Oliver/Dawson Saxon – Screaming Eagles-The Complete Works (6CD set)


Barnsley based Saxon found big success as part of the NWOBHM following their debut self-titled album and with the early 80’s trio of Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim And Leather they seemed unstoppable. However within every big band you tend to find big egos and by 1985’s more commercial Innocence Is No Excuse bass player Steve Dawson (the one with the moustache) had been shown the door. Despite the bands fortunes remaining high (especially on the live front) by 1994 they were in search of a heavier sound and soon cracks started to show between Graham Oliver (the one with the curly barnet) and the rest of the band causing his exit following the Dogs Of War album. After his departure Oliver reunited with former colleague Dawson and reviving a moniker used by the pre-fame Saxon they formed Son Of A Bitch… and that is where this story begins.

Screaming Eagles-The Complete Works as the name implies pulls together all the releases from both SOAB and the band which followed, the controversially named Oliver/Dawson SAXON! Also included are a handful of tracks from both Dawson and Olivers solo efforts. Why the compilers didn’t go for a chronological running order is anyone’s guess so opening the set with ODS’s final studio album Motorbiker from 2012 seems an unusual place to proceed. What you get from Motorbiker is a more contemporary metal sound than expected with plenty of big guitar riffage in evidence from the get go of opener ‘Chemical Romance’ however the title track (the title obviously harking back to Saxon’s ‘Motorcycle Man’) slips into second rate Priest territory, a reoccurring theme through tracks like ‘Ghost’ and ‘Hell In Helsinki’. Alongside the metal there are a few nods to a more classic rock sound with the double bass drum attack of ‘Whippin’ Boy’, flashy guitar hero licks of ‘World’s Gone Crazy’ and rock balladry of ‘Just Another Suicide’ with its saxophone accompaniment. The real promise here comes in the way to short guitar/keyboard instrumental ‘Screaming Eagles’ (another nod towards a well known Saxon tune I thinks) which just acts to shows up much of the metal by numbers included on Motorbiker. The dreadful ‘Nursery Crimes’ ends the album proper (and is also included as a bonus track on CD2) but as a reward to you for listening to this dire track you do get two storming classic live Saxon tunes recorded at Winterstorm 2018 in Troon, Scotland with Brian Shaugnessy on vocals and Paul Oliver (son of Graham) on drums. ‘Denim And Leather’ and the epic ‘Crusader’ bring back so many great memories. Three further songs from that set (‘747 Strangers In The Night’, ‘Wheels Of Steel’ and ‘Devil Rides Out’/’Loch Lomond’/’500 Miles’/’Wheels Of Steel’ medley – REALLY!) are added as bonus tracks on disc 5 and display exactly the reason most people will buy this set.

Disc’s two to four stick tightly to that nostalgic formula with three live releases Re://Landed – Live, It’s Alive and Blood & Thunder which pump out all of the classics, ‘Power And The Glory’, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’, Rock N Roll Gypsy’, the always stirring ‘Dallas 1pm’, ‘747 Strangers In The Night’, a moody ‘The Eagle Has Landed’, Motorcycle Man’ and of course the all time banger ‘Wheels Of Steel’. The first two released in 2000 and 2003 respectively feature the long running line-up completed by Nigel Durham on drums, Hayden Conway on guitar along with ex-Shy/Madam X vocalist John ‘Wardi’ Ward and as well as the classics feature Son Of A Bitch tracks ‘Past The Point’ (on both) and ‘Bitch Of A Place To Be’ (It’s Alive only). The later (Blood & Thunder) recorded in Germany in 2013 finds Ward replaced by Seventh Son’s Brian Shaughnessy and Paul Oliver on drums. Shaughnessy brings his more classic rock lilt to the table giving an original twist to a set sprinkled with rarer tracks including another monumental version of ‘Crusader’, Power & The Glory‘s ‘Redline’, Innocence Is No Excuse‘s ‘Everybody Up’ and Denim & Leather‘s incendiary ‘Princess Of The Night’ as well as a rousing version of its title track. The band even find space for one new track from Motorbiker when they showcase ‘Whippin’ Boy’ not that it really stands up against the 80’s Saxon horde. These three discs really do stand out as the meat and potatoes of this retrospective collection.

Next we return to the very beginning (I told you the running order was strange) with the only album released by the Son Of A Bitch configuration, Victim You released in 1996. As well as Oliver/Dawson/Conway we find former Saxon and Motorhead drummer Pete Gill and Thunderhead’s Ted Bullet on Vocals. If this had been released ten years earlier in a world of Dio’s Sacred Heart and Ozzy’s Ultimate Sin tracks like ‘Bitch Of A Place To Be’,’Old School’, ‘Running Away (From You)’ and ‘More For Me’ which has a definite Saxon guitar vibe this may have stood a chance but not everything here is strong enough to hold it’s own. ‘Drivin’ Sideways’, ‘Evil Sweet Evil’ and the all guns blazing title track tread ground already well and truly covered years earlier by Accept and Anvil and ‘Treacherous Times’ and ‘I Still Care’ stray dangerously close to melodic rock. All this means that Victim You really struggles for a direction. By the time of its release heavy metal was a much more ferocious beast with the likes of Metallica, Korn and Tool putting the HEAVY into heavy metal and despite their best efforts on ‘Love Your Misery’ they still find themselves way off the mark. A mixed bag and once again the bonus (vintage) tracks save the day.

The final offering titled “Solo Selections” includes tracks from Dawson’s 2002 Pandemonium Circus and Oliver’s End Of An Era 2001 solo releases. Judging by the rest of the studio output on this set I was really expecting to be underwhelmed by this final disc but from the start of ‘She’ through the excellent Cilla (Black) cover ‘Step In Side Love’ written by Lennon/McCartney onto the thundering ‘All We Dream Of’ it isn’t until the syrupy ‘2Late’ that It stops for a breath. Normal service is quickly resumed with the power pop of ‘Answer My Prayer’ and the shredding guitar and Nigel Durham’s wild beats on the live ‘Wings At Dawn’. Considering that Pandemonium Circus was compiled from tracks recorded between 1986-89 following Dawson Exit from Saxon this adds to my surprise at the quality found within. Likewise the seven tracks culled from Graham Oliver’s End Of An Era probably fair even better. ‘Born To Rock And Roll’ leads the way and takes Saxon’s ‘Requiem (We Will Remember)’ to pays respect both musically and lyrically to those who went before and influenced his guitarist’s style. The title track has an almost 70’s glam ballad feel before ‘Goodbye To Yesterday’ ramps things up with a Eddie & The Hotrods swagger. Oliver still relies heavily on his prestigious past and can’t get away without throwing in a couple more Saxon “hits” so we are offered ‘Never Surrender’ and ‘Ride Like The Wind’ which sound pretty tidy with their alternate vocal takes. Ending on two Instrumentals ‘Wamita’ and ‘Golden Shred Jam’ which show a different side to Oliver’s guitar talents placing him firmly in the Vai/Satriani camp and rounding off a very interesting collection from both the Dawson and the Oliver camps. This is the real surprise disc within the set.

Following Dawson’s retirement from the music biz in 2021 Oliver brushed himself down and renamed the band Graham Oliver’s Army. Retaining Shaughnessy and recruited Gav Coulson on guitar, Jamie Mallender on bass and Rod Fearnley on drums to keep his army marching. Everyone will have their own opinion on the Oliver vs Byford battle, but at the end of the day you pay your money and you take your choice. This set may be patchy but there is no denying that many of the tracks within are timeless and although you may have to search a little beyond the “Heavy Metal Thunder” there are some great moments scattered throughout these discs. And The Band(s) Played On…

Track List:

Disc One – Motorbiker

1. Chemical Romance
2. Motorbiker
3. Whippin Boy
4. No Way Out
5. Just Another Suicide
6. Sinternet
7. Ghost
8. Nevada Beach
9. Screaming Eagles
10. World’s Gone Crazy
11. Hell In Helsinki
12. Nursery Crimes
Bonus Tracks:
13. Denim And Leather (Live At WinterStorm, Troon)
14. Crusader (Live At WinterStorm, Troon)

Disc Two – Re://Landed – Live

1.Power And The Glory
2. Rock N Roll Gypsy
3. Strong Arm Of The Law
4. And The Bands Played On
5. Past The Point
6. Dallas 1pm
7. Rockin’ Again
8. 747 Strangers In The Night
9. The Eagle Has Landed
10. Motorcycle Man
11. Wheels Of Steel
Bonus Tracks:
12. One Sour Krout
13. World’s Gone Crazy
14. Nursery Crimes

Disc Three – It’s Alive

1. Power And The Glory
2. Rock N Roll Gypsy
3. Strong Arm Of The Law
4. Past The Point
5. Dallas 1pm
6. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
7. The Eagle Has Landed
8. Bitch Of A Place To Be
9. One More For The Road
10. Motorcycle Man
11. Medley: Wheels Of Steel/Devil Rides Out
12. Strong Arm Of The Law

Disc Four – Blood & Thunder (Live)

1. Schwermetal Fur Immer
2. Past The Point
3. Everybody Up
4. Crusader
5. Whippin’ Boy
6. Redline
7. Motorcycle Man
8. Denim And Leather
9. Dallas 1pm
10. Fetzen Fliegen V
11. Princess Of The Night
12. Rock N Roll Gypsy
13. Strong Arm Of The Law
14. And The Bands Played On

Disc Five – Victim You (Son Of A Bitch Studio Album)

1.Bitch Of A Place To Be
2. Drivin’ Sideways
3. Past The Point
4. No-ones Gettin’ Over
5. Treacherous Times
6. Love Your Misery
7. I Still Care
8. Old School
9. More For Me
10. Evil Sweet Evil
11. Victim You
12. Running Away (From You)
Bonus Tracks:
13. 747 Strangers In The Night (Live At Winter Storm, Troon)

14. Wheels Of Steel (Live At Winter Storm, Troon)
15. Devil Rides Out (Live At WinterStorm, Troon)

Disc SixSolo Selections (Steve Dawson/Graham Oliver)

1. She
2. Step Inside Love
3. All We Dream Of
4. 2Late
5. Answer To My Prayer
6. Wings At Dawn
7. Born To Rock And Roll
8. End Of An Era
9. Goodbye To Yesterday
10. Never Surrender
11. Ride Like The Wind
12. Wamita
13. Golden Shred Jam