Okay, before I impart a few words of wisdom on this sumptuous package, a well aimed and well deserved pop at a few so called rock 'fans'. You know the type. The 'superglued in the past' sort that do nothing but harp on about how their particular favourite band has been shit since their perceived 'classic' era. You know who you are.... you think Motorhead stopped after 'Fast' Eddie walked, UFO died when Schenker departed, and there's no Deep Purple without Ritchie... and there are many more including of course, the band whose later career we are looking at today, the mighty Saxon. Sure, they gave us that holy trilogy of classic NWOBHM albums in the early 80's with Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law, and Denim and Leather. And we're all well aware that things started to dip drastically in the latter part of that decade. But anyone who thinks that those 'Hungry Years' were the end of the Saxon story really needs a severe shake. The band has indeed 'played on' since then, and if anything, they have produced some of the best music of their near 40 year career in the ensuing decades.
Once Saxon realised their attempt at breaking America simply wasn't going to happen, a 'Backs to the Wall' return to Europe and to their musical roots at the start of the 90's proved very popular, a change in rhythm section with a returning drummer Nigel Glockler and the addition of virtuoso bassist Nibbs Carter seriously rejuvenating the band. The first album from that line up forms the starting point for this stunning box set. Solid Ball of Rock was a statement of intent. The Saxon of old were back with a bang, and with added musical chops from the aforementioned Carter, and later in the decade, Doug Scarratt on guitar, replacing the departed Graham Oliver, this was a band very much on a mission to regain its rightful place at the top of the metal tree. This particular box set is one for collectors, and possibly curious fans who aren't so aware of just how good the band have been during the 20 year period the set covers.
So, what do you get? For starters, all 9 of the studio albums, from Solid Ball of Rock, through to 2009's Into The Labyrinth. Throw in 2 bonus CDs, and 3 DVDs, and all housed in a 12" x 12" full colour book, with full lyrics, photos, and new artwork, and if you're lucky, you can land a limited edition with a print signed by frontman Biff Byford. I mentioned at the start that this is a sumptuous package, and that really is the only way to describe it. Musically it is a timeline through a set of top notch albums which are so consistent in quality that most bands would kill for a back catalogue like this. Unlike that late 80's era, there is no dip here, and very little that could conceivably be labelled as 'filler'. The band know their fanbase, but aren't afraid to push boundaries now and again, with the likes of their covers of King Crimson's 'Court of the Crimson King' and Ted Nugent's 'Great White Buffalo' oustanding and surprising additions to their repertoire.
All in all this is a fantastic addition to any Saxon collection, proof if it was ever needed that the tea drinking lads from Barnsley and further afield are 'Still Fit to Boogie' with the best of them, and long may they continue to fill our heads with Heavy Metal Thunder.