SAMSON – The Polydor Years (3 CD box via Caroline / Universal)

SAMSON – The Polydor Years (3 CD box via Caroline / Universal)

Guitarist and vocalist Paul Samson, who sadly died in 2002, was a renowned metal guitarist with a strong blues leaning, whose band were an instrumental part of the NWoBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal). This set compiles Samson’s 4th and 5th albums, both released on Polydor, with a plethora or bonus cuts. With much of this set never officially released on CD before at all, it’s welcome as they are some of the best of the albums of the genre and often overlooked.

Originally Paul had replaced Irish guitar legend Bernie Torme in Scrapyard (with bassist John McCoy), the band’s name fluctuated between McCoy and Samson. Samson’s first two singles, featuring bassist Chris Aylmer and drummer Clive Burr (who later found fame in Iron Maiden), were ‘Mr Rock’n’Roll’ and ‘Telephone’. Both released in 1978, they are considered the first releases of the genre.

Later featuring drummer Thunderstick (1979’s ‘Survivors’, with guest John McCoy who was already familiar with the material) and then adding vocalist Bruce ‘Bruce’ Dickinson, Samson released Head On and Shock Tactics in 1980 and 1981, with as much acclaim as they had bad luck with labels and management. Which was a lot. With Mel Gaynor taking the drum stool for the 1981 Reading Festival, one of the Bruce Air Raid Siren Dickinson’s last shows with Samson before he joined Iron Maiden, Samson strove on.

Which brings us to this set. Things didn’t work out with Mel Gaynor (who went on to find fame with Simple Minds), the new line-up settled with drummer Pete Jupp (later of FM fame) and former Tiger / Hackensack vocalist Nicky Moore. And in Nicky Moore they had something really special.

Signing to Polydor, the band cemented a new direction, but sadly Polydor didn’t really know how to market them. The gimmick (Thunderstick, whose gimp mask and cage overshadowed his fantastic drumming) was gone, and Moore was less than photogenic.

There had always been blues undertones to Samson’s music, Paul a big fan (and collector) of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top, but with Bruce you had the obvious metal edge. Moore’s vocals had much more solid bluesier feel and it shows in the music here. 1982’s Before The Storm features a lot of wonderful tracks that mix blues / hard rock and NWoBHM in equal measure. ‘Danger Zone’, ‘Test Of Time’ and ‘Turn Out The Lights’ are all anthemic rockers, and ‘Life On The Run’ will stick in the mind. Paul’s guitar stands out with both riffs and solos; the clarity of the music and definition separation of the channels on this remaster really do the album justice.

1984’s Don’t Get Mad Get Even is, to my ears, an even better album, with the rhythmic driving title track one of the best bluesy hard rock tracks ever. Moore’s vocals are powerful and passionate and Samson’s guitar has a real edge. ‘Are You Ready’ is a real rocking opener and was used by Tommy Vance on Radio 1’s Friday Rock Show back in the day. ‘Doctor Ice’ is another stand out and ‘Into The Valley’ is highly memorable. The change in producer helped steady and beef up the band too.

Again, the album shows two key points in rock music history; one is just how underrated Paul Samson is (and Samson the band were too), but also just how good Nicky Moore was and still is as a vocalist. The Voice Of Rock? Well, on this evidence it sure ain’t Glenn Hughes.

https://youtu.be/efFAkBGwfug

Some of the Before The Storm tracks were originally written during an earlier incarnation of the band and some of those versions, along with remixes, live and single versions (collectors will know of a promo only single or two) and b-sides. Look out for the new version of the Russ Ballard song ‘Riding With The Angels’, a track originally a hit when taken from Shock Tactics featuring Bruce Dickinson. The bonus tracks (spread between the two albums and a third disc) also include some BBC sessions.

With Before The Storm only issued (briefly) on CD in the US, and Don’t Get Mad Get Even never before (officially), this is long overdue.

The excellent packaging (nice quotes in the sleevenotes / booklet) and remastering too add to a box set really well worth investigating. Essential. 10/10

Joe Geesin

SAMSON

Nicky Moore – vocals

Paul Samson – guitar

Chris Aylmer – bass guitar

Pete Jupp – drums

Jo Julian – production, keyboards on Before The Storm

Pip Williams – production on Don’t Get Mad Get Even

 

Disc: 1

1. Dangerzone

2. Stealing Away

3. Red Skies

4. I’ll Be Round

5. Test Of Time

6. Life On The Run

7. Turn Out The Lights

8. Losing My Grip

9. Young Idea

10. Red Skies – Single Edit

11. Young Idea – Single Edit

 

Disc: 2

1. Are You Ready

2. Love Hungry

3. Burning Up

4. The Fight Goes On

5. Don’t Get Mad Get Even

6. Into The Valley

7. Bite On The Bullet

8. Doctor Ice

9. Front Page News

10. Leaving Love (Behind)

11. Doctor Ice (Friday Rock Show Session)

12. Love Hungry (Friday Rock Show Session)

13. Are You Ready (Friday Rock Show Session)

14. Don’t Get Mad Get Even (Friday Rock Show Session)

 

Disc: 3

1. Losing My Grip – Thunderstick Version

2. Pyramid To The Stars – Thunderstick Version

3. Mr. Rock N Roll – Live

4. Tomorrow Or Yesterday – Live

5. Drivin With ZZ! – B

6. Walking Out On You – Live

7. Bright Lights – Live

8. Living Loving Lying – B

9. Running Out Of Time – B

10. Front Page News – Different Version

11. La Grange – B

12. Riding With The Angels – New Version

13. Fight Goes On – Long Version

14. Vice Versa – Live

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SAMSON – The Polydor Years (3 CD box via Caroline / Universal)