Great timeless record from a strong band that screwed it up in the US with the releases of ‘Innocence is No Excuse’ ‘Destiny’ and ‘Rock the Nations. Trying to follow the trend and ride the wave of Def Leppard’s success, they failed misereably. This album, though a bit dated sounding, is a classic. Check out the version of “Princess of the Night” on the rerecords on ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’.
Digitally remastered and expanded edition of the British Metal monsters’ 1981 album including nine bonus tracks. Denim And Leather, the band’s fourth album, was originally released on the Carrere label and catches the band at an early commercial and creative peak, featuring the classic singles ’Princess Of The Night’, ’Never Surrender’ and their tribute to their appearance at the first Castle Donington Festival, ’And The Bands Played On’. The album now includes the Nigel Thomas remix of ’20,000 Ft.’, available on CD for the first time, plus the otherwise unavailable ’Bap Shoo Ap’ (recorded at the Monsters Of Rock Festival in 1980), both of which were originally B-sides of the now highly collectable ’Never Surrender’ double seven inch single. Also included are no less than seven live tracks recorded on the 1981 Denim And Leather tour. EMI. 2009.
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Why such high ratings and remarks for Denim and Leather? This album, IMHO, marked the beginning of the end of what was a super cool metal/rock band. Their first three albums are killer all the way through with the band being tight, hungry, and dedicated for success. Imagine Iron Maiden meets Black Sabbath…that’s sorta what Saxon sounded like. Check out their debut album, specifically ‘Rainbow Theme/Frozen Rainbow’. That cut gives you a classic idea of this bands talent. They followed up with Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law, both excellent and with even more metal crunch. By the time Denim & Leather was released, Saxon was slowing down from the classic symptons of success…complexity, mediocrity, and writer’s block. This one’s good, but the first three were the BEST! Trust me — Spike in Florida
During my formative years, an older, more experienced “seen-it-all” metal veteran friend of mine played a song and band I had never heard up to that point — it was Saxon’s “Denim and Leather.” In hearing it, I was instantly addicted to the awesome, reverby power chords in the song and the timeless lyrics of metal brotherhood and the D.I.Y. spirit that anyone who wants to can get up and start a band if they so desire. This song embodied the very essence of the NWOBHM scene that spawned Saxon, one in which bands released some of the most exciting hard rock/heavy metal music the world had ever known, largely through independent and self-financed recordings made outside the bounds of major labels and record executives. I luckily found the LP used at the time at a local mom-and-pop record store (remember those?). (This was back in the early to mid-’90s, when both Saxon’s and most NWOBHM releases in general were only available on CD in the form of outrageously expensive Japanese imports, that I by default couldn’t afford.)
Years later though I did get my hands on the 1996 Holland import CD pressing on Disky of the vinyl record I’d long cherished, “Denim and Leather.” Let me tell you that I’ve never been more disappointed in my life! Not only was the packaging terrible and almost nonexistent, but the sound quality was noticeably “cleaned up” and sterile, all but stripping this masterpiece of its original rawness and power.
You can imagine then how much I rejoice now in 2009, when Saxon’s early releases FINALLY get CD releases that for the first time do these essential recordings justice.
Never has this been more apparent than on the group’s strongest outing to date, “Denim and Leather,” originally released in September 1981. Finally, that awesome reverb and big roomy sound of the original vinyl is back and forever frozen in time on CD, and without the expected crackles and pops characteristic to old records. Unlike previous pressings, this sounds just like the vinyl.
“Denim and Leather” contains some of Saxon’s all-time classic songs and ones still played live by the band to this very day. Aside from the aforementioned title track, the album features the single “Never Surrender,” a fast and true heavy metal anthem for the ages about soldiering on and never giving up, even when people and other forces of opposition stand against you. If Saxon’s music doesn’t embody this spirit, I don’t know what does. “Play It Loud” is an earthshaking number about cranking this music up loud and proud, even when people try to silence it, and this particular record was tailor made for doing just that. My all-time favorite though has to be the speed metal scorcher on the LP’s B-side, “Fire in the Sky.” I’ve always loved it. If the frantic tempos and awesome reverb of this track don’t blow the roof off the place in no time flat, nothing will.
If that weren’t enough, each reissue contains liner notes with input from frontman Biff Byford himself and even a reproduction of the LP’s original back cover, making them essential for collectors, so much so that I’ve officially retired my worn old Carrere vinyl pressing of this album. (It goes without saying that I also have sold my copies of the previous, inferior CD pressings and upgraded to these.)
In short, this is one of the greatest heavy metal records of all time and finally in a reissue that gives the recording a new lease on life. Highly recommended.
Iron Maiden may be the best known band from the legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene, and rightly so, but for a time Saxon was a close second. Actually, once Maiden acquired Bruce Dickinson and took on the larger world stage, it was Saxon that best embodied the sound and spirit of the NWOBHM scene. The speed, the frantic energy, the “denim and leather” attitude – Saxon had all that and then some.
Saxon’s trademark sound changed a bit in 1981 when they recorded Denim and Leather, their fourth album in just three years (I still can’t get over that). The label brought in a new producer (Nigel Thomas) and I think that cost them some of the unique feel of Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law. Still, the band was getting better with each passing year, and their songwriting skills kept improving. Denim and Leather features some of the best known Saxon tunes, including metal anthems “Play It Loud”, “Never Surrender” and of course the rousing title track. In addition to the fist-pumping metal songs, there are some surprisingly good mid-tempo numbers like “Princess of the Night” and “Midnight Rider” that appeal on a totally different level.
It’s probably not as essential as Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law, but Denim and Leather is still a totally worthwhile album that all Saxon fans should own. I’d also recommend it to just about any fan of classic heavy metal in general and British metal in particular.
Edition Notes – EMI reissued Denim and Leather (along with the rest of the early Saxon albums) in 2009. EMI has been responsible for some of the best-sounding classic hard rock reissues lately (see: Whitesnake, UFO, MSG and the Scorpions), and their Saxon reissues do not disappoint. In addition to the digitally remastered sound, the reissue of Denim and Leather features expanded liner notes by Classic Rock Magazine’s Malcolm Dome and a whopping nine bonus tracks, essentially doubling the original album’s length. The first bonus track is a remix of “20,000 Ft.” (from the Never Surrender single), and the rest are live tracks from that era. Between the remastered sound, liner notes and bonus tracks, there are plenty of reasons to replace your old version of Denim and Leather.
PS – When you line up the spines of the EMI Saxon reissues they form the Saxon logo and the Wheels of Steel cover icon. I’m a total geek for stuff like that!