Artist: Saracen 
   Title: Red Sky
   Label: Now & Then Records

Being a virgin to the name Saracen (you may spit now), and unaware of their musical sound I am sum what surprised that they have been around in one form or another since the mid 70’s. Originally when the band was formed by long time friends Richard Lowe and Rob Bendelow, they were called Lammergier. They were apparently quite well known throughout the scene for performing their own very unique brand of symphonic rock.

In January 1981, the name change occurred but the sound stayed the same, their debut album ‘Heroes, Saints and Fools’ got critical acclaim and even got regular airplay on the Friday Night Rock Show. In fact they even had a live session broadcast on the show in 1982.

But this seemed to be the bands high point and the following year drummer John Thorne and guitarist Rob Bendelow decided to call it a day. The rest of the band carried on until finally bringing it all to a halt in mid 1985. From 1985 right up to 2000 the band took a step back from the music world.

Rob Bendelow meantime found new interest in music around 1992. As technology had moved on, and with the introduction of computers to music, he started messing about with classics such as ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and getting various people to do guest vocals. Even original Saracen vocalist Steve Bettney was included in this. They would go around doing various house parties.

The Steve suggested they do some old Saracen songs. That was the start of the band getting back together. But this wasn’t the only reason. Bruce Mee from Now & Then Records (himself a long time Saracen fan), with this new found lease of life put together a solo project Templar which consisted of old Saracen songs and some new stuff. Son afterwards the album ‘Come to the Light’ was released in 2000.

After some fantastic reviews and a lot of interest because of the Saracen content in the album, Now & The Records managed to track down Steve Bettney and Richard Lowe and somehow managed to persuade them to come back so the band could reform. They offered them a three album deal with the label which speaks volumes in itself about their confidence in the talents of this newly reformed vintage band.

‘Red Sky’ is the fruits of their labours, featuring re-workings of Saracen classic including ‘Heroes, Saints and Fools’, and the first studio version of ‘Follow the Piper’, as well as a whole host of new tracks.

A must for all Saracen fans and if you are like me and are new to Saracen then check out ‘Red Sky’. If you like your rock keyboard orientated with a touch of class and epic thrown in for good luck then they’ll love Saracen. And see if you like me Steve Bettney’s vocals sound like early Rob Halford, especially on ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’, which takes you back to ‘Rocka Rolla’ and ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’.

An interesting little side fact for me was to find out that Bob Catley’s new drummer Jamie Little actually does the drum honours on this album. All in all a crackingly good album.

Tracklisting:

   1. We have Arrived
   2. Red Sky
   3. Faith
   4. Horseman of the Apocalypse
   5. Castles in the Sand
   6. Heroes, Saints and Fools
   7. Flame of Youth
   8. Jekyll and Hyde
   9. Ménage a Trois
  10. Ride shotgun with the Wind
  11. Angel Eyes
  12. Follow the Piper
                  

 

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