Part 8 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!
IRON MAIDEN – Live After Death (1985, 1996 bonus CD, 1998 remastered edition)
…We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!
With that dramatic, adrenaline pumping speech from Winston Churchill, Iron Maiden hit the stage, careening across the boards ripping to shreds the opening riff to “Aces High”, guitars cranked and perfectly captured by producer Martin “Live Animal” Birch! Live After Death may be the perfect live metal album. Running over a mammoth 100 minutes (on LP anyway), it required specially skilled engineers to cut the vinyl, so long were the records!
I have played this album so many times I could review it in my sleep. I own three copies of it, each one for its own reasons (more on that later). Iron Maiden could very well have released this album and retired, and their place in metal history would have been secured. Great value for the price of a double live album, this was at the time one of the longest double live albums ever released, with not one second of precious vinyl wasted. The package was loaded with photos and text.
Recorded in Long Beach, California (you can tell by Bruce’s incessant shouting, “Scream for me, Long Beach!”) and the Hammersmith Odeon, the crowds are absolutely nuts for Maiden. This is one of the best recorded live metal albums of all time, thanks to Birch. The crowd is loud, the band is clear, and the harmony vocals of Adrian and Steve are perfectly audible. I’m certain there’s overdubs on those backing vocals, they’re too perfect. Whatever. Do I like the album? Hell yeah.
There are some tunes here that you don’t hear live very often, such as “Die With Your Boots On” and the 14 minute epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (made even better with Bruce’s intro: “This is about what not to do if a bird shits on you!”). “Powerslave” is as powerful and dramatic as the original album version, glorious solo intact. There are a handful of key Di’Anno-era tracks, such as the single “Running Free”, the growling “Wrathchild”, and the band’s early opus, “Phantom of the Opera”. Indeed, this album is worth buying for “Phantom” alone, so rarely is this played. As for “Running Free”, this may now be the definitive version of that song.
(Note: the cassette version of the album edited out the long Bruce/crowd interplay.)
Here’s the three versions I own, and why:
1. Vinyl. This was what I bought back in 1985 (my first Maiden LP), and I still have it. The original vinyl was a gatefold sleeve enabling you to read all the hidden messages on the tombstones. “Letit R.I.P.” was my favourite. Inside, the album unfolds with two fully coloured photo record sleeves and a generous booklet with liner notes from Birch and a complete list of every date on the tour. Also amusing was a list of everything they went through on tour, from guitar strings to cans of beer.
2. The 1998 remastered CD edition. The original CD releases everywhere were only one single disc, and comprised only the first three sides of vinyl, ending after “Running Free”. This CD version restores side 4 on a second CD, which included “Phantom” and “22 Acacia Avenue” among others — you can’t do without these songs! It also includes a completely different set of photos from the album release, so that’s cool if you already have the vinyl. No overlap.
3. The 1995 UK CD reissue of this album, which included all three B-sides. The “Running Free” single had two exclusive songs, which were “Sanctuary” and “Murdered In The Rue Morgue”, both with Bruce singing of course. The “Run To The Hills” single included the very rare instrumental “Losfer Words” which, as far as I know, was only played a handful of times and never again.
Briefly on the cover art: You recall last time we saw Eddie was being buried. Well, he seems to have recovered. You can see the pyramid in the background. How much time has passed? Maybe we’ll find out next album….
If you don’t own Live After Death yet, then it’s time to fix that!
I’m going to pause here for a few days, as this seems a natural place to do so. Not only does Live After Death summarize the previous 6 years appropriately, but the Iron Maiden that emerged after it would be a newly modernized Beast, “Caught somewhere in time…”