Album review: SAXON – Reissues (Innocence Is No Excuse, Rock The Nations, Destiny)

SAXON – Innocence Is No Excuse

BMG [Release date 10.08.18]

BMG complete their run of the CD remasters from Saxon and take in the mid to late 80s. This trio of albums by the NWoBHM legends are often overlooked, and looking back now they are far better than they were considered at the time.

Formed in the late 70s, Saxon were at the forefront of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, but by the mid 80s trends had changed, and so had the band.  By 1985 Saxon had left Carrere, following a falling out over the unofficial compilation Strong Arm Metal, and the then manager wanting to take the band to a bigger stage. This led to signing to EMI subsidiary Parlophone, and a more commercial direction.

1985’s Innocence Is No Excuse is a personal favourite (I first saw the band on this tour, at London Hammersmith). Yes it is more commercial but there’s some cracking songs here. Opener ‘Rockin’ Again’ is just encapsulating (a song that got a standing ovation live back in the day), and ‘Call Of The Wild’ has a minor chord or two, reminiscent of ‘Midnight Rider’. There’s lots of big songs here, anthemic, catchy, big vocals, and the powerful ballad ‘Broken Heroes’ is a big stand-out too.

Biff Byford’s vocals are spot on, and the rest of the band (guitarists Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver, bassist Steve Dawson and drummer Nigel Glockler) work seamlessly throughout. Much of the album was written by Byford and Dawson, and given the quality of the songs it’s sad and surprising that Dawson would leave after the tour.

Like the previous CDs in the series, it’s a good package with lyrics and a lot of pics, but seriously lacking in sleevenotes, and the bonus tracks add 2 B-sides and the Chapel Studio demos at the expense of additional B-sides and live material added to previous releases (so fans need two copies of the album).  That said, this is the Saxon album I wish they’d play more tracks live.  ****1/2

The following year’s Rock The Nation was far more a mixed bag; recorded without a bass player (the credited Paul Johnson joined shortly before the album’s release), the bass parts were played by vocalist Byford, who had played bass in his pre-Saxon band Coast. Going for commercial songs but with a rougher sound, and the loss of chemistry in the band (not just the song writing), the album doesn’t flow.

The title track opens and is actually a very decent song, a good feel, slightly anthemic, but the lengthy guitar solo intro is unnecessary and annoying. There are a couple (a couple too many?) power ballads, including the single ‘Northern Lady’, that are worth checking out. Many will know of Elton John’s involvement; recording in the studio next door, he sat in on a playback and played along, and was recorded and added to the song.

He also appeared on the rock ’n’ roll ‘Party ‘Till You Puke’. During the recording of one of the songs Elton John broke a nail and can be heard swearing (you have to listen carefully).  Some excellent moments and a lot of worthy listening, do not dismiss this album. Another good package again lacking sleevenotes; the bonus tracks also mirror those of the previous remaster.  ***1/2

With a definite push in the commercial FM and big hair direction (just look at the publicity pics of the era), 1988’s Destiny is far from classic Saxon. Just because it’s one of Saxon’s weakest doesn’t make it a weak album though. The cover of the Christopher Cross track ‘Ride Like The Wind’ is one of the best versions of the song, with a great guitar solo. Some great tracks follow, including ‘Where The Lightning Strikes’, ‘Red Alert’ and ‘For Whom The Bell Tol’l. This is the only album to feature bassist Paul Johnson and drummer Nigel Durham. Much like Nazareth’s ‘Snakes’n’Ladders’ of the era, it’s a good album on its own, but a dip in an otherwise strong catalogue.  ***

Saxon have been on the crest of a wave for the last 18 years, and for much of that time the back catalogue has not been available. So issues aside (notes, bonus tracks), the packaging is excellent and it makes some fantastic music available again.

Review by Joe Geesin

Saxon reissues (Denim & Leather, Power And The Glory, Crusader)
Saxon reissues (Saxon, Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law)

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

Check out previous videos here:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 24 July 2022.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 26 July 2022.

How to Listen Live?

Click the programming image at the top of the page (top right of page if using desktop)

Listen via Windows Media Player. Click or tap here and “open file”
Listen via other media player (eg. VLC) Click or tap here and “open file”

Get Ready to ROCK! Radio is also in iTunes under Internet Radio/Classic Rock
Listen in via the Tunein app and search for “Get Ready to ROCK!” and save as favourite.

More information and links at our radio website where you can listen again to shows via the presenter pages:

Power Plays w/c 8 August 2022 (Mon-Fri)
BORN LOST Take Time (Mouthpiece) (Revolver Records)
JAIME KYLE Driving With The Brakes On (Conquest Music)
SCARLET DORN Born To Suffer (SPV Recordings)
HOLDING ABSENCE Coffin (Sharptone Records)
TYRANNOSAURUS NEBULOUS Get Some (Echoed Past Records)
KROOKED TONGUE When The Beaches Bleed (indie)
SKYPILOT Knifed On The Beach (The Distortion Project)

Featured Albums w/c 8 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LESSMAN VOSS Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records)
12:00-13:00 H.E.A.T. Force Majeure (earMUSIC)
14:00-16:00 THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS A Very Unusual Head (indie)

Popular (last 30 days)

Leave a comment/Main Menu

Please log in/register