Review by Rich Ward
Given the title, you’d be forgiven for expecting Unplugged and Strung Up to be a largely acoustic affair with a few strings thrown in for good measure. It’s therefore a surprise to be blasted from the off with a full on, in your face reworked version of ‘Stallions Of The Highway’. The album is a balance between reworked tracks in their full electric glory, tracks reworked with orchestral arrangements and straight forward acoustic numbers.
The reworked songs such as ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Just Let Me Rock’ continue in a similar vein to those tracks re-recorded in 2002 for the Heavy Metal Thunder album; older tracks with the modern Saxon sound. Indeed, the deluxe edition adds the Heavy Metal Thunder album in its entirety. As good as they are, they seem a little superfluous when combined with the rest of this collection where they are clearly trying to do something different.
The orchestral numbers are probably an extension of the idea tested on the title track of the ‘Call To Arms’ album. That same version is here along with a couple of others given the same treatment. Live favourite ‘Crusader’ feels considerably more cinematic – one of the best soundtracks to a movie never made. The orchestrated version of ‘Militia Guard’ sounds massive, and serves as one of the stand out tracks. Similarly ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ lends itself to the format very well.
The acoustic takes make for some of the most interesting listening. In particular Biff’s tribute to rockers since passed on ‘Requiem (We Will Remember)’. ‘Coming Home’ is seemingly lifted from the deluxe edition of Into The Labyrinth, and ‘Iron Wheels’ will be familiar to most fans in its stripped down format from previous shows and live releases.
All in all, this is very much an album for the already converted. Therein lies the problem; it’s got enough variety to appeal to the long-standing fans, however much of this has already been released before as extras on deluxe editions of recent albums. So for the die-hard fans you’re not really getting a lot for your buck. That being said, full credit for putting out something a little different, rather than another ‘greatest hits’ compilation.
7 out of 10
- Stallions Of The Highway (Re-recorded)
- Crusader (Orchestrated version)
- Battle Cry (Re-recorded)
- The Eagle Has Landed (Orchestrated version)
- Red Star Falling (Orchestrated version)
- Broken Heroes (Orchestrated version)
- Call To Arms (Orchestrated version)
- Militia Guard (Orchestrated version)
- Forever Free (Re-recorded)
- Just Let Me Rock (Re-recorded)
- Frozen Rainbow (Acoustic version)
- Iron Wheels (Live acoustic)
- Requiem (Acoustic)
- Coming Home (Acoustic)