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This is early NWOBHM, in fact Samson were one of the few successful enough ‘NWOBHM’ bands at this time to be able to really put out an album in 1979 – the year of the major explosion of the movement, when most denim-clad London students were still rushing to the nearest empty garage to their fist band rehearsal – a year or so away from releasing their first singles or full-lengths. Anyway, as a result of this albums earliness, we have both shitter recording quality (than the rather well-done ‘Head On’ follow up, or it’s successor ‘Shock Tactics’, and of course an earlier sound, still rotted very much in 70’s boogie/hard rock. Additionally, this album features driving force and namesake Paul Samson (R.I.P.) on vocals – something that wouldn’t become too commonplace after his recruitment of the legendary Bruce Dickinson (fresh from his debut single with Speed). Paul does a decent enough job – better than the oft loathed Nicky Moore, but admittedly, he’s no Bruce Bruce. Not a brilliant album, but somewhat collectable due to the fact that it’s early NWOBHM, it’s their debut, and it of course, is available in re-releases with Bruce singing in 5 re-recorded version of the tracks – neat, huh?
Let’s kick off – not unsurprisingly, the sound of Samson in this early outing, bears some significant likeness to other early NWOBHM pioneers – I’m thinking Quartz, Budgie, even Tranzzam and Marseille. There’s an air of progressive 70’s rock in there, and more than a little wannabe Deep Purple, which isn’t a surprise. ‘Six Foot Under’ surprisingly given the name, is an upbeat number, a boogie-rock track, with a little of the aforementioned Deep Purple/Uriah Heep sound in there. There’s the typical playful bass riffs, and plenty of keys driving it along. It’s an odd number, but pretty chipper and enjoyable. Those keys don’t relent either, and are indeed a mainstay of the album (this wouldn’t be quite so prominent in latter full-lengths) with the following track ‘Inside Out’ while a little lackluster in terms of lyrics and vocals (not horrible) featuring some pretty enjoyable keys. Anyway, tracks like these two very much reflect the date of the offering. Pretty much next to nil real heavy metal feel, mostly kinda slow, unenergetic, but slightly interesting rock. A different sound to the majority of the NWOBHM.
Some of these slow, 70’s rock tracks on offer do shine more than others, however. ‘Wrong Side of Time’ with it’s far-out subject matter has a nice, soothing feel – reminding me of Yes, with it’s slow rumbling bass, passionately delivered vocals, and progressive themes. One of the stronger tracks (from the original 8) in my opinion – this is slow 70’s rock done well. One of Paul’s stronger performances on the vocals, and his penchant for skillful, slow guitar melodies comes through too (he would go on to continue this theme with some success in ‘Head On’). The standout though, is probably the epic ‘Tomorrow or Yesterday’ – a brilliantly crafted piece, with strong vocals, and some heavy riffs – sorrowful and reflective. Pianos are used to great effect here – infact I can’t think of a NWOBHM track where keys were used to such great effect. Of the more conventional ones ‘It’s Not as Easy as it Seems’ is pretty good, with a more rockin’, dirty feeling riff tone, and more attitude. Sad to say though, but the bonus version with Bruce on vocals is a lot stronger – not just his vocals, but the whole recording quality sounds a lot better. The hilariously titled ‘Saddle’ is a bit more of a conventional hard rock themed track, with somewhat of an enjoyable (yet thoroughly 70s boogie rock) sounding chorus. It kicks a bit of butt and lives large though.
Well, since the Bruce versions of tracks (available on several different re-releases) aren’t part of the original album, I won’t review them here. Suffice to say though, they’re better. The recording quality of those cuts is superior, and Bruce always done a great job for Samson as a vocalist. Needless to say, unless you’re an avid rare-ist collector, go after either the 5-bonus track version, (the one I have) or the whole-hog, two whole album one. That’s killer value for money, and us nerds get a kick out of hearing and comparing the different versions of the tracks. Not really a metal album per se, but some decent moments of boogie/hard rock to be found – in that NWOBHM vein as such acts like E.F. Band et al. Mostly advisable to see where the band came from, to hear Paul’s vocals, and as an oddity that has re-recorded versions of stuff on it. Samson were at one time (namely the early 80s) premier heavy metal property in the UK, along with fellow Londoners Iron Maiden and Angel Witch. This is an album that undoubtedly sold a few copies and helped propel the band to stardom. Unique enough in sound, but not exactly metal.