Saxon – Saxon (Review)

Saxon - Saxon (1979)
Saxon – Saxon (1979)

You can’t go wrong picking up albums that have sword-waving maniacs on the cover (especially one that looks a wee bit like Slade’s Don Powell) and that rule holds true for Saxon’s 1979 debut. Although it’s slightly too patchy and derivative to merit the full-on game-changer status of Black Sabbath, Van Halen and Venom’s (yes, Venom’s) first albums it’s still an intriguing first attempt with strong hints of the band’s promise and ability.

Yorkshire’s Saxon formed out of two bands, Coast and S.O.B. (with former Glitter Band drummer Pete Gill thrown in for good measure) and seemingly hadn’t quite reconciled the directions of the two previous bands into a seamless whole. Saxon is bookended with excellent prog-flavoured epics (the astounding, glacial Frozen Rainbow and the bugle-call of Militia Guard) but a couple of songs veer into so-so brickie glam along the lines of The Sweet. Of these Big Teaser has an enjoyably snotty vocal performance from Biff Byford but reeks disappointingly of pubs after the fantasy splendour of the opening track. Three tracks bode best for the band’s future. Judgement Day and Backs to the Wall have raging vocals from Biff and the mix of muscle and melody is starting to sound like the real Saxon. Biker classic Stallions of the Highway is the genuine album highlight. Featuring revved-up, gear-shifting guitars from the under-rated Paul Quinn/Graham Oliver axe duo and bolstered with Steve Dawson and Pete Gill’s pumping rhythm section it lays down the template for the band’s future direction.

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Saxon would iron out their sound and identity along the lines of Stallions of the Highway. Their next two albums would have a huge impact, resulting in their first effort being largely overlooked. But despite falling short of being a truly classic debut, Saxon has a rich variety and innocent charm that rewards repeated listens. A genuine meeting point of 70s and 80s Metal styles. It isn’t the best or the most representative album Saxon put out but it’s one I return to a lot and a bold opening move in Saxon’s 35+ year campaign.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

[Saxon – Stallions of the Highway]

SaxDon?
SaxDon?
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47 thoughts on “Saxon – Saxon (Review)”

      1. You know how it goes, you had the genuinely androgynous glam stars like Bowie and T-Rex and then you had Slade and The Sweet. Different kind of thing. I call it Brickie Glam cause they all look like bricklayers in drag.

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      2. haha the LC is a happy place. Their wares lead to drunk reviews.

        But as I posted not long back, I can no longer get Airmiles towards my free CDs. I’m saving up for a camera lens now.

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      3. I’d be all for that. I’d be so into that words wouldn’t even describe it. They make a MINT, their oodles of dollars would be AWESOME! You hear that, LCBO? I’m a super-slut for all of your piles of sponsorship money. Get me ripped and watch me WRITE!!

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      4. Actually truth to tell, I haven’t had more than a couple of drinks in a night in weeks. Probably the Big Rude Jake show was the most, and that was spread out over four hours.

        But SHHHHH!! Don’t tell the LCBO! I wants their monieeeees, the precioussssss!!

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      5. Well then I won’t spoil your illusions with the truth.

        Wait… I think I just did… dammit.

        Honestly, I joke but I can’t do more than two glasses of wine these days. We usually do Friday night (end of the week) and I often fall asleep before the end of the second glass. I’m a real hot date!

        So… one of these nights I’ll do another Drunk Review, but there’ll need to be a specific set of circumstances: 1) Saturday night is best, 2) a good night’s sleep on both Thursday and Friday nights in preparation, 3) nowhere to be on the Sunday, 4) the willingness of my lovely wife to tolerate my idiot ass (which is pretty much daily anyway) sleeping in on the Sunday. I think we can make this happen. The stars will align!

        Now taking requests for my next Drunk Review.

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      6. Yeah, at this stage in our lives, the stars pretty much have to align…

        First, I am old. So if I’m really gonna tie one on, I need to rest up in advance, otherwise the drink would just put me to sleep.

        Second, being the only one here all day, I am de facto responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the entire house. It’s not expected, but I do it anyway. Cleaning, cooking, reconstruction after the kid hurricanes, any DIY home repair projects, all the stuff we’ve been meaning to do but haven’t yet… Not to mention I have a 3-yr-old underfoot the entire time. So, at the end of a day, I’m pretty tired. At the end of a week, more so.

        Third, I have to consider the kids and my lovely wife. Daddy passed out until 11am isn’t going to help a 5 and 3 year old when they get up anytime after 06:00 on their own! And my lovely wife has to know she’s getting up early with them if I’m going off the night before. And she does that 2-hour commute every day all week, and her job is fairly stressful in between, so she likes to sleep on weekends too.

        I make it sound like I’m getting all the ducks in a row so I can go on a three day bender. What I really mean is anything more than two glasses of wine, in an evening.

        For all that, one would wonder why it’s worth it, and it’s true! I do think that. Besides, looking back, often times my drunk reviews are more coherent and insightful than all these sober ones. Still, I am a dutiful soldier, and I like to have a glass now and again, so we’ll see! We’re over to friends’ Saturday night and there’ll be wine there for sure – they’re in a bad patch big-time and need companionship – so when we get home and put the kids to bed, who knows? Maybe I’ll keep going!

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      1. I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting here but once you start you will want this one. There’s a good 3CD comp that’s pretty cheap. Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law are solid albums to start with too.

        There’s been quite a few of those multiple album sets with Saxon now so you could get a good chunk of their back cat quite cheaply. You might miss out on the bonus tracks that the standalone copies have though.

        I’ve stuck a song up if you want a listen and I may be doing more Saxon reviews soon. Toying with doing a series!

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      2. I was hoping you would say this is a series to come!

        I think I’d like one comprehensive compilation to start, and then pick away at the remastered back catalogue. I find that to be an enjoyable way to get into bands.

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      3. Actually, I’m reading some people saying the tracks on it aren’t as listed so maybe proceed with caution on that one! I’ve never owned it, just thought it looked comprehensive. Apparently looks can be decieving!

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  1. SAXON! I think I have a tape of one of their albums here. I haven’t dug into my cassette bin in a while, I oughta!

    I think I’m with Mike on this one – comp first, then albums. But I know what you’re saying about the slippery slope. So Id have to proceed with caution. Or no caution at all, that’s always fun. Mileage may very.

    Series! SERIES!! SEEEEERRRRIIIIEEEEEESSS!!!!!

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    1. I think you had Denim & Leather? A fine album (Maybe I’ll get to it soon!)

      I’m sure we’ve all talked about this before but I tend not to bother with comps much myself. I try to just pick a decent album to start off with. I’ve probably got into more bands via live albums that via comps.

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  2. My intro to Saxon was Eagle Has Landed in 1982 or so! That was a pretty good live album for there I went into Power And Glory,Crusader and TBone bought Innocence Is No Excuse and I kinda excused myself from the Saxon roundtable so to speak but hey good overhaul Scot on this one. Keep em coming!

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    1. Eagle Has Landed was my intro too. Been listening to Innocence Is No Excuse a lot recently. I’m going to have fun going through all these. Even their worst albums have some brilliant tracks. “Saxon Roundtable” is great. Might have to use that…

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      1. Its a cliche but the trio of the 2nd-4th albums are my favourites. The debut is a bit like Rocka Rolla, where I like it and its a good record, but the next stuff is better.

        Also like Rocka Rolla, the Progginess. (And even songs about Winter/Frozen).

        The b-side is pretty much top notch Saxon, any of that is as good as anything off Power And The Glory or Crusader (save for each’s title track, which are both awesome).

        I’ve got tickets to see these guys in December, I’m well excited. As soon as I have money, I’m definitely exploring the new albums like Labyrinth and Lionheart 🙂

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      2. Yeah I agree the next batch are better. There are great albums later on too. I love Innocence is No Excuse, Dogs of War and the recent batch are all brilliant. I’m hoping I might discover some new faves working through all the albums though.

        The Rocka Rolla comparison is spot on! I think this is a better album though. Weirdly, this is probably my most listened to Saxon album even though I wouldn’t say it’s their best. I think I just like the variety.

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    1. Interesting! They’re one of those bands it seems. Everyone has different favourites. I’m not that familiar with that period. I really love Dogs of War so I’m looking forward to hearing the albums that came after.

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