ALBUM REVIEW: Saxon – Inspirations – Silver Lining Music

With no less than twenty-two studio albums behind them, NWOBHM legends Saxon are back again but with something a little different this time. Instead of just rummaging around in the attic for an old live recording, or throwing together a contractually obliged “Best Of…”, Barnsley’s finest have taken their time during lockdown to produce something a little more imaginative. Looking to the past, the band has recorded Inspirations (Silver Lining Music/Militia Guard), a collection of songs by artists who made an impact on them at the start of their musical journey. 

A thumping version of ‘Paint It Black’ by The Rolling Stones kicks things off, a cover that – like all the others included here – stays faithful to the original but still sounds quintessentially Saxon. Frontman Biff Byford does an admirable job on Led Zeppelin‘s ‘Immigrant Song’ as he attempts to replicate Robert Plant‘s iconic dangly-parts-caught-in-trouser-zip high-pitched wail.  

A lively and uptempo ‘Paperback Writer’ by The Beatles follows with some nicely layered vocals before Biff gets to channel his inner Ozzy on ‘Evil Woman’, a track recorded originally by psychedelic blues-rock band Crow before being covered by Black Sabbath on their groundbreaking debut. Paul Quinn‘s guitar work is excellent on ‘Stone Free’ by Jimi Hendrix and is followed by a rollicking version of ‘Bomber’, a tribute to their former perennial touring partners Motörhead.

The band might be getting a bit long in the tooth but you’d never know it from listening to their rambunctious take on ‘Speed King’ by Deep Purple. A down and dirty cover of Thin Lizzy‘s ‘The Rocker’ is followed by ‘Hold the Line’, Toto‘s pop-rock classic given some added grit and northern steel while ‘Problem Child’ by Aussie rockers AC/DC includes more superb six-string action from Quinn but lacks some of the beer-swilling, fag-smoking snottiness of the original. A chilled and relaxed ‘See My Friends’ by The Kinks brings the album to a close in style.

As is usual with records like these, some songs on Inspirations hit the mark with more accuracy than others, but even the ones that don’t quite hit the bullseye still manage to at least land on the target rather than flying off wildly into the distance endangering the local wildlife. And with their next “proper” studio album being pushed back due to the Covid pandemic, it’s just nice to hear from Biff and the boys again. 

Buy the album here: