Saxon bring ALL the rock on this new monster box set
I was born and raised just down the road from the town where Saxon was birthed back in 1976 (originally called Son Of A Bitch). Thankfully, I’m not as old as they are and both the band and I have left Barnsley way behind. But if I’m as full of life and as consistent as Saxon are at 40, then I’ll be happy as a rock-hard clam shell.
Apparently one of the more under-appreciated bands of the British wave of heavy metal in the ’80s, want you to forget box-sets when it comes to proper rock; Saxon are giving you the book set…
The Solid Book of Rock comprises of 14 Discs altogether – not only all 9 of Saxons studio albums from 1991 to 2009 BUT eight bonus tracks AND two bonus CDs, Classics Re-Recorded originally issued with the initial pressings of Killing Ground, and the ‘Lionheart’ rough studio mix single originally issued on the 2006 limited edition version of the album of the same name. And if that wasn’t enough for ye of pure metal heart, it also contains three bonus DVDs; the limited-edition DVDs originally released with Lionheart, The Inner Sanctum and Into The Labyrinth. Looks like someone is either treating theirs fans to something big or they are overcompensating and celebrating Saxon’s 40th in style with a massive mid-life crisis of a box set. Because this really is the Porsche of box sets…
So the big question on a lot of your lipstick smeared chops is ‘Is it worth getting as a casual listener as well as a big fan?” My answer would be yes on this one. Case (or book) in point:
All that music comes packaged in a rather sumptuous 24 page 12x12 booklet with all the lyrics and credits, plus photos with a fabulous brand-new cover painting by Paul R. Gregory.
“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…” says lead-singer Biff. He would say that naturally but he’s got a solid point, almost as solid as the set itself.
You can pick up an exclusive limited-edition containing a print signed by the one and only legend-of-rock, Barnsley’s finest, Biff Byford as well as a standard edition – however there’s nothing standard about a 14 disc box set, let alone one by such rock royalty.
But what of the music?
The faithful will know of the quality on show here. Arguably, Saxon have got better with age, despite a run of three legendary albums between 1980-81 (Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law and Denim and Leather) and as previously mentioned they are one of the more consistent big heavy metal bands of the last few decades, rarely deviating from their diamond-thick template of chunky, screechy rock even in their latter years. 1991’s Solid Ball of Rock is a surprisingly lacklustre place to start and was far from one of the band’s highlights. Yet having been unceremoniously, and many would argue unjustifiably, dropped by EMI in the late ’80s, they needed a comeback and a refresher. As such they got the latter, finally realising they wouldn’t be able to compete with the slick, beautiful LA-based cock rock and instead redesigned themselves as the ugly, ol’ rockers that they so triumphantly are. As it turns out, looking at the fate of the pretty boys with the peroxide hair upon grunge’s arrival, this was the right decision and they carried on strong throughout the nineties, including some glorious editions to the library of rock including the essential Dogs of War.
For the early part of the new century, Saxon were the darlings of most of Europe. The booming power-metal scene still remained firmly rooted in the soil which made their new-found contemporaries, who could never quite match up, worship them. Whether you see this as a good thing or a bad thing is another matter, but there’s no doubting that they are masters of their craft. 2009’s Into the Labyrinth is a particularly good edition including such monsters as ‘Valley of the Kings’ and the anthemic ‘Live to Rock’, making this an album that should have given them considerably more prominence than it did. Saxon switched it up with Call to Arms from 2011 or back as the case may be. With a less bombastic sound, miraculously including Biff’s vocals so they ended up sounding like the Saxon of yore, songs like ‘Surviving Against the Odds’, ‘Chasing the Bullet’, and ‘Ballad of the Working Man’ being particular highlights. So for those who feel a little let down on not having the entire Saxon discography in one set, including those heady days of the ’80s, this may be some small solace.
All this and much, much more can be yours for a mere 62 of your mortal pounds, but the question remains; do you need this if you’re not a cast-iron fan? Aside from that stunning box, the photos and the excellent trio of live DVDs, there is much to explore from one of the less-appreciated heavy metal bands of our time or any other and there is a lot to take from this extensive set. Granted, it is not comprehensive enough to cover their entire career, but within The Book of Rock’s luscious exterior you’ll hear a band reborn, resurrected and finding their home in what they do best on the inside across 25 years. For that and for any rock fan’s money, this is some of the best value money can buy.
Note: All the exclusive limited edition box sets have now sold out.
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Saxon want to get booked up with you in this new monster 14 disc box (sorry, book) set...