a real dead one

#792: The Summer of ’93 – Live Album Explosion

GETTING MORE TALE #792: The Summer of ’93 – Live Album Explosion

Keeping up with new releases is challenging for anyone.  Today, every band is releasing a box set, live album, compilation, EP, or even (gasp) new material!  This is not a new phenomenon.  As a young collector in an earlier time, 1993 was particularly challenging.  I was suffering from “live album burnout” due to a number of double lives that year.  I dutifully picked up the most important ones to me, as much as I could afford.

I plotted things out.  The first batch of live albums on my radar that year were as follows:

Four of my favourite bands in one brief chunk of time, with two of the four being doubles.  I had to budget this out somehow.

I’m not sure when I bought Van Halen’s album, but I most likely bought it first.  The dual CD set was at Costco for thirty-something bucks so I put it in the cart.  I know it was early in the year because I remember listening to it in the car while driving to school for final exams, which occur in April.  Specifically I remember listening to the live version of “Cabo Wabo” on my way there.

I found the Van Halen album underwhelming.  Too much stuff from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and some clattering solos made it a struggle to finish in one sitting.  Sammy Hagar would later comment that the album sucked because too much of it was re-recorded in the studio.  I just thought it was a drag.

Kiss were (and are) my #1 band, so I dutifully bought it as quickly as I could.  I didn’t get it on the day of release (May 18), but I do know the exact date that I purchased it:  May 20.  I know this because I remember that we had to get home from the mall (Fairway Park Mall’s HMV store) in time to catch the series finale of Cheers.  I got the free poster with my cassette copy.  I chose cassette for strategic reasons.  Double live albums were a bigger investment, so I liked to get those on CD.  I was already starting to distrust the cassette tape format.  I’d hate to buy a double cassette set and have one of the tapes go bad.  Alive III was a single tape, so I went for that and stayed with that until I got a double vinyl reissue a couple years later.

The Ozzy was a limited edition package.  I needed that special grille cover with the two “tattoos” inside.  I couldn’t afford it so I put it on my birthday list.  I accompanied my mom to HMV to make sure she got the right one.  Killed the surprise, but also the anxiety of not getting the exact version I “needed” for my collection!

Ozzy Osbourne had already supersaturated the market with live albums, and his was tedious to listen to.  I gave it more it than a fair shot, as I wanted to really hear how Zakk approached the live versions differently than Randy or Tony had.  It was an exercize that paid minimal dividends, wading through minute after minute of numbing “extra extra crazy” Ozzy monologues.

I decided to hold off on Iron Maiden as long as I could.  The idea of a single disc live Maiden album was a little off-kilter for me.  An album of tracks from 1986-1992 didn’t sound all that appealing to me.  Maybe I should wait until the second disc, due in October, came out so I could listen to both equally.  Maybe I should skip A Real Live One entirely.  The album seemed a hasty entity, being released so Maiden could tour to support new product.  The cover art was also lo-fi sketchy, compared to predecessor Live After Death.

Good or bad, I decided to hold off on Maiden for the time being.  I had enough live metal to digest anyway.

Kiss was the only album I was happy with, though it was clearly an inferior offering to Alive I and II.  Unlike Osbourne, it wasn’t too long, and kept the filler to a minimum.

When the next batch of live albums rolled out, I was weary.

The Bon Jovi live disc came with a pricey special reissue of Keep the Faith, a limited edition.  I immediately put that one on my Christmas list and did my best to pester my mom into buying it.  I had to make a decision about the others.  I scratched Satriani and Testament off my list.  They weren’t going to be priorities this time.

As for the final call on Iron Maiden?  The decision was made for me when I found Live at Donington, once again at HMV.  What was this?  It looked like a bootleg, but wasn’t.  It had no liner notes.  Absolutely bare minimum packaging.  Nary an Eddie in sight.  It was a “limited edition“, and a double CD with a complete concert.  The easy choice was to buy this instead of the other two albums.  For the time being, at least.  I finally did get all three albums, when I was working at the Record Store, in 1996.  The Boxing Day sale enabled me to get both live Maidens and the recent Tesla greatest hits for a reduced price.  It took me three years to get ’em!

That busy 1993 list doesn’t include live home videos released that year (Ozzy, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Kiss) or the albums that I didn’t even know about (Live Cult).  I had to draw the line and audio has always been my priority over video.

Too much is too much, and in 1993 we just had too much.

Do you remember what live albums you bought in 1993?  Comment below!



Gallery: More Birthday Goodness & Food

A couple more T-shirts, another dinner (at Turtle Jack’s, one of our favourites), and some opened Transformers.  Good times!  My family spoils me.

I mentioned in the comments earlier that my dad paid for some car repairs too; damn potholes caused a bent rim.  Thanks for everything dad!  It was indeed a very happy birthday.

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Live At Donington August 22nd 1992

Part 18 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

“Satan’s work is done Donington!” – Bruce Dickinson

IRON MAIDEN –  Live At Donington August 22nd 1992 (1993 CD, 1998 remastered edition)

I imagine if Bruce remained in the band, Maiden probably wouldn’t have released three live albums in one year.  But they needed time to regroup and figure out what the hell to do next.  In the meantime, as if to say, “We’ll be back!” Maiden released Live At Donington August 22nd 1992.

A much better recording than its two predecessors (A Real Live One and A Real Dead One), it’s a very special set.  It’ll never be Live After Death (that’s impossible) but this is one of the finer Maiden live albums to come down the pipe.  I mean, just look at the first three songs!  A smoking “Be Quick Or Be Dead”.  An absolutely devastating “Beast” (I like that they threw it in early).  A surprising “Wrathchild”, one of the best Maiden songs of all time.

Then I get a little disinterested — “From Here To Eternity” is not a personal fave, and “Can I Play With Madness” is flat sounding again, just like on A Real Live One.

“Wasting Love” is better.  The dual guitar harmony is a little off, but it’s live, what you hear is the way it was.  Bruce pushing his voice to the breaking point.  The mix is nice here.  You can hear Nicko’s drums beautifully and both guitars clear as a bell.

A fiery “Tailgunner” takes us out of ballad territory and back into traditional Maiden:  pumping guitars and lyrics about good ol’ WWII.  I like when Bruce sings, “No more bomber just one big bomb, hey hey, whooo!  Pussshhhttt!” as if to imitate the sound of a bomb going off!

Then, “The Evil That Men Do” lives on and on.  Bruce urges Donington to scream for him; they do and he responds with a solid “Fuck yeah!”

Incidentally, does anyone know why Bruce always seems to sing the words to this song wrong, live? This album and A Real Live One, he sings:

“And I will pray for her,

Someday I may return,

I will bleed for her,

If I could only make her learn.”

The actual lyric on the album is:

“And I will pray for you,

Someday I may return,

Don’t you cry for me,

Beyond is where I learn.”


Bruce then introduces the modern war ballad, “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”.  I think this is one of Maiden’s greater songs, at least once it gets going into that awesome guitar melody…and then another one after that!

The first CD of Donington closed with “Fear Of The Dark”.   Interesting — playing this one halfway through the show, and not the end!  How things would change, as this song became more and more of  a classic.  The Donington version is great, I love Janick’s pinch harmonics.  The remastered CD loaded four more songs onto disc one from here, freeing that space off disc two for video content.  I’m only mentioning this because depending on which version you have, your disc may end on a different song.  But I think “Fear Of The Dark” may as well close the disc, as it’s a perfect place to pause!

“Bring Your Daughter” was up next.  I can always pass on this song, although the redeeming factor are the wild and crazy guitars!  I could do without the singalong intro, but the fans at Donington are sure into it!

The brilliant “Clairvoyant” pumps the crowd up once again.  Once again, Janick crazies-up the guitar work making the whole thing more manic.

“Heaven Can Wait” of course was the big singalong song, I just wish they’d play something else from Somewhere In Time instead of this number.  Although I do like it when Bruce allows Nicko to have a word.  “Oiiiyyyeeeee!”  This is followed by “Run To The Hills”, which indicates we’re getting closer to the end.  Personally I’m tiring of this song, and the guitars sound too thin.

“2 Minutes To Midnight” serves as a reminder of the great tunes that Bruce and Adrian used to write together.  Great riff (even if poached from “Wildfire” by Budgie), great song.  Funny:  As a kid, I loved “Hills” and didn’t really like “2 Minutes”.  Now, I really love “2 Minutes”, but I’ve heard “Hills” just too many times.

Then:  four classics in a row.  “Hallowed”, “Trooper”, “Sanctuary”, and “Running Free”.  “Hallowed” is still one of the very greatest Maiden tunes of all time, and in many ways I think it’s better live.  In particular, the Live After Death version is great.  But Bruce sings his teeth into this one too, and it’s just that much better for it.  Once again, I can hear some tasty pinch harmonics in the opening.  Is that you Janick?  Guess I’ll have to wait until this show comes out on blu-ray in 2013….

“The Trooper” is of course pummeling as ever,  and “Sanctuary” a welcome rarity from the earlier punkier days.  I like when Bruce introduces Nicko as “old Flatnose himself”.

“Running Free” though was very special indeed, and a harbinger of things to come.

Adrian came out and joined the band for this one, a special appearance at a special gig.  For years I had no idea:  It’s not like you can really understand what Bruce is saying when Adrian comes out, perhaps overcome with emotion!   This really was a preview of the most beloved, long-standing Maiden lineup of all time:  Bruce, Steve, Nicko, Davey, Janick, and Adrian.  It would be seven years before they played together again, but here’s the first.

The cover art and packaging was decidedly bootleg:  A plain white cover with a Maiden logo stencil and the title in sloppy typewriter font.  No booklet at all.  Thankfully, this was rectified with Mark Wilkinson’s poster art, used for the remastered cover art.  The remaster did indeed feature a full booklet packed with photos, and some live video stuff that may or may not work on your current machine.

And thus ends Live At Doningon, and thus ends the last album with this lineup.  It would be uncharted waters forward, as Maiden began the audition process for a new lead singer for the first time in a decade.

But there would be one more special show.  One more release to talk about:  Not an album, but a video.   Next time, we’ll talk about Bruce’s final show, called Raising Hell, featuring the decapitation of the band’s lead singer!

4.5/5 stars

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

Part 17 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 Dead One (1993)

When Maiden hit the road for what was to be Bruce’s farewell tour, it did not go as the band intended.  There were some positives:   Because this was Bruce’s farewell, the band decided to pull certain older tracks out of the box, and record them for the next live album, A Real Dead One.  But three of the four other Iron Maiden members (Janick Gers being the sole holdout) have accused Bruce of sabotaging that last tour.  I’m sure this is all water under the bridge now, but Maiden were furious that Bruce seemingly stopped trying, barely sang, and underperformed on certain stops on the tour.  Only the big gigs, with the cameras and the press, did Bruce put any effort into singing, claimed the band.

Whatever the case may be, Bruce did turn up for the tracks on A Real Dead One.  And Maiden stacked the deck with great tracks, stretching from the first album to Powerslave.  And those older seldom heard tracks that Maiden pulled out of the box?  Yeah!  You get classics like “Remember Tomorrow”, “Where Eagles Dare”, and “Prowler”.  None of those songs were on the immortal Live After Death (neither was “Transylvania” or “Sanctuary”!) so that brings added value to this album, as a companion piece of sorts.

But it could never live up to the legacy set by Live After Death, and although it’s certainly better than A Real Live One, I can’t say I play this too frequently.   The band are on fire and playing as furiously as ever.  The solos are nothing if not sublime.  Steve and Nicko gallop forward driving the whole thing.  That’s all well and good.  The vocals don’t seem mixed high enough to me.  Bruce’s voice is also obviously wearing with age.  It happens.  I think the album has a better overall sound than A Real Live One however.

I don’t think “Remember Tomorrow” needed backing keyboards, although Dave and Janick’s guitar work is beautiful.  I love Janick’s noisy chaotic solo that still somehow fits the song.  I also love Nicko’s drum work and fills.

“Hallowed By Thy Name” appropriately closes the album, and was also the album’s single.  The fantastic cover art shows Bruce being killed by Eddie, a trick they would try live for their final gig (and more on that when I get to it).  “Hallowed” had two unique live B-sides:  “Wasted Years” and “Wrathchild”!  Both are worth having.  “Wrathchild” probably could have been on this album, and “Wasted Years” definitely should have been on A Real Live One.

Derek Riggs came back for the cover art.  DJ Eddie seems to be spinning discs in hell, at 666 FM!

Even though this was Maiden’s second live album of 1993, it was not their last!  Stay tuned…

3.5/5 stars

Below:  Note Bruce promoting his cousin Rob Dickinson’s new band, Catherine Wheel!  Also seen, the CD for the combined A Real Live Dead One release.

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