British heavy metal mainstays Saxon have had quite the prolific career. They’ve released 21 studio albums and about half as many live albums, with another one on the way. Inspired by the release of Saxon’s newest live collection, The Vinyl Hoard, Season of Mist’s resident Saxon superfan Greg Karlowitsch took on the challenge of ranking Saxon’s live albums from worst to best.
10. BBC Sessions/Live at Reading Festival ’86 (1998) – The only reason I am giving this release last place is because it is technically a compilation album. It consists of two BBC studio sessions from 1980 and 1982, and a live set from Reading 1986. The 1986 set totally rules, and if it were released on its own as a live record, this would be way higher ranked. Killer set list and decent sound quality on all three recordings, however.
9. The Eagle Has Landed – Part II (1996) – My personal least favorite of the live albums, Part II has barely any classic material. The set focuses mostly on the years 1990-1995, specifically the Solid Ball Of Rock record. The only redeeming quality of this release is the guest appearance and overzealous guitar work of Yngwie Malmsteen on the track “Denim and Leather.”
8. The Eagle Has Landed – Part III (2006) – The two discs of this album seem like yin and yang, where disc one deals in classics and disc two containing deeper cuts and modern material. The production has a bit too much treble for my tastes, especially on the drums. This is also the longest of the records, weighing in at 32 tracks.
7. St Georges Day – Live In Manchester (2014) – This release sounds just as good as most of the more recent live releases, however relies on material from 2013’s “Sacrifice”. This was one of the first albums that felt like a chore to listen to.
6. Heavy Metal Thunder – Live: Eagles Over Wacken (2012) – Heavy Metal Thunder celebrates the 30th anniversary of the band with a killer set list from the 2009 Wacken Open Air festival. This is a fairly good representation of all of their catalog, showcased at one of heavy metal’s largest gatherings.
5. Let Me Feel Your Power (2016) – As the newest of the live albums, Let Me Feel Your Power delivers a set list spanning three shows which leans heavily on the classic era of the band without completely alienating new songs, mostly off 2015’s Battering Ram. Because there are three concerts covered here, it never gets as lethargic feeling as some of the other albums do.
4. Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies (1989) – Since this record was released only slightly before Greatest Hits Live, we are seeing Saxon in a very similar era with a very similar production and set list. The only reason this is below “Greatest” is due to its lack of a cohesive feel in terms of song order.
3. Greatest Hits Live (1990) – This album was released as a ten year anniversary celebration for the band, even though they released the live album Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies only one year earlier. Great set list which includes classic material with a number of songs from the “Crusader” and “Innocence Is No Excuse” albums, which some might find unfavorable (not me).
2. Donnington: The Live Tracks (1997) – Not only is this a great live recording of the historic 1980 Donnington Monsters of Rock show (Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, April Wine, Riot, Touch and Neal Kaye also performed) but the absurd backstory of this record is worth the high ranking. Former guitarist Graham Oliver bootlegged this recording and attempted to sell it without the consent of the band and was subsequently fired for doing so.
1. The Eagle Has Landed (1982) – This is true Saxon, rough and raw. This was released in 1982 so the set list is only from the first four albums. The album is only ten tracks, which is nice considering most of the other live releases are over thirty tracks. Eagle also marks longtime drummer Nigel Glockler’s first recorded appearance with the band. Completely quintessential Saxon.