Album & Single Reviews

Published on August 13th, 2017 | by Mike Ainscoe


SAXON: The Solid Book Of Rock – album review




By gum – we know how much the good folk of Yorkshire, s indeed all of us,  like value for money. Even the most tight fisted miser can’t fail to be impressed at the just over sixty notes tag price, even more so if you were quick off the mark and bagged one of the limited editions with a Biff Byford signature. For your hard earned, Saxon cough up  more good old British heavy metal than you can manage in one helping. 11 CDs plus 3 DVDs housed in an impressive looking  huge 12”x12” book package. The 9 studio albums from 1991-2009 include a load of bonus tracks and a disc of re-recorded classics and a studio rough mix, and although we didn’t have the DVDs or the full package to review,  that might  be pushing the ‘review copy’ request a tad.

Even so, highly recommended by the man himself, Biff Byford heralding the release with “It’s worth getting just for the art work. A great piece of Saxon history and don’t forget I get to play King Arthur. I didn’t get the Oscar that year or anything else for that matter…”

Saxon emerged in the late seventies  from the heavy metal lukewarm spot that is Barnsley with a typically Yorkshire vein of self belief coursing through their veins. Running on wheels of the nearby steel industry indeed. Already established on the scene, the set might seem slightly lesser than their classic NWOBHM early days when they set their stall out and some solid eighties roots with ‘Wheels Of Steel’ and ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ which competed with the best of their peers.

Bravely omitting a full career retrospective by omitting the impressive bookends of their lengthy career, ‘The Solid Book…’ pulls no punches in failing to deliver the eighteen bulk warts and all.  And forty years on (reminds me of an old school song) they’re arguably as strong as ever, if not quite as strong as the arm of the law.

The journey from a defiant not dead yet up to a resurgence that’s led them to the mantle of standing amongst the British metal godfathers kicks  off with 1991’s ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’ might not the best starting point, the tongue in cheek ‘Bavarian Beaver’. That aside, what’s certainly to appreciate is that how, following a period of uncertainty when many bands might have dropped off the radar completely, Saxon remained resolutely faithful to what they did best and pulled through to become a British metal stalwart.

Of course, Saxon suffered their less convincing moments. One distinct memory recalls some of Biff’s spandex/bullet belt fashion statements but Saxon generally bucked against any trends – emerging at a time when punk was in full flight and by passing grunge and the direction that some eighties metal took (particularly fashion wise). The nod to the landmarks of the early days comes with the ‘Classics Re-recorded’ set (although not sure where and when) – a nice chance to revisit contemporary takes on classic songs from the otherwise omitted eighties period. The bonus of the ‘Lionheart – Studio rough mix’ might to these ears not be massively dissimilar to the released album, although dedicated Saxonites will love the chance to dissect and see the one before the final product. There’s also a case for elevation of the title track into the exclusive library of Saxon classics.

2007’s ‘The Inner Sanctum’ (which comes with one of the bonus DVDs – ‘A Night Out With The Boys’) and the follow up ‘Into The Labyrinth’ saw the band earning the plaudits again. The acoustic bottle neck version of ‘Coming Home’ from 2001’s ‘Killing Ground’ (that also first housed the ‘Classic Re-recorded) although generally available without searching too hard, is a direction that some fans would have seen explored further.

As far as box sets go, this is a pretty impressive one. For the reasonably casuals, a bargain to be honest and for the die hards, I’m guessing that the lure of the package would be enough to warrant a satisfying Yorkshire nod of approval.

Trailer here:

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About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.

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