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Crusader is easily one of the most underrated Saxon albums of the '80's. It often gets slated by fans and critics, but I think it has it's moments. At the time of release, it was the worst Saxon album to date, but even so, it is still far better than some of the following albums that would be released (i.e. Rock The Nations and Destiny).
Crusader does take a different direction to the likes of Strong Arm Of The Law, Denim And Leather and Power & The Glory. It goes for a more commercial, more mainstream metal sound, but I think Saxon did it well here, unlike the next few albums. The main reason for this is because there is variety between the songs. Of course, some songs on here are noticably stronger than others, but overall the album is listenable, and enjoyable in my opinion.
First of all, the title track (with The Crusader Prelude) is easily one of the best songs Saxon have ever written. It's pretty cheesy I suppose, but it's extremely well played. It's actually quite a slow number, but the verses and chorus are damn cool at the same time. It is quite commerical, but in a good way.
'A Little Bit Of What You Fancy' is an up-tempo, badass heavy burner, reminding us of what Saxon do best. It does make you want to headbang, definitely a great song to get the crowd going. 'Sailing To America' is an underrated one- it's radio-friendly, but DAMN, that's one catchy song! The backing vocals in the chorus are excellent, and this is one of the album's highlights. 'Set Me Free' has some great guitar playing, and is fairly heavy, but it's still weaker than the previous tracks.
'Just Let Me Rock' is a bit better, and it does have a memorable chorus, that's for sure. But, at the same time, it's very cheesy as the title suggests, but not quite as cheesy as the following number- 'Bad Boys (Like To Rock N' Roll)', which is just plain silly if you ask me. 'Do It All For You', surprisingly, is a very good heavy metal ballad. Like 'Sailing To America', it sticks in your head. 'Rock City' is also a good anthem, though the backing vocals do get on your nerves after a bit. 'Run For Your Lives' is an OK way to end the album, but it still feels like it could be faster and heavier.
A plus point for Crusader is that, to me, Biff Byford's voice is very strong here, and in terms of backing vocals, this is easily one of the best set of songs by Saxon. I also love the drum sound on the record, though I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much. Production is also pretty decent, but at the same time, the early, raw-sounding Saxon albums such as Wheels Of Steel or Strong Arm Of The Law just gave the songs greater effect.
Overall, I think Crusader is a worthy Saxon album, and it's the only commerical-sounding album worth hearing. Despite this, there are still a hell of lot more, better Saxon albums out there, meaning that this, while competant enough, is not essential.