It seems inconceivable that Saxon were once the subject of the TV show Get Your Act Together, where promoter Harvey Goldsmith was tasked with reviving the fortunes of failing entertainment businesses. While Goldsmith’s cajolings were ineffective, having their career come under such scrutiny maybe – just maybe – inspired Biff Byford and the boys to buck up their ideas. Because when Get Your Act Together originally aired in 2007, Saxon were also-rans. Now they’re national treasures.
Thus we can forgive the somewhat baffling reappearance of these two so-called ‘classic collections’. The CD Heavy Metal Thunder (6⁄10) dates from 2002 and includes 13 back-catalogue staples, eight of them re-recorded. The new renditions of Strong Arm Of The Law, And The Bands Played On, Crusader et al were originally on a bonus disc that accompanied the limited edition of 2001’s Killing Ground, Saxon’s largely forgotten 15th studio album.
They’re faithful enough and the sonics are top-notch, but a certain spark is somehow lacking; you wonder why Saxon bothered redoing them. Bonus CD Live At Bloodstock 2014 proves beyond doubt that the modern-day band are in the finest of fettles; from storming set opener Sacrifice to godlike closer Denim And Leather, the hardcore metal crowd clearly hold their heroes in mighty regard.
The Saxon Chronicles (8⁄10) first came out as a double DVD in 2003. Here an epic 2001 show at Germany’s Wacken Festival is augmented by promo videos and TV appearances, an on-tour feature and much more. This 2015 edition adds live CD Rock’N’Roll Gypsies (originally released in 1989), where you’ll find less-heralded songs such as Battle Cry, Northern Lady and This Town Rocks mixing it with the big-hitters.
DVD-wise, there’s tons to enjoy. Check out the debris inside Saxon’s tourbus. Watch the band members storm a castle dressed as Ghostbusters in the video for Power And The Glory. See them play The Hungry Years on The Old Grey Whistle Test with legendary founding bassist Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson. Marvel as their mighty onstage eagle flexes its wings in the desert in the promo clip for Back On The Streets.
Plus there’s early footage from Jersey TV in 1980, a fresh-faced Biff explaining Saxon’s live modus operandi thus: “Everybody loves it loud, we love it loud. A few people might die but, I mean, that’s nothing, is it?” Hell, there are worse ways to pop your clogs./o:p