BRUCE DICKINSON – Balls To Picasso (1994, deluxe edition)
I remember working at the record store, and a guy asked to listen to Balls To Picasso, by Bruce Dickinson. I put the disc on the player and he slid on the headphones.
About 2 minutes later, he took off his headphones. “You put on the wrong CD. This isn’t the right one.” I went over and checked — Balls To Picasso. Sometimes, though, CD’s could be misprinted with the wrong music, so I put on the headphones. “Nope, this is it. This is the right album,” I told the guy.
He responded, “It can’t be. I know this singer. That’s not him.”
Just one of many reactions to Bruce’s second solo album (and first since leaving Maiden)!
Regardless of the weird title and cover, Balls To Picasso is an album that I loved immediately. Right from the opening grind of “Cyclops” and its vicious lead vocal, I was hooked. Yeah, it does throw me from time to time (rapping, on “Shoot All The Clowns”) but this is a solid album by Bruce. Fans have grown to appreciate it more over the years. And you can’t fault its lineup, Bruce’s first album with Roy Z, Eddie Casillas, and Dave Ingraham from Tribe of Gypsies.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYu1tCuLNqA&w=560&h=315]
The album had a torturous birth. He started it once using the British band Skin, and aborted. He tried again with Keith Olsen. I suspect that this is the “very different” Peter Gabriel-type album he’s spoken about. It is very different, with a lot of drum programs and keyboards, and very lush, polished production. To me it is very Fish-like. It is definitely not metal in any way, which is fine, but for whatever reason, Bruce opted to shelve this album. Then he finally completed the task with Tribe of Gypsies, the only song making it to all versions of the album being “Tears of the Dragon”.
The end album sounds like alterna-metal, the kind of thing that a lot of metal artists were doing at the time to stay relevant. It is bass heavy, 90’s sounding, and not very Maiden at all until you get to “Tears of the Dragon” itself, which could have easily been on a followup album to Fear of the Dark.
While not every song here was universally loved by the fans, there are many that were. “Change of Heart”, “Cyclops” and especially “Tears” are now considered fondly by Maiden fans. Tribe of Gypsies were a latin-flavored rock band, and they really lent Bruce a cool vibe for this record. There’s a lot of nice percussion stuff going on, and the occasional bit of flamenco guitar thanks to Mr. Z.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO2tIqkBMfY&w=560&h=315]
I think “Change of Heart” is the best tune on the album. Perhaps it reflects Bruce’s feelings on leaving Maiden. Perhaps not. Either way it is a side of Bruce we’d never seen before, and he shows it with depth and taste.
“Tear of the Dragon” has got to be about Maiden. It seems so on the surface:
Where I was
I had wings that couldn’t fly
Where I was
I had tears I couldn’t cry
The remastering job on this 2 CD deluxe is stellar. I can hear some percussion parts on songs that I didn’t know existed before. I’ve played this album a hundred times in the past, and this time it sounded really fresh.
And of course the real reason I buy this stuff: a second CD of B-sides. I really love it when somebody puts out a quality reissue like this. They have gone to the care of putting on a complete set of every B-side associated with this album. Present are the tracks for the CD singles, as are the tracks that were exclusive to 7″ and 12″ vinyl.
I would have had to buy 8 singles total in different formats to get these songs. Thus far I’d only managed to get 4. So I’m cool with this. The B-sides were songs from the Keith Olsen album, live stuff featuring his new band Skunkworks, and remixes.
Also seen below: A rare 1994 promo CD featuring a “Shoot All The Clowns” club mix. (!)
…but what you hungry readers are really waiting for is the next Maiden. Well the wait is over. Next time, we’ll get X rated…