The covers album. It gets people outraged. I’ve got mates who hate covers. “Third song in and they’re doing [insert whatever song title you choose]” is a regular text I get. Yet, here we are and Saxon are having another go, following on from 2021’s first go, we’re back for ten more of their favourites.
Me? I’ve no objection to it – I remember fondly, albums like the MADF one that came out in the 80s to go alongside the anti-drugs gig that Doc McGhee (a convicted drug dealer that managed shed loads of bands at the time) organised in Russia, and b-sides led me to Eddie and The Hot Rods and The Faces amongst others.
Your opinion either way will be re-enforced, as soon as the opening notes of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” ring out, you know what you’re getting. The roar of the music still sounds distinctly like Saxon, its almost like The Animals never made it.
One thing that strikes about “More Inspirations” and it’s that they make good on the promise to do a “deep dish”. You might know some of the songs, you probably won’t know all of them. I’ll hold my hands up and tell you I’d never heard Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s “The Faith Healer”, but it’s a cracker here. The band’s long intro with their trademark whistle sets the tone for what’s to come. All’s well with the world when Saxon is playing, whatever they are playing.
Of course, there’s a reason that this sounds like Saxon. And its Biff Byford. Biff’s vocals are unmistakable, and he delivers a powerful performance. When he asks, “Can I put my hands on you?” in “…Healer” it sounds a bit filthy, but in the best possible way, like a sort of David Coverdale upper class to do, The lead guitar work from Saxon guitarist Paul Quinn is top-notch (and as this is his farewell from the group, he shows what we’ll miss), and when Biff hits the high notes, it’s truly impressive.
“From The Inside” gets bonus points for rhyming “nowhere” with “Canada” – it’s quite astonishing how the band managed to make it work, doing Coop in Yorkshire brogue, but Alice is King, right?. “Chevrolet” rules because its ZZ Top, tapping into the obsession of rock n roll with cars, long before “Legs” and that video”. It’s a groovy little rock n roller, and it only works in rock n roll and with American cars. Lets be honest, it doesn’t work if I witter about my Renault, does it?
Even when Saxon covers a classic like “Substitute”, they manage to put their own stamp on it. It still sounds like Saxon, and that’s no small feat. When I went to see Uriah Heep last year, Biff was one of the people that wished them a happy 50 years. It makes sense that he would be a part of that celebration, and it makes sense that they should take Gypsy and sprinkle Saxon on it,
“Man on the Silver Mountain” is a classic track, and you might wonder why anyone would mess with perfection? “Detroit Rock City” proves my thoughts on Kiss by and large but “Razamanaz” is much better. It’s the sort of fun rock n roll this album was for, and it’s a fitting tribute to Nazareth, one of the more underrated bands.
Perhaps the most surprising track on the album is the take on “Tales Of Brave Ulysses”. It has a flavour of the original, but it’s full on Saxon. It’s a testament to the band’s ability to make any song their own, and it’s one of the highlights of the album.
On my conclusion for the first record I wrote this; “We didn’t want to change any of the songs too much, just play them more like Saxon,” concludes Byford, “and we also think it’s very important to have -and share with the fans- some fun in these dark times.”
That’s it. That’s “Inspirations” and job done.”
And in reality, this is the same, ok, we aren’t in the pandemic anymore, but the times are still dark. This is the equivalent of an “easy watch” on TV. Don’t overthink it, just enjoy it for what it is. In years gone by, these would have been b-sides, but “More Inspirations” is fun all the same.