Saxon – Solid Book Of Rock (11CD + 3DVD out 4 August 2017 via Edsel / Demon Music Group

Saxon – Solid Book Of Rock (11CD + 3DVD out 4 August 2017 via Edsel / Demon Music Group

And what a wonderful package we have here.  Formed in the late 70s in Barnsley, Yorkshire, heavy metal band Saxon were originally part of the New Wave of Heavy Metal and have been consistently producing some of Britain’s finest rock’n’roll since 1979.

During the 80s Saxon had many a hit with the likes of Wheels Of Steel and Princess Of The Night (both still live staples), and classic albums like Denim & Leather, Strong Arm Of The Law, Crusader and Innocence Is No Excuse (although the latter is oft considered a little polished, it is a personal favourite). And after a late 80s nadir, things picked up in 1991 and that’s where the Demon catalogue talks off.

Demon have been nicely working wonders with the 1991 to 2009 catalogue, from the resurgent rock’n’roll of Solid Ball Of Rock (from which this box takes its name) to the blistering metal of 2009’s Into The Labyrinth. Some power and progressive metal along the way, and we have already had a studio albums vinyl box set and a wonderful 8LP live box set. Now THAT’s rock’n’roll.

This set embraces the studio albums, including the Classics Re-Recorded set, and includes the bonus tracks of the original reissues as well as the bonus discs of the limited original releases, which includes the 3 DVDs here.

While every band, without exception, have fans who bleat on about the early years, and band like UFO and Motorhead play to that, Saxon have always varied their set lists to include material from across the catalogue and this set proves just how strong Saxon have been throughout their career and the title track of the first album here remains a firm live favourite.

After a tempestuous couple of years (founder bassist Steve Dawson had left after the excellent Innocence Is No Excuse, Elton John guested on Rock The Nations, an album that saw singer Biff Byford play bass, and Destiny was a failed attempt at hair metal), Saxon signed with Virgin Germany and kicked off the 90s with Solid Ball Of Rock. It was a return to rock’n’roll, and the title track was co-written by Bram Tchaikovsky, a guitarist who found fame in The Motors. It was also the first studio album featuring bassist Tim Nibbs Carter.

While Solid Ball Of Rock was a return to form and a consistent and excellent album, it was a start of Saxon becoming more popular in Europe and less so in the UK; a combination of changing trends and business, and nothing to do with the music.

Forever Free continued in a similar vein and featured an excellent cover of I Just Want To Make Love To You, and Iron Wheels was issued as a single.

1995’s Dogs Of War was guitarist and founder member Graham Oliver’s final album, and it was much heavier. As Biff Byford told me; “The heaviness was kinda intentional. There were all these European power metal bands writing about battle, swords, and I thought, “Hey, we’re Saxon, we did Crusader, let’s get back to that.” So we did with Dogs Of War, Killing Ground, and it worked. We’d gone too far down the rock’n’roll route; needed to get back to our roots, we’d lost our heaviness”.

With new (and current) guitarist Doug Scarratt now along-side Paul Quinn, Saxon released Unleash The Beast, which is one of my favourites. It was polished, heavy, blistering. Definitely the kind of power metal the Europeans lapped up, but they were playing clubs in the UK.

1999’s Metalhead was the start of the turn of fortunes, and is a wonderful if heavy set. Although drummer Nigel Glockler appears on the intro, he was replaced by Fritz Randow (Eloy). Conquistador is a standout track and worth every penny.

Killing Ground is just as good, and there’s a wonderful cover of King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King is included. Although the Japanese bonus track is not included, the bonus disc of Classics Rerecorded is.

It would be a couple of years until Saxon were more confident though; when I asked Biff about the one track they played live (the Crimson cover), compared with 5 off new albums a few years later, he replied “Back then we relied more on the older tracks, we were insecure. That’s changed now, we’re more confident in writing great tracks. We’re all the same: us, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead; you’ve got to stop trying to compete with yourselves, and go with the merit of what you’re currently doing”.

2004’s Lionheart, again with Jorg Michael on drums, is one of the best albums of the career. Jack Tars and Witchfinder General are regularly played live. And the rough mix of the album originally on the bonus DVD is put onto CD here too.

Inner Sanctum, with a returning Nigel Glockler, saw Saxon join the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in adding a touch of progressive metal to the rock’n’roll. In fact, from this stage on, Saxon would mix power metal, rock’n’roll, prog (which is what they were playing in their pre Son Of A Bitch days) and their NWoBHM tinged roots. And by now Saxon were full strength and playing a big a gig in the UK as they were in Europe.

2009’s Into The Labyrinth continued the progression and Saxon were having a genuine purple patch. Aside Live To Rock (also the title of a new compilation LP covering this period), there’s Battalions Of Steel (another live favourite) and the wonderful Valley Of The Kings.

While the bonuses of the original reissues are included, and it’s lovely having the extras of the original bonus DVDs, there are one or two minor omissions (a Japanese bonus, Heavy Metal Thunder), but this is pretty much spot on. The Mutts Nuts. It’s all about the complete original UK releases and the package is wonderful.

There are no excuses not to own all this now, Saxon are still going strong and this is some of the best metal you will ever find. Package and music delightful. 9/10

Joe Gee

SAXON

Biff Byford – vocals

Graham Oliver – guitar

Paul Quinn – guitar

Doug Scarratt – guitar

Nibbs Carter – bass

Nigel Glockler – drums

Fritz Randow – drums

Jörg Michael – drums

Various – additional keyboards.

Disc: 1

  1. Solid Ball Of Rock
  2. Altar Of The Gods
  3. Requiem (We Will Remember)
  4. Lights In the Sky
  5. I Just Can’t Get Enough
  6. Baptism Of Fire
  7. Ain’t Gonna Take It
  8. I’m On Fire
  9. Overture In B – Minor / Refugee
  10. Bavarian Beaver
  11. Crash Dive
  12. Requiem (We Will Remember) [single version]
  13. Reeperbahn Stomp

Disc: 2

  1. Forever Free
  2. Hole In The Sky
  3. Just Wanna Make Love To You
  4. Get Down And Dirty
  5. Iron Wheels
  6. One Step Away
  7. Can’t Stop Rockin’
  8. Nighthunter
  9. Grind
  10. Cloud Nine
  11. Princess Of The Night [live]
  12. Forever Free [live]

Disc: 3

  1. Dogs Of War
  2. Burning Wheels
  3. Don’t Worry
  4. Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home)
  5. Hold On
  6. The Great White Buffalo
  7. Demolition Alley
  8. Walking Through Tokyo
  9. Give It All Away
  10. Yesterday’s Gone
  11. The Great White Buffalo [live]
  12. Denim And Leather [live]

Disc: 4

  1. Gothic Dreams
  2. Unleash The Beast
  3. Terminal Velocity
  4. Circle Of Light
  5. The Thin Red Line
  6. Ministry Of Fools
  7. The Preacher
  8. Bloodletter
  9. Cut Out The Disease
  10. Absent Friends
  11. All Hell Breaking Loose
  12. Crusader [live]
  13. Solid Ball Of Rock [live]

Disc: 5

  1. Intro
  2. Metalhead
  3. Are We Travellers In Time
  4. Conquistador
  5. What Goes Around
  6. Song Of Evil
  7. All Guns Blazing
  8. Prisoner
  9. Piss Off
  10. Watching You
  11. Sea Of Life

Disc: 6

  1. Intro
  2. Killing Ground
  3. Court Of The Crimson King
  4. Coming Home
  5. Until Hell Freezes Over
  6. Dragon’s Lair
  7. You Don’t Know What You’ve Got
  8. Deeds Of Glory
  9. Running For The Border
  10. Shadows On The Wall
  11. Rock Is Our Life

Disc: 7

  1. Princess Of The Night
  2. Crusader
  3. Wheels Of Steel
  4. Motorcycle Man
  5. Strong Arm Of The Law
  6. Denim And Leather
  7. Dallas 1pm
  8. And The Bands Played On

Disc: 8

  1. Witchfinder General
  2. Man And Machine
  3. The Return
  4. Lionheart
  5. Beyond The Grave
  6. Justice
  7. To Live By The Sword
  8. Jack Tars
  9. English Man O’War
  10. Searching For Atlantis
  11. Flying On The Edge

Disc: 9

  1. Witchfinder General
  2. Man And Machine
  3. The Return
  4. Lionheart
  5. Beyond The Grave
  6. Justice
  7. To Live By The Sword
  8. Jack Tars
  9. English Man O’War
  10. Searching For Atlantis
  11. Flying On The Edge
  12. Beyond The Grave [single version]

Disc: 10

  1. State Of Grace
  2. Need For Speed
  3. Let Me Feel Your Power
  4. Red Star Falling
  5. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
  6. If I Was You
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. Ashes To Ashes
  9. Empire Rising
  10. Attila The Hun

Disc: 11

  1. Battalions Of Steel
  2. Live To Rock
  3. Demon Sweeney Todd
  4. The Letter
  5. Valley Of The Kings
  6. Slow Lane Blues
  7. Crime Of Passion
  8. Premonition In D Minor
  9. Voice
  10. Protect Yourselves
  11. Hellcat
  12. Come Rock Of Ages (The Circle Is Complete)
  13. Coming Home [bottleneck version]

Disc: 12

  1. Lionheart – making of
  2. Lionheart – live clip
  3. Beyond The Grave – promo video
  4. 5.1 96k high end sound mix of the album

Disc: 13

  1. To Hell And Back Again
  2. A Night Out With Boys – The Idea
  3. A Night Out With Boys – Not Really
  4. See The Light Shining
  5. A Night Out With Boys – Now It Started
  6. Redline
  7. Suzie Hold On
  8. Stand Up And Be Counted
  9. Frozen Rainbow
  10. Never Surrender

Disc: 14

  1. “Perceval”
  2. “Let There Be Light”
  3. Audio interview with Biff Byford
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Saxon – Solid Book Of Rock (11CD + 3DVD out 4 August 2017 via Edsel / Demon Music Group