Saxon came into the music scene in 1977. Saxon was part of the New Wave British Heavy Metal invasion. They inspired such groups as Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Pantera, Testament, Dokken, Skid Row, Dream Theater, Exodus, Overkill, King Diamond, and Celtic Frost. They never cracked the American billboard charts. Iron Maiden and Def Leppard were perhaps the two biggest bands to make it big from the same crop of bands that came out at the same time from England. We know Saxon inspired many groups but who inspired Saxon? Well, Saxon has answered that question by releasing a whole album of their favorite songs called Inspirations.
Most of the songs are true to the originals with a small twist to make them unique. I really enjoyed Saxon’s cover of Black Sabbath’s cover of “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with Me)” which in turn is also a cover of a song by Minneapolis-St. Paul-based band Crow, on their 1969 album Crow Music. Bomber from Motörhead is another powerful version. As much as I like Paint it Black, I found it a bit flat. Sorry guys I heard too many versions of that song by other bands. I love Immigrant Song but it is a song that gets way over-covered also. The rest of the album seems like the boys were really enjoying themselves. I really feel that they could have added a bit more balls to the album. The vocals too polished and sometimes a bit weak in my opinion. Inspirations is a solid rock album. I wish they covered other songs that were not covered by other Heavy Metal bands in the past. I do highly recommend you buy Inspirations, if not play it several times on Spotify. Saxon deserves it, they released great albums in the past.
“Inspirations” was recorded at Brockfield Hall near York in the UK, which was built in 1804 and holds the largest collection of paintings by Yorkshire’s impressionist artists – the Staithes Group. For Byford, recording Inspirations all together within such a rich historical environment was a major ingredient of the project. “The warmth and feel of Inspirations had so much to do with being together in this magnificent place and doing it ‘old-school’ style”, Byford explains. “This is how many bands back in the day -including some of the ones covered here – made such great albums, so it just felt really good to be able to do this somewhere like Brockfield Hall”. The results speak for themselves.
From the super-charged melodic romp of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to their freeway mad take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Stone Free”, Saxon shows their love and appreciation with a series of faithful, raw and ready tributes. Maintaining a firm eye on the old school way using Marshall cabs, Marshall amps, real drums and produced by Biff Byford with Jacky Lehmann recording and mixing, Saxon approach the likes of Motörhead’s “Bomber” (with an added whistle!), AC/DC’s “Problem Child”, Black Sabbath’s “Evil Woman” and a raucous Deep Purple’s “Speed King” with refreshingly warm, unfiltered, “vintage” sounding renditions.
“We wanted to do an album based on our influences, the songs and bands that inspired us to write what we did and still do”, continues Byford, “and it was also interesting to see what my voice could do as I haven’t sung many of these songs before”.
Byford does, indeed, take on some new vocal challenges, which he duly smashes on the likes of Thin Lizzy’s “The Rocker”. The net result is that whether cranking up a heavyweight take on Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” or throwing down AC/DC’s “Problem Child”, Saxon does a supreme job of entertaining both themselves and their audience throughout “Inspirations”.
“We didn’t want to change any of the songs too much, just play them more like Saxon”, concludes Byford, “and we also think it’s very important to have – and share with the fans – some fun in these dark times”.
Do you want even more proof of the validity behind that statement? Wrap your ears around their sparkling take on Toto’s “Hold the Line” and consider Saxon’s Inspirations a mission accomplished.
1. Paint It, Black
2. Immigrant Song
3. Paperback Writer
4. Evil Woman
5. Stone Free
7. Speed King
8. The Rocker
9. Hold the Line
10. Problem Child
11. See My Friends