Edsel/Demon Music Group [Release date 18.08.17]
It seems that – exhausting the market for CD expanded or deluxe editions – 2017 might be the “Year of The Box Set” as labels try and find new income streams. We’ll be getting the Black Sabbath vinyl set, a limited Ten Years After box and so on.
‘Solid Book of Rock’ covers Saxon between the years 1991 and 2009. The first thing to say is that Edsel/Demon always do a super job on the packaging and this is no exception. It even comes with a frameable art print (signed by Biff Byford if you got the “Amazon Exclusive”).
The period in question may not be regarded as Saxon’s classic period by some fans. After the halcyon days of chart success in the late 1970s and early 1980s the band’s fortunes wavered slightly as they contended with a changing musical landscape.
In the 1990s the musical weather vane was pointing at grunge and Seattle rather than heavy rock and Barnsley. Even bands like Uriah Heep succumbed to the period and produced some atypical material as they rode the groundswell.
At the start of this period, and before 1997′s ‘Unleash The Beast’, Saxon had lost original member Graham Oliver (he joined up with another ex-Saxonite Steve Dawson in Oliver Dawson Saxon which continues to this day). A legal tussle also ensued when Oliver and Dawson claimed rights to the band name. This rumbled on until resolved in Biff Byford’s favour in 2003.
In 2007 the band appeared as part of a TV reality show hosted by Harvey Goldsmith with the aim of raising their profile and popularity. This was moderately successful but fans would argue Saxon didn’t need this sort of attention.
On their own merits – and by their consistency of album releases in the past decade (typified here by ‘The Inner Sanctum’ and ‘Into The Labyrinth’ ) – the band have come proverbially back into fashion and not least due to the excellence of their live shows. Their appearance at the 2017 Ramblin Man Fair (reported elsewhere) is more recent testimony.
This box set is an opportunity to revisit sometimes overlooked Saxon albums in one large but easy to digest package. Edsel have already reissued most of these albums in the form they appear here and released a very similar box set – ‘Eagles And Dragons’ – in 2016 but this time on vinyl . It is the bonus material that might be of interest to the inquisitive if not the hardcore fan. ‘Into The Labyrinth’, for example, might have included the Japanese single version of ‘Live To Rock’ for completeness.
‘Classics Re-Recorded’ was originally released as a limited bonus with the 2001 album ‘Killing Ground’ and then as an extra disc with ‘Heavy Metal Thunder Live’ and the “rough mix” of ‘Lionheart’ was previously available with a limited issue of that album together with video material that appears on one of the three DVDs included here.
The remaining DVDs include, respectively, promotional material and interviews for the albums ‘The Inner Sanctum’ and ‘Into The Labyrinth’.
With a new studio album scheduled for early 2018 the band have never rested on their laurels and ‘Solid Book of Rock’ does what it says on the tin. Saxon have weathered the vagaries of the music business but have always remained, rock solid. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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