The last couple Saxon records have been among the best of their career, particularly their last studio album, “Sacrifice”. Seeing the band kill during their last tour in the U.S. only confirmed the fact that Saxon is one of the rare hard rock/metal bands capable of actually getting better with age. So when I heard about this collection of reworkings/ re-records I didn’t immediately yawn like I do when I hear of most bands putting out albums like this.
This album has actually been out a while but I have found myself listening to it more and more because it pretty much kicks ass. The title, “Unplugged and Strung Up” is a little misleading in the sense that there is a lot more to this album than a bunch of soft moods and slow tempos. There is plenty of Saxon heavy metal flex on tracks like the re-record of “Just Let Me Rock” and “Stallions of The Highway” and my personal favorite “Battle Cry”, a song with plenty of the same energy that the “Sacrifice” LP had.
As for the symphonic stuff, Saxon sounds better with an orchestra than Metallica or KISS do. Something about the overall proud, regal U.K. feel of the band? I don’t know, but it works here on the five tracks that were given the “strung-up” treatment, particularly “Crusader” and “The Eagle Has Landed”. The production on these tracks captures the crunch of the band and the sweeping nature of the strings perfectly.
Similarly, the production of the acoustic material effectively captures the stark beauty of the guitar melody lines and Biff’s vocal tracks on songs like “Frozen Rainbow” or the amazing “Requiem”. It is a rare collection of alternate takes or re-records that manages to remain interesting from start to finish but “Unplugged and Strung Up” pulls it off. There is some serious quality control going on in the Saxon camp so don’t hesitate to pick up this album or the deluxe 2 disc version. Good stuff.
BUY “Unplugged and Strung Up” HERE