Following on from 2021’s Inspirations album, metal legends the mighty Saxon have dipped their toes into the water once again, releasing another album of their takes on some of the classic songs which, they say, have inspired them. These are the songs which could be described as the birthplace of Saxon, ten tracks where Saxon again show the listener where it all began for them as musicians and the tunes, amongst many others, they cut their musical teeth to whilst learning how to play.
They are, of course, not the first band to do this. Rush released Feedback in 2004, which showed the Canadian legends paying homage to the sounds they grew up to and, while a couple of their choices remain doubtful (Seven And Seven Is?), their versions of classic rock ‘n roll tracks like ‘Summertime Blues’ are masterful. In sum, they did justice to the songs they covered and, while Saxon may not get the respect bands like Judas Priest and Motorhead are accorded, nonetheless their take on the tracks on More Inspirations shows an admirable spirit of adventure.
It takes real chutzpah for any vocalist to pit his larynx alongside songs made famous by top vocalists like Jack Bruce, Eric Burdon and especially Ronnie James Dio, but Biff Byford is up for the challenge. ‘We Gotta Get Outa This Place’ certainly packs a punch and leaves Bruce Springsteen’s cover of a song about urban escape in the shade. Some of the songs covered were just made for Saxon. Alice Cooper’s ‘From The Inside’ shows the song can stand on its own without the visual aids, and on ‘Detroit Rock City’, Saxon show Kiss how to rock.
While Biff’s vocals aren’t as throat-shredding as the late Dan McCaffrey’s, their cover of ‘Razamanaz’ really rocks out. I’d like to see Saxon do this onstage. Similarly, Alex Harvey would certainly approve of Saxon’s version of his band’s epic track, ‘Faith Healer’, packed with the power and menace of the original, and both The Who’s ‘Substitute’ and Uriah Heep’s ‘Gypsy’ are very adequately handled.
I was initially hesitant about how Saxon would cover Cream’s ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’, from the classic Disraeli Gears album, and while their version is somewhat heavier and lacks the class of the original, they give a credible account of a song which is difficult to replicate. And who would dare cover any song Ronnie James Dio made his own? Well, Biff Byford for one, and Saxon make ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ work for them. Only ZZ Top’s ‘Chevrolet’ falls a little flat, with the band not quite finding the groove that Billy Gibbons set.
With all these songs, the music is performed largely like the original, with Biff making no attempt to emulate the vocalists he’s covering. Instead, he just sings like himself, which explains why many of these covers are very creditable attempts, and while More Inspirations could well be just for completists, Saxon deserve credit for introducing the music of seemingly forgotten seventies outfits like the Sensational Alex Harvey Band to a younger audience, who may not even be aware of them. What could have been an album garnering a response of ‘Why did they even bother?’ has turned out well for a band who’ve given us a successful guided tour of their birthplace.
More Inspirations releases 31st March