Saxon Edition

BMG records is in the process of reissuing the prolific British metal band's recordings, presenting each CD in a deluxe Digibook-style package that includes a bound-in 24-page booklet. And each release is loaded up with rare bonus recordings that include demos, live material and remixes. Here we're going to tell you about the bonus cuts found on the group's first six records, from their debut release in 1979 through 1984's Crusader.

To give you an idea of how popular Saxon was when they released this debut album, pictures of posters and concert tickets seen in the booklet show them headlining over fellow British metal heads Iron Maiden, who got their start just a year or so before Saxon. Every song on the album except for "Militia Guard" is represented in the bonus material, with "Stallions of the Highway" getting triple play; presented in a demo form that sounds much like the final cut, played live and slightly faster for a BBC radio show, and lastly another live version from the 1980 inaugural Monsters of Rock Festival in the UK. Also notable among the 14 bonus cuts are a live version of "Judgement Day" that was previously released as a B-side and a live take on "Motorcycle Man,' a non-album cut that would show up in studio form on the band's next album, Wheels of Steel.

Wheels of Steel
The first of two albums that Saxon would release in 1980, Wheels of Steel eventually went platinum in the UK. Appended rarities include demo rehearsals of "Suzie Hold On" and "Wheels of Steel," a live B-side of "Stallions of the Highway" and more live material from the 1980 Monsters of Rock Festival including a frenetic take on "Motorcycle Man," "Freeway Mad" with its great drum intro from Pete Gill and a souped-up version of "Machine Gun."

Strong Arm of the Law
Striking while they were red hot, Strong Arm of the Law was the second album that Saxon released in 1980. The eight bonus cuts are an interesting bunch that begin with BBC Sessions versions of album cuts "20,000 Ft" and "Dallas 1 PM" and Wheels of Steel cut "747 (Strangers in the Night)" along with "The Eagle Has Landed" which wouldn't see release until the Power & the Glory album. Also included is an alternate version of "To Hell and Back Again," an early version of "Sixth Form Girls" here called "Mandy," and Abbey Road remixes of "Heavy Metal Thunder" and "20,000 Ft" that were done in 2009.

Denim and Leather
Saxon fan favorites "And the Band Played On," "Princess of the Night" and "Never Surrender" came from this album, and all are reprised in live form among the bonus tracks collected here, most of which come from shows in England during the tour to support the album. "Play it Loud," "Machine Gun," "Bap Shoo Ap" and "Midnight Rider" are also presented live along with a remix of "20,000 Ft." Whether they actually rode them or not, this is the album that famously includes a photo of the band looking cool and looking bad perched on motorcycles, and there's a nice reproduction of the shot included in the booklet.

Power and the Glory
New drummer Nigel Glockler came on board for this 1983 album and he still holds down the beat for Saxon 35-years later. Famed producer Jeff Glixman (Black Sabbath, Kansas) came on board for this one too, and the appended bonus cuts include two Glixman-produced songs that were left off the original album; the AC/DC-ish "Make 'em Rock" and the Scorpions-recalling "Turn out the Lights." The other bonus tracks are all studio demos, some like "Redline" and "Nightmare" that eventually made the album, and others like "Stand Up and Rock" and the aforementioned "Turn out the Lights" that did not.

Saxon tried something new on this sixth album; they recorded a cover song for the very first time, a raucous version of the Sweet's "Set Me Free." The bonus tracks are all studio demos, most of which got polished up and placed on the original album. Non album bonus demos include "Living for the Weekend," "Helter Skelter" (not the Beatles song) and "Borderline." The sound quality of the vintage rarities on all six albums is pretty good, but it is noted that some songs that don't meet today's sonic standards are included for their historic significance. Unlikely there'll be any complaints.

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