Cover albums are pretty common despite being a difficult feat to pull off. Really, it’s not simple to cover a single song, let along a whole album of them with most being in the generic style of a genre rather than a band. Saxon’s Inspirations is the latest attempt to sell records by regurgitating the band’s influences.
Despite the band sounding tight, the album runs into trouble out of the gates. “Paint It Black” isn’t a great song, but it is so distinctive that it’s a tough cover. To their credit, they don’t simply turn the amps up and call it metal, but they still lose the essence of the song. “Immigrant Song” fares no better with tempered barbarian wails. The Zeppelin cover along with Thin Lizzy’s “The Rocker” and Hendrix’s “Stone Free,” tighten up the distinctive loose grooves of the originals, robbing them of their best traits. “Bomber” and “Speed King” fare better, but only because Motorhead and Deep Purple fit nicely into Saxon’s sound without much creativity. “Hold the Line” probably had the most potential, because Toto’s version already sounded like it wanted to be heavy, but Saxon whiff on that opportunity altogether turning in a version as limp as Toto itself. Oddly enough, “Paperback Writer” is the only really interesting track. Saxon definitely gives it a harder edge, but they aren’t afraid of the hooks and falsetto that tie it back to the original.
In the end, there is only a single track where Saxon is surprisingly original, a few others where they attempt songs that already fit their style and a few head-scratchers that don’t work at all, but mostly, they simply do heavy metal versions rather than Saxon versions of songs that are mostly so well-known that they provide little insight to the origins of Saxon’s own sound. For a set of songs that supposedly inspired them, they fall short of showing those songs the love and respect of putting some of themselves into these versions.
Released: March 19, 2021