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Iron Maiden

Edward the Great

Review by Gary Hill

This compilation of songs by one of the most influential metal bands in history is a bit of a mystery. According to the liner notes the band chose what material to include. They apparently were trying to create a work that would symbolize their 25-year career. Listening to the album, and looking at the track selection, you really have to wonder what they were thinking. It is not so much that the material here is bad, most of it is quite good. However, the real question is, why did they pick the songs that they did choose? First off, if this is supposed to represent 25 years, then why are there no cuts from the original lineup of the band that featured Paul Di'Anno on vocals. At first I thought that perhaps they were wanting to focus just on the Dickinson years, but they have included material from the period with Blaze Bayley, so that argument just doesn't hold up. The next question that comes to mind is why are there 4 cuts from the fairly weak Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album? Another mystery is why, although some of this stuff sounds poorly produced in retrospective, did the band not remaster some of it? The questions seem unanswerable. Suffice it to say, this is a good introduction to Iron Maiden, and might be a good place to start your collection, but it could have been a lot better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Run to the Hills
Arguably the quintessential Dickinson era Maiden cut, this track from Number of The Beast represents what Maiden is truly about, metal, fury, anthemic vocals, an great story telling. In this case the story is about the plight of the Native Americans as the white man ravaged them and their lands. It's hard to think of a better opening choice for this compilation.
The Number of the Beast
The title track to the same album that brought us Run To The Hills, this one, just a little scary, is another smoker.
Flight of Icarus
This one, from Piece of Mind, has a more stripped down texture, but the chorus is quite strong. The only complaint here is that after the sonic quality of the first two numbers, the production on this one feels a bit flat.
The Trooper
Another track from Piece of Mind, this one also suffers a bit in the production quality realm. However, the fast-paced galloping and strong arrangement truly make up for it. This is a strong one and always a Maiden mainstay.
12 Minutes to Midnight
Coming from Powerslave, this one feels much more stripped down and almost garagey at times. Still, Dickinson serves up a chorus that lifts the number up.
Wasted Years
The intro on this one, with its staccato patterns is quite strong, and the fast paced stomp that follows holds up equally well. Again, the production is a bit wanting, though. Another point in the negative file is that the chorus is a bit generic. This one comes from the Somewhere In Time album.
Can I Play With Madness
Originally released on Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, this one begins with Dickinson singing the title unaccompanied. The track has its moments, but just doesn't quite feel like Iron Maiden. It even leans toward pop metal at times.
The Evil That Men Do
Another from the Seventh Son…disc, this one begins in the more haunting mellower Maiden vein. After the intro, though, a new fast paced segment gallops in and a more trademark Iron Maiden sound returns. This is quite a strong one.
The Clairvoyant
The third cut from Seventh Son…, this one begins with just bass, then drums and guitar eventually join. It draws most of its style from the arrangement and vocal power of Dickinson. It is arguably one of the most proggy cuts on the disc and works quite well. It does not, however, feel altogether Maidenish.
Infinite Dreams
Yet another from that same Seventh Son disc, this one really has an odd texture to it. Dickinson puts in a performance that at times does not seem like him, and the band is sound rather atypical. Still, this is actually quite an interesting and strong piece, in part because of its unpredictability. The changes on this one are rather "left field", but there are some more typically Maidenesque moments later in the song.
Holy Smoke
With lyrics that tell a tale of phony preachers selling God and bilking people, this one originally appeared on No Prayer For the Dying. Those lyrics are the high point of the cut, though, as musically this leans towards quite generic rough-hewn metal.
Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter
Another from the No Prayer For The Dying album, musically this one feels more like AC/DC than Iron Maiden. This one is the weakest cut on the compilation and rather silly. There must be at least a dozen songs that would have been better choices for inclusion than this one.
Man on the Edge
From the X Factor disc, this one is musically quite typical Iron Maiden and quite strong. However it really is missing Dickinson - Blaze Bayley gives it his best shot, but just can't quite pull it off.
Futureal
From the other Blaze album, Virtual XI, this cut is so strong musically that it really make you wish they would re-record it with Dickinson. Bayley feels exceptionally lacking on this one.
The Wicker Man
From the brilliant Brave New World disc, that heralded the renaissance of Iron Maiden this number is all vintage Maiden. but with an updated texture. Now this is more like it! Just try not to sing along to the chorus of this cut.
Fear of The Dark (Live At Rock In Rio)
This Maiden stomper gains a lot from the audience response. Right from the start the crowd are carrying the melody line. The 250,000-person sing-along carries on all the way through the opening verse. Rather than feeling obtrusive, the crowd feels like part of the band. Maiden was in fine form during this one.
 
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