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Very Best of Saxon

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Artist: Saxon
Label: EMI


The Very Best of Saxon? Well, not quite. But for heavy metal and hard rock fans hoping to get an expansive look at the glorious first-third and disastrous second-third of Saxon's career (while doing without the often redeeming last third) could do a lot worse than this three-disc set titled, unimaginatively enough, The Very Best of Saxon. To start with, the packaging is succinct but satisfying -- not your obvious thrown-together job of Saxon collections past -- and includes a similarly basic but informative essay by respected New Wave of British Heavy Metal writer, eyewitness, and survivor Mick Wall. Also, the ample, 53-song selection commendably leans towards the band's first four, mostly seminal albums (homes to such timeless heavy metal anthems as "Stallions of the Highway," "Wheels of Steel," "Motorcycle Man," "Strong Arm of the Law," and "Princess of the Night," among others), rather than the next four hit-and-miss ones (whose offerings range from the continued brilliance of "Power and the Glory" and "Crusader" to embarrassing dross like "Do It All for You" and "Northern Lady"). And, most attractive of all for any Saxon diehards who should stumble upon it, this release unearths a trio of highly collectable B-sides in the frantic "Live Fast, Die Young," the truly explosive "Krakatoa," and slightly more forgettable instrumental "Chase the Fade." Things start getting problematic, however, when one considers the very odd sequencing choices committed throughout all three discs; the unforgivable omission of the absolute classic "Denim and Leather"; and, most unnecessarily, the inclusion of several live versions of songs already featured (six in all!) -- a total waste of space which might have otherwise accommodated additional songs worth profiling (err, "Denim and Leather," for one!). Add to that the aforementioned absence of any material from Saxon's rather respectable post-EMI career (getting longer and offering up more new albums by the year) and, for all its merits, there's still an empty shelf space that awaits a truly comprehensive Saxon career recap. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia