Carrere Years (1979-84) Box set, Import
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2012 four CD collection from the British Heavy Metal band that focuses on their early independent years and includes their first seven albums on the French Carrere label plus bonus material. Contains the albums Saxon, Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law, Denim & Leather, The Eagle Has Landed, Power & The Glory and Crusader. EMI.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Major fans of the Biff and the boys, may want to look at the deluxe editions of the individual albums, as they typically have been remastered, and contain some bonus tracks. Another option is The Complete Album Collection 1979-1988 which contains Saxon's first ten albums, supposedly remastered, and with bonus tracks. While some of the albums in the Carrere Years 1979-84 contain a bonus track or two, most of extra content found of the deluxe editions is absent, and the tracks are not remastered. A included booklet, provides some interesting thoughts by members of Saxon, regarding their career during this period.
For those looking for the essence of what Saxon was about during their early period, this collection does appear to have that covered, at a fairly low price. One of the leaders in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Saxon has persevered through the years, and continues today stronger than ever, still producing some of the best classic style heavy metal. Albums like Lionheart, Metalhead, and Killing Ground clearly show that Saxon remains as powerful and vital as they ever were.
First off - the release itself. It's 7 albums (Saxon's first 6 studio albums, plus their live album from that era) on 4 discs in a double-size jewelcase box. At about $20 (from the marketplace with shipping), you couldn't even pay for shipping on all those albums separately if they were 1 cent each! The booklet has a writeup/interview with the band and small pictures of the original album covers, but no lyrics. There's a handful of "bonus tracks" that are all live or alternate versions of songs from the albums (one live song, "Bap Shoo Ap" which seems to be a crowd sing-along type thing, is a non-album track). Aside from lyrics (which I'd rather have than an interview) and maybe full-size replicas of the original album covers in the booklet (their covers are pretty minimalist, though, so no big deal), my only complaint would be they should've stuck all the bonus tracks on the disc with the live album and had two studio albums per disc otherwise - as it is, their fifth album has half the songs on disc 3 with the live album and half on disc 4 (this is the only instance of an album being split over discs, though). It's kind of a pointless thing to do, as albums 5+6 would've fit on disc 4!
As far as the music goes, I'm new to Saxon, but it's growing on me. Kind of reminds me of a mix of AC/DC (particularly the vocals and short, punchy songs) and maybe a bit of Judas Priest. I don't always feel the need for live albums, but "The Eagle Has Landed" (the Saxon live album here, containing songs from their 2nd-4th albums, usually considered their peak) is quite good - like Priest's "Unleashed in the East", it tends to focus on the more driving metal songs from their albums, which (along with the more prominent guitars and lower vocal mix) makes the live album stand out from the studio as a stronger, more powerful musical statement. Saxon's music kind of strikes me as being in the middle of the metal road for that early 80s era - the songs are less epic or mystical than stuff like Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, or Diamond Head, but not as mainstream rock sounding as stuff like Def Leppard and Van Halen. Saxon's not the kind of band that blows me away, so much as delivers a solid, enjoyable effort (kind of like Uriah Heep or Dio, although the Heep do have some moments where they take it to the next level). The liner notes have the band saying how they really wanted to go for speed, but the music tends to be more rock-steady, song-oriented hard rock to my ears. Aside from the classic 3 albums, I found their debut to be just as enjoyable (I kind of liked the opening "Rainbow" tracks, they had a nice 70s vibe goin') and album 5 had some pretty rockin' stuff, but the last one here, "Crusader", seemed to be a little weak.