There are timeless values and constants that quite truly never let you down. Artists that always give 101% on stage and in the studio. Sometimes, the final result is not the ideal one but that’s really not so important. One such constant is the legendary outfit of Saxon; a band that proudly carry the metal torch for more than 40 years now. Its undisputed leader, Biff Byford, surprised us quite a bit when he announced the imminent release of his first solo album appropriately entitled “School of Hard Knocks”. Let’s go and check out some details of this album but before that it would be a mishap if we didn’t point down –for all our Greek readers- that Gus Makrikostas handles bass duties on this one.
Let’s start by stating the obvious. Upon listening to Biff’s voice there is an instant feeling that you are bound to hear yet another Saxon classic. That’s true. And as a matter of fcat there are 3-4 tracks that could have easily found a warm spot in the tracklist of a Saxon album. For instance, the autobiographical title track has an aura of “Solid Ball Of Rock” while “Hearts of Steel” and “Pedal To The Metal” are not that removed from the Saxon catalogue of the last decade. Arguably, the same applies to the opening number “Welcome To The Show” the lyrics and music of which have a definite Saxon essence. On the other hand, the two brilliant covers (“Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel and “Throw Down The Sword” by Wishbone Ash) stand on their own although some would say that their epic atmosphere is not dissimilar to the one that we encountered on “Lionheart”. As for the rest of the bunch, I’d say that they are really quite personal for Biff and they are not Saxon-esque at any rate. Especially the ballad “Me and You” –I wonder if I am the only one who thinks that the opening chords and vocal melody remind of Skid Row’s “I remember you”- was rightfully released as a single.
All in all, “School of Hard Knocks” is a remarkable and honest record that monopolized my interest for a solid week or so. I am sure that I will listen to it in regular basis in the years to come and I guess that says it all. As for Biff, we can’t say enough of his overall personality. He is a legend and we thank him sincerely for everything that has given to the metal world.
Highlight: Silver Lining has printed a limited 7’’ single that includes the title track and a radio edit of “Welcome To The Show” as a b’ side.