Saxon – “Inspirations” (Silver Lining Music / Militia Guard)
Battle Helm Rating
NWOBHM legends Saxon released their 22nd album “Thunderbolt” in 2018, but this covers release is a first time ever for this famed tea drinking band formed in Barnsley in 1977! Being Northern toughies, however, you’d know that this wasn’t going to be some namby pamby compilation cop out, and indeed, the 11 tracks here draw inspiration from the band members’ own influences as young, aspiring musicians – as well as being a vocal challenge for singer Peter ‘Biff’ Byford as he hadn’t sung many of these songs before. With the covers ranging from AC/DC to Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath, the likes of The Beatles, Toto and The Kinks also feature in making this album truly authentic to the late 60s and early 70s, while Paul Quinn’s choice of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Stone Free’ reflects the drive behind his own playing. Recorded at Brockfield Hall in Yorkshire (where else!) in the style employed by bands of the time using Marshall cabs and amps, in some cases placing them in the mansion’s cellar to give a refreshing vintage feel to these classics, the sound however, as is Byford’s voice, unmistakably Saxon through and through! Opening with ‘Paint It Black’ by The Rolling Stones, the psychedelic guitars of Quinn and Doug Scarratt are given the dog’s bollocks by Nibbs Carter’s heavy steaming bass, only to revv up themselves as Glockner hits the double bass pedals, while Biff wisely keeps it close to Jagger’s original trip, albeit with a touch of his own rock grit in fueling the gusto. Scarcely taking a breath before the massive grooves to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ come rocking in, complete with Robert Plant wails as Biff’s larynx proves it can still hit the soaring highs, the waves of pumping hard rock do the magic as brilliantly as Plant and Jimmy Page did back in the day. Intended as a tribute to Motörhead, who Saxon supported on their first ever UK tour, ‘Bomber’ is an apt choice reflective of the lifelong friendship between the bands, and here is given a typically raucous rinse of raw guitars, screaming solos, double bass drumming and gruff vocals completed by a trademark Biff train whistle that would have Lemmy grinning! Even more intense, however, is ‘Speed King’ by Deep Purple, that sees Saxon laying it out all for you from the rip-roaring riffs steaming out from the twin guitar gusto backed by Carter’s heavy bass while Biff truly impresses by hitting the highs but where Ian Gillan would’ve screamed, instead exudes soul to bring ice to the fire of the Saxon storm. Sure, “Inspirations” is another covers album, but it’s a Saxon covers album!