REVIEW: Iron Maiden – A Real Live One (1993, plus single)

Part 16 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!  NOTE:  This album was later reissued as part of A Real Live Dead One.

IRON MAIDEN – A Real Live One (1993)

And then the bombshell hit.  Just as Iron Maiden were releasing their next live album, Bruce Dickinson was leaving the band.

It was another in a string of major metal singer departures:  Vince Neil and Rob Halford in 1992, and now Bruce Dickinson.  Not to mention Dio splitting with Sabbath, again.  It was a very demoralizing time to be a metal fan.

Tattooed Millionaire was a big enough success to warrant a sequel.  On the advice of Maiden manager Rod Smallwood, Bruce was encouraged not to just do a half-assed sequel, but to really throw himself into the creative process.  What he came up with was very different and intriguing; Bruce likened it to early Peter Gabriel.  This triggered some soul searching.  What if this direction was to pursued?  What then?

Bruce approached Smallwood.  “As you can see, the music is very different, that’s the good news,” he started.  “The bad news is I’ve decided to leave the band.”

As a compromise, Bruce agreed to do the next tour, promoting the live album A Real Live OneA Real Live One was a document of the Fear of the Dark tour, and after it was mixed the band planned to hit the road again for a second leg.  Bruce did not want to jeopardize the tour, and Steve Harris agreed to do it as a farewell.  This was a decision that all parties would regret, but more on that later.  In the meantime, Maiden had a live album to promote, with a distinct black cloud over it.

Maiden had chosen to do two live albums.  First came A Real Live One, which covered music from 1986-1992.  Then, post-tour, A Real Dead One covering the early years was scheduled.  Splitting the live album into two may have proven to be a mistake, as it meant A Real Live One was lopsided and full of songs that many in North America did not care about:  “Heaven Can Wait”, “From Here To Eternity”, “Bring Your Daughter”, but nothing of the beloved earlier period previously covered on Live After Death.

And how do you top an album like Live After Death?  You can’t, so A Real Live One was doomed to be deemed inferior from the start.

Making matters worse, not only were Maiden releasing a live album that summer, but so did Kiss, Ozzy, and Van Halen.

The production seemed a little muddier (the first without Martin Birch since the early days).  The performances were fine, as expected, Maiden are nothing but professionals.  I don’t listen to this album often.  Later live albums that cover this material are superior, and it would have helped if the album had pre-1986 classics on it.  Although A Real Live One had four albums to draw upon, that period of Maiden is not the golden era, and the albums are undeniably less classic than the pre-’86 period.

I can understand their reasoning of doing the release like this.  I’m sure they felt that a live album without overlap with Live After Death was better value for the money.  And if you wanted those songs, you could get A Real Dead One later on.  But still, a Maiden live set without “The Trooper” or “Hallowed” or “Number” was a lopsided Beast indeed.

Worthy:  “Fear of the Dark”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, “The Evil That Men Do”, “The Clairvoyant”.

Ugh:  a flat “Can I Play With Madness” & “From Here To Eternity”.

Missing:  “Wasted Years”.  That would have been a worthy addition to the set.

Derek Riggs returned to do the cover art for this and it’s a fun striking painting.  Nothing special, just another cool Eddie.

The single was the awesome “Fear Of The Dark”, live (which had a better cover than the album).  This had become a concert classic already, with a massive fan singalong.  The B-side was “Hooks In You” from the No Prayer album and tour.  I’ve never been a fan of this song, but I have no problem with Maiden issuing live B-sides of songs that are rarely aired live.  It’s good for documenting history.  It’s also available on the Fear of the Dark bonus disc edition.

2.5/5 stars

1. Be Quick Or Be Dead
2. From Here To Eternity
3. Can I Play With Madness
4. Wasting Love
5. Tailgunner
6. The Evil That Men Do
7. Afraid To Shoot Strangers
8. Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter
9. Heaven Can Wait
10. The Clairvoyant
11. Fear Of The Dark

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15 comments

  1. Well you summed this one up for me. Nothing to add except the Eddie’s are starting to annoy me at this point. What happened to his face? He used to be cool and scary and now he was looking like a cartoon, caricature of Eddie with his over-sized mouth and teeth. No like.

    I got this when it came out but I was so underwhelmed I passed on the next one until getting the Eddie’s Head which had the Real Live Dead One comp on it. In fact this was the last Maiden album I ever bought on cassette! (I was a bit of a CD skeptic for a while…)

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  2. Yeah, the mouth of Eddie! Check out the Hallowed By Thy Name…single mouth. I’m not sure. Riggs used to draw the mouth…smug?

    Well, HMO, like you, I didn’t get this album for a long time. I bought it much later, in about 1997. One of our stores was having a Boxing Day/Closing sale. I got this one, A Real Dead One, and a Tesla greatest hits CD, to plug some holes in my collection!

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    1. Is Hallowed the one where he’s impaling Bruce? Haha. Smug! I like it…

      As far as buying albums I was definitely moving into a period where I was just totally giving up on Maiden. Never though that would happen but it did…

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  3. For me it was partially that but also just being inundated with live albums. I think I bought VH first of them, and was disappointed right off the bat. Kiss was a compulsory purchase (obviously!) and Ozzy I wanted because of the limited edition grille cover and tattoo. Maiden didn’t make the cut.

    There was so much to buy that summer. I was big time into Vince Neil’s solo album, and I got the Priest compilation for my birthday. When Donington came out later on, I chose to get that one instead.

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  4. Well for me,god the bass sounds awful,the production is clank clank with a live audience…..
    So when I first heard it I gave them the benefit of doubt,perhaps they wanted it to sound like a bootleg???…..I dunno I mean yeah Bruce is on the outs….the song selection I like and as far as the performances are pretty good ,u can tell Gers is just playing Smiths leads on bozo/sloppy mode but he kinda pulls it off in a cool way…perhaps a little less structured….who knows…..I bought it and I liked it…..but a minus 1.5 for the production……
    3.5/5……

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  5. Yeah Deke I had the same impression — maybe they wanted it to sound like a bootleg? Which is fine, some of my favourite albums are bootlegs. But I don’t think this is as good as it should have been.

    I like Gers soloing style, the manic craziness, especially now that Adrian is back too. Now you get the best of all worlds, but in the 90’s I did think for sure that missing Adrian really took something away from the band.

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  6. Mike, as you’ll eventually learn when I start revisiting Maiden’s catalog, I came to their music much later in life than most people my age. I knew so many Maiden fans in high school during their peak commercial years (I graduated in ’84), but other than the couple of well-known songs I never heard anything else by them. It wasn’t until I was already in my ’30s, around 1998, when I finally picked up a handful of their early LPs and immediately became a huge fan. Within a year I owned every official release on CD, and when I got to the ’92 live recordings, I found both “A Real Live One” and “A Real Dead One” to sound flat and uninspired. Shortly after hearing them I got “Live At Donington” expecting to be similarly unimpressed, but I loved it. There’s a lot more energy on that album, both in their performances and the production, and Dickinson’s voice is noticeably stronger. I can’t see any reason to listen to either “Real…” live albums too often, especially with the glut of solid live albums they’ve released in recent years. Another great review, by the way.

    And if you don’t mind me cross-promoting my blog here (I promise not to make a habit of that), Maiden is now trailing in my latest poll (behind Foo Fighters and REM) after some loyal Foo’s fans from Facebook decided to cast votes for their favorite band. If any of your readers might be interested in another blogger’s thoughts on the Maiden catalog, I invite them to stop by and vote for Maiden before the poll closes later this week. (Okay, self-promotion ends here…thanks for indulging me).

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  7. Alright, I finally got to this one!

    I listen with good headphones on, because I find it really helps hear the whole of everything going on in a record. And what slapped me in the face with this one was right off the top. A huge crowd yelling and then, quickly, once the band starts in earnest they’re magically gone! That’s quite a trick, making that many people disappear for a song’s duration! Move over, Copperfield. Look, if this is a live album, leave the crowd in there! It is what it is! I hate when they insult us by fixing things like that in the studio. Anyway. I know it happens all the time. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    Be Quick Or Be Dead, otherwise, is a good version, though the warble is back. Ugh. From Here To Eternity shifts gears quite noticeably at first, but it soon speeds up. And the vocals go to the growl (thank goodness). And I was right (I called it) – that chorus is a great shout-along! Can I Play With Madness speeds up like hell at the chorus, and the crowd magically returns again! Sigh. Nice to hear him try speaking en francais, though. Does better than I could, off the top of my head and in front of thousands of French-speaking people. Wasting Love had to happen, I suppose. It’s saved by the guitar-work, otherwise I’d say skip this one.

    Tail Gunner is a neat track to include. I like this song, and this is a good version. The Evil That Men Do takes an absolutely punishing pace. Damn! Nice to hear the crowd singing along, here. Afraid To Shoot Strangers has a funny intro tagged on to the end of Evil, the whole “war is bullshit” thing. Bumper sticker sentiment, while true in this case, doesn’t go too deep in this setting. The song itself, as we know from the album, plods itself into being before the guitars finally save the thing from boredom. I dunno, after a while I stopped listening to what he had to say. They edited the crowds’ “hey! hey! hey!” into (and then out of) the guitar line section. We’re past the 3:30 mark before it takes off. The guitar solo here is scorching. Woo! Still, it’s a long time to make people wait for what they know is coming.

    Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter is pretty faithful to the album version, just straight-on going for it. Heaven Can Wait bops along at a great clip, and the crowd gets to shout along in the chorus bits again. Holy hell, you know what? This band is a great sum of its parts, sure. But, and it has been said before, it is all about these guitar solos! Studio and live, these sections KILL! The Clairvoyant was one I wanted to hear, and I was not disappointed. Probably the best track here. And it feeds nicely into Fear Of The Dark, which I can see never leaving their live set. Ever. It gives the crowd a soccer chant-style line to take with them, shouting into the night on their way home. Nice.

    In all, not a bad live album, but not overwhelmingly great, either. The varying sound quality between recordings in different cities makes it uneven. In fact, stepping back and lookin gat the album as a whole, the production is not good at all. Also, as I stated, I really hate that crowd editing thing. But it’s a great selection of songs, and it’s fun to imagine being able to be there. And it was about time, after that many albums, that they put out a live record anyway.

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    1. You made a good point that I was going to save for my Donington review. I prefer a live album taken from a single gig, not shows all over the world. When we get to it, we’ll check out Maiden’s Rock In Rio CD too, all one gig, and a bloody great live album.

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      1. It seems to be the way live albums are being done now, more and more. I suppose it’s nice in that it gives you more of chance of being able to say “I was there!”, but I definitely prefer the albums to be drawn from a whole show too. Picking the best versions from different show doesn’t necessarily add up to a better whole because the dynamic of the gig is gone.

        Aaron, great review! I especially like the phrase “Bumper Sticker Sentiment” and it really is all about the solos at this point isn’t it?

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  8. Aw shucks, you guys. I made two good points? And a funny comment? Jeez. I count myself lucky! I’m just listening, and then firing this shit at the wall to see what will stick. Glad some of it is clear enough to be useful.

    Now. You do realize, of course, that this process of going through the records as Mike does is also turning me into a Maiden fan, right?

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