on and at times its all hard rockin’ stuff but when he does stray it provides the record with its highlights such as the Wishbone Ash cover and the acoustic song from the heart ‘Me And You’. The albums title track is the only time he comes anywhere near what Saxon is famed for but then he is telling his story so I guess its only fitting there should be one of those Saxon like riffs and to be fair it’s one of the best songs on offer.
There are some long songs that are a journey in themselves like ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’ and the Wishbone Ash cover but you also get spoken-word interlude ‘Inquisitor’ that just showing off guitar noodling and if its possible I’m sure I heard Biff grinning. So all in all an album that will please fans of Biff will have people tipping their hat in respect to his service and dedication and I have some tracks I will take with me more than others but I always love hearing his voice be it on a ballad or rockin out screaming his lungs out Biff Byford has earned his stripes and stab at a successful solo album and if anyone has a bad word to say about Sir Biff of Byford send em to me I’ll sort em out.
Biff has certainly been through the School of hard knocks and has one of the genre of Rocks’ most distinguishable vocals and sang some of the best most enduring and endearing songs he wanted to tell his story and does it well. Without a hint of smugness or over-inflated egos like a lot of his contemporaries, Biff has always remained true to himself and been as honest as the day is long. He has always come across as a man well-grounded and proud of who and where he came from and now he’s been able to release a record and sing about his extraordinary life from his heart and by bearing his soul he gets the thumbs up from me. Arise, Sir Biff of Byford a true hard rockin’ legend.
Buy ‘School Of Hard Knocks’ Here
Author: Dom Daley
On February 21st 2020, legendary Saxon frontman Biff Byford will step into the spotlight with his first ever solo album, School Of Hard Knocks. The album will be supported with an 10-date UK Tour in April which features 2 halves – Biff in conversation with American comedian Don Jamieson about his life and career, followed by live performance featuring a selection of new material, covers and a sprinkling of Saxon.
With his roots firmly in The North of England, Biff has earned the right to be considered The Heavy Metal Bard Of The North and his debut album reflects the man and his personality, his loves and his musical versatility.
School Of Hard Knocks fulfils Biff Byford’s long-standing wish to explore rock ‘n’ roll a little more. The album is a personal journey highlighting his life and his passionate interests, from the history of the Middle Ages to growing up in the industrial North. A classic, masterfully constructed old-school British hard rock album, School Of Hard Knocks embraces a variety of musical genres and includes the Yorkshire folk classic Scarborough Fair, famously covered by Simon and Garfunkel. Byford and Fredrik Åkesson’s arrangement breathes new life into the legendary song.
Watch the previously released videos for “Welcome to the Show” and “School Of Hard Knocks” HERE.
School Of Hard Knocks features Biff Byford on vocals (and a spot of four string thunder) along with Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth) on guitars, drummer Christian Lundqvist and bass player Gus Macricostas. The album also features guest appearances by Phil Campbell (Motörhead/Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons), Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire and Turilli / Lione Rhapsody), Nick Barker (Voices), Dave Kemp (Wayward Sons) and Nibbs Carter (Saxon). The album was produced by Biff Byford, recorded by Jacky Lehmann at Brighton Electric Studios in Brighton (UK) and mixed at Queen Street Studios in Stockholm (Sweden) by Mats Valentin.
School Of Hard Knocks UK Tour
Byford recently announced his first ever solo tour dates. The tour begins in the UK in April and continues to Europe in May.
The show, in the form of ‘An evening with…’, will be split into two halves. The first features Biff in conversation with Don Jamieson (American comedian and star of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show) on all aspects of his life and career. After the break Biff and his band will play some new songs, covers and, maybe, a Saxon song or two.
Biff says: “It’s a show I’ve wanted to do for a long time and one which I don’t think has been done in hard rock before. It’ll be something different and a lot of fun.”
Saxon announce a new date for Scottish fans to see the band following the cancellation of the Glasgow Braehead Arena show on October 18th 2019 due to Lead Singer Biff Byford’s recent heart operation.
The new date is Friday March 27th 2020 and the venue is Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom.
Due to venue restrictions this show will not be a “Castles & Eagles” production as previously advertised.
Biff Byford “I am very sorry that we couldn’t reschedule the previously announced show at Braehead Arena with the full production we had planned, but after a couple of weeks of trying to get availability at Braehead Arena and other Scottish venues that could house the production we had drawn a blank. We decided we had to play a show for all our fans in Scotland and Barrowland’s stepped up with clearing the date we needed. Unfortunately due to Barrowland’s size restrictions we cannot put the Castles & Eagles production in and hope you all understand, but we will try to make this as special a show for you as possible”
Special guests on this show will be Girlschool.
Tickets purchased* for the Braehead Arena show will remain valid with a refund available for the price difference.
Additional tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk
*pending on outlet used to purchase Braehead Arena tickets, will determine whether new tickets are valid for the Barrowlands date. If any tickets are not valid for exchange (and refund of price difference) then a refund of original ticket price is available so you can purchase a new Barrowland Ballroom ticket. Your ticket agent will confirm.
Rescheduled October 2019 shows are now as follows:
March 7th– Germany, Dusseldorf – Mitsubishi Electric Halle
March 27th– UK, Glasgow – Barrowland Ballroom
March 28th– UK, London – Eventim Apollo
March 29th– UK, Manchester – O2 Apollo
All existing tickets will remain valid for new dates and in the case of a required refund please visit point of purchase.
It is with regret that we have to announce the rescheduling of the remaining SAXON shows in 2019. Lead Vocalist Biff Byford has been diagnosed with a heart condition that requires immediate surgery and a post op recovery period that will last into the new year.
The shows affected are as follows:
September 26thSweden, Stockholm – Grona Lund
October 5th– The Netherlands, Eindhoven – Oktober Metal Fest
October 18th– UK, Glasgow – Braehead Arena
October 19th– UK, London – Eventim Apollo
October 20th– UK, Manchester – O2 Apollo
October 26th– Germany, Dusseldorf – Mitsubishi Electric Halle
December 1st– Mexico, Mexico City – Forcefest
December 6th– Colombia, Bogota – Knot Fest
The UK, London Eventim Apollo show has been rescheduled for Saturday March 28th2020
And UK, Manchester O2 Apollo for Sunday March 29th2020
The UK, Glasgow Braehead Arena & Germany, Dusseldorf Mitsubishi Electric Halle shows will be rescheduled and new dates announced as soon as possible.
All existing tickets will remain valid for new dates and in the case of a required refund