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Saxon - 1981 Denim And Leather

ALBUM: Denim And Leather
LABEL: Carerre
YEAR: 1981
CD REISSUE: 2009, EMI, 50999 6 99333 2 5 (bonus tracks, remastered)


LINEUP: Biff Byford - vocals * Paul Quinn - guitars * Graham Oliver - guitars * Steve Dawson - bass * Pete Gill - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Princess Of The Night * 02 Never Surrender * 03 Out Of Control * 04 Rough And Ready * 05 Play It Loud * 06 And The Band Played On * 07 Midnight Rider * 08 Fire In The Sky * 09 Denim And Leather


At the peak of their powers in the early 80's Saxon were untouchable and easily rose to the top of the NWOBHM movement. Admittedly 1980's 'Strong Arm of The Law' was inferior to that same years 'Wheels Of Steel' but compared to the hundreds of other bands roaming the scene was worlds ahead. Saxon required another monumental effort to separate themselves further and achieved that comprehensively with 'Denim And Leather' which rightfully became one of the cornerstones of the whole genre. You could also argue that Saxon were ahead of Iron Maiden in regards to production and on an equal footing heaviness wise. Back then Saxon still had a vague biker image with as much boogie credentials as metal, witness the back cover with the lads all firmly planted on their machines.

The Songs
'Princess Of The Night', 'And The Band Played On' and the title track became Saxon staples, a trio of anthems that remain part of the bands show a quarter of a century later. Perhaps all three have become worn out through years of live abuse and countless compilation inclusions but the initial impact they no doubt had upon arrival in 1981 still remains keen today to those there at the time. It's the remainder of the album which makes this essential listening, beginning with the hard edged 'Never Surrender', one of Biff's finest rebellious vocals and punctuated by by some AC/DC style riffing. 'Out Of Control' recalls the raw 'Wheels of Steel' mannerisms, highly commercial it must be noted, but like the more clever bands Saxon keep the riffs coming to lessen the melodic hook. 'Rough And Ready' is the best of boogie and metal rolled into one, fast and engrossing, snarling Biff cementing his legendary status in the process. 'Play It Loud' again adopts the AC/DC riffing, only to maximum effect more than AC/DC were doing in 1981. Headbangers paradise in all it's prime. More accessible is the catchy 'Midnight Rider' which proves how adept and superior Saxon's use of melody was, but is no match for 'Fire In The Sky' and its nuclear holocaust warnings, set to blinding speed and the trademark twin guitar lines of Oliver and Quinn, which to this day are sadly missed.

In Summary
For years in the 90's it was fashionable to bash Saxon as being outdated and albums like 'Denim And Leather' as relics that should be buried forever. Nobody goes around spouting that kind of rubbish anymore because Saxon are still here, going strong unlike half the bands who were cutting edge in 1995. This was vital in 1981 and continues to be in 2006, music that hasn't aged despite the connotations the title track brings to mind, that of the youth of those years who used this as a personal anthem. Metal continues to inspire however so why shouldn't this despite the intervening years? Saxon might not have gone on to the success they should have in the 80's, but leaving behind immortal statements like this means they did indeed succeed. It will never be forgotten.

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#1 | krokus on September 10 2006 16:42:26
Together with BEFORE THE STORY by SAMSON, this SAXON album is one of my all time fave NWOBHM albums.
#2 | george_the_jack on June 27 2008 22:42:58
'Denim and leather goes out together, it was YOU that set the spirit free..' These lyrics spell out clearly what this album meant for the rock music of the early 80's...A monument of NWOBHM era.
#3 | Jez on October 31 2008 10:53:17
Album 4 and still going strong,'Denim and Leather' was released the following year to 'Wheels Of Steel' and the 'Strong Arm Of The Law' albums, making that 3 real quality albums within virtually a year of each other. Of the 3, I would say that this is the slightly weaker of them, but there are still loads of quality songs on here and I think that this was the last really virtually filler free Saxon album for many years to come. The most famous track on here would have to be the excellent 'And The Bands Played On', written about the first 'Monsters Of Rock' gig back in 1980, of which they were famously part of the line up. Other choice tracks include 'Princess Of The Night' and 'Never Surrender, all of which,unbelievably today, made the top 40 over here in the UK,their last songs ever to do so, ending the most successful couple of years for the band to this day. 'Play It Loud' isn't a great song to be honest, and this for me was the first sign of cracks appearing in the songwriting department.
#4 | reyno-roxx on March 11 2013 20:33:27
I saw them on this tour with Riot opening. Fantastic gig!
#5 | englandashes on March 01 2018 21:47:48
Saw Saxon for the first time on Saturday, and after 37 years after buying the single , And The Bands Played On, it still was the best song of the night, great gig, even though it included an evacuation due to a fire alarm, and boy worst than the cinema for people getting up after every five minutes, to either going to the loo or for another beer..... Diamond Head very good, especially Brian Tatler, and Cambridge is a pain to leave, and why some many students are so dumb not too have lights on their dodgers!

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