The Vinyl Collection - Saxon "Strong Arm Of The Law"
As the 80's rolled around the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal - just in case anybody has their head up their arse) was already gathering pace nicely. If we speak of a "first wave" then Saxon are an inevitable necessity in any such conversation. Although I have read reviews that suggest they were early progenitors of speed metal (the fuck?) Biff and the rest of the Barnsley Bikers took the melody of rock, retaining it's simplicity and catchiness yet at the same time combining it with plodding riffs and thumping rhythm to please the metal loving hordes.
"Strong Arm Of The Law" was released in 1980, the same year as the band's previous effort "Wheels of Steel". The latter mentioned album was rightly praised by fans and journos alike, yet on reflection (and more importantly in comparison with "Strong...") wasn't as accomplished as the follow-up record that landed in September of that year. For all the talk of classics from the "Wheels.." album such as the now legendary "747 (Strangers In The Night)" overall the album was still only the recording of a band on their second release and still retained a degree of filler whilst they developed their sound further. "Strong Arm Of The Law" was a band in fine form, completely assured in their delivery of some very memorable NWOBHM. If we want to talk classics then look no further than opening track "Heavy Metal Thunder", a song written for live performance if ever the was one. Lets also mention "To Hell And Back Again", "20,000ft" and the title track also.
The thing is when I was in the record shop yesterday and I saw a copy of "Strong Arm Of The Law" I was smiling, even before I got my grubby little digits around it. It is one of those albums that retains such a memorable fondness in my mind that the very sight of it lifts the mood. No pun intended, but it is Saxons strongest album. It is well written, well produced and incredibly consistent. The individual pieces of the band work at their best also. The performances of both Quinn and Oliver are precise and balanced, never quite to the point of refined yet somehow never shoddy either. The most familiar aspect to Saxon for me has always been Biff's unique vocal delivery. Blunt and curt almost in delivery yet never cumbersome or clunky, on "Strong Arm..." he is as distinctive as ever.
So there you have it. Seven quid lighter than I was this time yesterday but managed to pick an absolute gem with that few quid and what is more pleasing, is that as well as it clearly having been well looked after by the previous owner (not a skip, scratch or jump on either side), at some point someone has written "headbanger" on the inner sleeve which pleases me greatly.