bruce dickinson

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Record Store Day picture disc single)

IRON MAIDEN -“Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Parlophone Record Store Day picture disc single)

The story of acquiring this single and RSD 2016 can be read right here, so without getting into the details again this is what you need to know:

  1. This was a Record Store Day exclusive (April 16 2016).
  2. There were only 5500 copies made.
  3. Everybody wanted one.

The picture disc and packaging are gorgeous.  The record is a depiction of the Eddie destroying the R-101 airship, but fear not, this is not how history actually unfolded!  This picture disc is ensconced in a die card cover with reprintings of the Daily Mirror newspaper article from the day following the disaster.  It’s a lovely keepsake for sure, but it also has an exclusive interview on the B-side.

Not that the A side is unimportant.  From my original review for The Book of Souls, I had much praise for “Empire of the Clouds”:

“Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits ‘Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano’ been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, ‘we did that’.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but ‘Empire of the Clouds’ might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instil it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.”

Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson discuss the making of the song, almost an album in itself, on the B-side “Maiden Voyage”.  The R101 was a massive airship (“the Titanic fits inside”) that was rushed into service and caught flame in 1930.  Bruce wrote the song on piano, which he had learned to play over the last three years.  He then researched the history of the airship and worked on the words.  The way he describes the incident on this interview track, it was a perfect storm of everything going wrong.  In its context, the airship was an expression of the ambition of the British Empire to stretch to all corners of the Earth and above as well.  Bruce says the crash was the end of this era.

Part of the story involves a storm, so Bruce came up with a piano part to depict that.  Before long he had enough components from his piano writings to build the different parts of the song.   One of the bits was written when Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) was ill with cancer.  After his death, Bruce used this piece for the part when the airship initially sets off.  It’s interesting that this era of British ambition inspired the most ambitious track that the singer had ever attempted.  This includes a musical “S.O.S.” in Morse code, something I picked up on upon first listen.

Bruce has particular praise for drummer Nicko McBrain in the building and recording of this song.  Nicko was not only a help in a technical respect, but also as a cheerleader keeping the band driven, so much was he into it.

Bruce Dickinson is a remarkable individual in heavy metal.  You don’t see many metal stars as well educated in history as Bruce, or as capable at communicating it to his audience.  Indeed, as a presenter on the BBC, Bruce has brought history to many diverse audiences.  You would think Iron Maiden fans would be one of the more challenging groups to reach, but Maiden followers are hungry for this kind of content.  We can only respect the band that much more when we realize the true depth of their work.  This coming from a licensed airline pilot, published fiction author, cancer survivor and amature fencer who also happens to be in Iron Maiden.  Extraordinary!

I’m not sure if this disc was worth the buying frenzy it spawned or the online prices you are about to see, but I’m sure glad I got my copy.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls (2015)

NEW RELEASE

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls (2015 Parlophone, collector’s book edition)

I have a new hero.  His name is Bruce Dickinson.

Bruce has not only beaten cancer back to that dark hole from which it came, but he takes command on Iron Maiden’s new opus The Book of Souls.

Even though he only has writing credits on four of the 11 tracks here, his impact is massive.  With lungs of iron, Bruce propels everything.  For the first time (possibly) ever, I feel that the most important band member is not leader Steve Harris, but the singer himself.

Right from the opener “If Eternity Should Fail”, Bruce is center stage.  He wrote this complex number himself.  It boasts one of Maiden’s most memorable choruses yet, and musical twists and turns that return us to Powerslave.  Meanwhile, there is a hook that reminds me of Bruce’s solo song “The Ghost of Cain”, from Accident of Birth.

We took a good look at the lead single, “Speed of Light” a couple weeks back.  Maiden often write a fast, heavy blazer to go with a new album, and that’s “Speed of Light”.  Even though it is the single, it is far from the strongest song.  Written by Bruce and Adrian Smith, it is certainly a good Iron Maiden track, but in comparison to the monuments of metal that surround it, “Speed of Light” feels like a brief diversion from the epic metal moments at hand.  Adrian’s solo, however, is delicious.

“The Great Unknown” (Smith/Harris) opens softly, but even so there is a menacing tone to Bruce’s voice and the underlying instruments.  With a slow, thrusting riff, “The Great Unknown” soon lurches forth, a killer metal march for the ages.  Bruce pushes his voice to the very limits, giving it all and then some.  As with many of the songs on The Books of Souls, I hear hints and echoes of past Maiden epics.  This is not a lack of originality, more like a signature — familiar but always different.  “The Great Unknown” ends on the soft note with which it began.

What is an Iron Maiden album without a Steve Harris bass intro?  He and producer Kevin Shirley captured a wonderful bass sound on this album.  “The Red and the Black”, another epic, is the only Harris solo writing credit.  It has a riff that takes me all the way back to Killers, but then it is gone, and it’s onto another riff…and another…and another.  At 13 minutes in length, this is one of those trademark Harris songs.  Time changes galore, loaded with hooks.  You can draw parallels to many epics from the past, but to do so takes away from this one.  “The Red and the Black” is a proud achievement, a passionate metal song as only Iron Maiden can really do.  Adrian Smith handles one of the guitar solos with a huge splash of wah-wah, and that is simply a thing of beauty.  In sum, if you took a little bit of everything that makes Iron Maiden great and unique, then all those ingredients are in “The Red and the Black”.  Bass outro, and that’s that.

A semi-shorty (5:52) is in the next slot, a fast riffer called “When the River Runs Deep” written by Steve and Adrian.  This one is hard to compare to any past Maiden tracks, as it occupies a space all its own.  Adrian Smith sometimes brings in riffs that sound like something other than Iron Maiden, and I think that’s “When the River Runs Deep”.  Adrian takes another wah-wah solo, but not to be outdone is Janick Gers who throws down an edgy solo of his own.  As far as Iron Maiden goes, this song is guitar solo nirvana.

A 10 minute epic always makes a good closer when you’re Iron Maiden, so the title track “The Book of Souls” (Gers/Harris) is last for disc one.  Gentle acoustic guitars and keyboards emulating pipes tell us that this is previously uncharted territory.  Then “The Book of Souls” trudges forth, with a beat not unlike “Mother Russia” from No Prayer for the Dying.  There’s far more to the song than that, however. Soaring lead vocals (Bruce only seems stronger!) just ice the cake.  All three Maiden guitarists shine on this, but Janick and Adrian have some solos that just play off each other so well. You want those trademark Maiden guitar melodies?  How about galloping riffs?  Nicko McBrain killing it on the drums?  Maiden deliver, in top notch style, everything and then some more.

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Bruce and Adrian co-wrote “Death or Glory”, opening side two with frenetic drums and riffing.  Going for the throat, The Book of Souls has more fast riffs per minute than any Maiden album in decades.  In five brief minutes, you are blasted against the wall, bounced off the floor, and nailed to the ceiling.  Don’t hurt your neck from all the headbanging.  This time, the guitar spotlight is on Dave Murray for an intense, dramatic solo.

“Shadows of the Valley” (Gers/Harris) sounds a lot like “Wasted Years” at first, but only briefly.  If anything, “Shadows of the Valley” recalls Dance of Death-era Iron Maiden.  Although this song is not as powerful or memorable as others on the album, it does contain some seriously incredible instrumental moments.

One of the most heartfelt and powerful songs on the album is the shortest.  “Tears of a Clown” is a thoughtful moment about Robin Williams.  The poignant lyrics are to the point:

All alone in a crowded room,
He tries to force a smile,
The smile it beamed or so it seemed,
But never reached the eyes, disguise,
Masquerading as the funny man do they despise.

I found this to be one of the compelling songs.  Of all the bands to commemorate Robin Williams, I did not expect it to be Iron Maiden.  But they did it in such a way that it completely fits.

Dave Murray and Steve Harris might not have known that Bruce already has a solo song called “Man of Sorrows”, but it doesn’t matter much since Maiden’s song is called “The Man of Sorrows”.  Musically this sounds much like X Factor-era Maiden.  Bruce takes it to a higher level than that.  Dave himself has a nice slow bluesy solo at the end that is just pure gravy.

The biggest surprise, the biggest song, and the biggest challenge has to be “Empire of the Clouds”.  Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits “Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano” been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  “Empire of the Clouds” is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, “we did that”.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but “Empire of the Clouds” might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instill it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.

Even though 92 minutes have elapsed, The Book of Souls does not particularly feel longer than A Matter of Life and Death or The Final Frontier.  Like those two previous records, The Book of Souls is going to have to be digested long-term, returned to again and again to fully absorb and appreciate.  This is an album in the true sense:  best appreciated in sequence, as a single work.  There’s an intermission in the middle for you to change CDs and take a break, but I recommend diving right back in once again.

With Bruce’s very serious health scare, and the increasing age of the band, there is always the chance that this could be the last Iron Maiden album.  Of course, some said that about The Final Frontier as well.  It seems that ever since Brave New World in 2000, Iron Maiden have set to top the previous album each time.  The cumulative effect of that is that they had a hell of a lot to live up to on The Book of Souls.

Mission accomplished.

5/5 stars

Disc 1
1. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28
2. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
3. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
4. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33
5. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
6. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27

Disc 2
7. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
8. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
9. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01

For the official KeepsMeAlive review by Aaron, click here!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Speed of Light” (2015 single/T-shirt bundle)

For Superdeke‘s review of the new Maiden single, click here!

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20150825IRON MAIDEN – “Speed of Light” (2015 BMG single/T-shirt bundle – Best Buy exclusive)

“Only at Best Buy — the words chill me to the bones.

I don’t know what the deal is with Best Buy exclusives in Canada.  When Tenacious D’s movie Pick of Destiny came out, I found the Best Buy edition no problem, just up the street.  Bonus disc and all, easy peasy.  Didn’t even know such a thing existed until I found it at Best Buy.

Only a few years later, it became impossible to find Best Buy exclusives at Best Buy.  Using Tenacious D as the example again, the Best Buy edition of Rize of the Fenix has two bonus tracks.  I had to buy it on eBay, so you know it was an inflated price.  Same thing with the last Black Sabbath album.  Best Buy had a bonus track called “Naïveté in Black” which happened to be one of the best songs.  Had to buy it on eBay.  Paid too much.

A few weeks ago, Best Buy announced they were getting an exclusive on the new Iron Maiden single “Speed of Light” from the forthcoming double album The Book of Souls.  It came with a T-shirt.  But I wanted the single just as much.  That’s where Stone from Metal Odyssey came in!

First of all, I’m gonna tell you to follow Stone in some way, shape, or form.  (WordPress/Twitter)  He read my plight regarding Best Buy items here and took pity.  I called my closest Best Buy — all CDs have been removed from their inventory.  So Stone bought two copies and sent me one, asking nothing in return.  (I will return the favour — just name it man!)  To say I appreciate this gesture is am understatement, which is why I’m being more long winded than usual for a one track CD single!

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“Speed of Light”, written by the duo of Dickinson/Smith, is true to Iron Maiden, and it sounds fucking brilliant.  We know all about the new double album, with plenty of long bombers.  “Speed of Light” is just a hair over five minutes, a very concise song for any Maiden album.  When Adrian and Bruce write together, you can count on a catchy riff and hooks.  “Speed of Light” delivers, and Bruce’s singing is just as powerful as ever, cancer be damned.  His voice is virtually unchanged since Brave New World, 15 years ago.  The air raid siren is intact.  And this album will be the fifth with this Maiden lineup, the longest lived in its history.  Impressive.

Most impressive.

A highlight of “Speed of Light” has to be Adrian’s solo.  The three Maiden guitarists (Janick Gers and Dave Murray being the other two) all have their own distinct styles, which is a major boon to a band like Maiden.  Adrian is the one who thoughtfully composes his solos, and then lets them rip.  This one is brief but has his stamp all over it.

Sometimes Maiden take on a 70’s vibe.  “The Angel and the Gambler” is one such moment, but I think “Speed of Light” also has one foot in the 70’s.  Just a hint, an insinuation, at the beginning.  Otherwise, “Speed of Light” is purely a modern Maiden metal moment.  It would have fit comfortably on The Final Frontier, although I would caution against inferring the sound of the new album from just one single.  It is probably one of the more straightforward moments on The Books of Souls, but we’ll find out for sure on September 4.

One last comment:  fuck you, cancer!  You just got beat by Bruce Dickinson!

4.5/5 stars

GALLERY: Visual Enhancements

Gah!  Don’t you hate “losing” files among your many hard drives and devices?  I meant to include these pics with past posts, but had forgotten where they were (or just forgot to add them)!  So here are some visual enhancements to past posts (and links to the articles they go with).

1. Soundwave making energon cubes!  (He comes with the cube accessory and I added the effects.)

Originally for the gallery “Alice Cooper vs. the Decepticons”.

sw

2. A screenshot of the Risk-like computer game Lux.  This particular board is Las Vegas, Nevada being invaded by aliens.  I am purple.

Originally for the review of Michael Hunter – River.

LUX

3. I am on iTunes!

Originally for the review of Kathryn Ladano – Open.

itunes

4. Tracklist for one of my annual Christmas CDs that I made for family and co-workers.  Unfortunately I didn’t capture the artist names.  I do know them — in track order, the artists are:  1. Bill Ward, 2. Helix, 3. Twisted Sister, 4. Bryan Adams, 5. Marillion, 6. Bing Crosby & David Bowie, 7. Lemmy, 8. Helix, 9. Ted Nugent, 10. Steve Morse, 11. Hawksley Workman, 12. Wynton & Ellis Marsalis, 13. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, 14. John Lennon, 15. Def Leppard, 16. Jon Bon Jovi, 17. Eric Johnson, 18. Brian Vollmer, 19. Bruce Springsteen, 20. Sir Christopher Lee, and 21. Bob & Doug McKenzie!

Originally from the review of Marillion – A Very Barry Christmas.

 

Christmas CD 2012

5. Tracklist for a Bruce Dickinson “greatest hits” CD that I made for Aaron to accompany his copy of The Chemical Wedding.  Pretty sweet.  “The Best of the Rest of Bruce Dickinson”.  Heh!

Originally for the review of Bruce Dickinon’s The Chemical Wedding.

Best of the Rest of Bruce

6. NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH!  Click here only if you wanna see the bloody tooth that the dentist ripped out of my jaw in #352: “It’s All Helix’ Fault! – The Story Of My Tooth”.  I strongly urge you to heed this warning, it ain’t pretty!

7. And lastly, this wasn’t for anything special.  I just wanted to have a permanent record of that one day (Nov 11 2013) when two articles featuring poop were in my top five most popular posts!  Ta-da!

TOP 6

#344: Childhood Recording Sessions

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#344: Childhood Recording Sessions

When we were kids in the 1980’s, pre-internet, pre-downloading, the only avenue we had to share music with each other was taping.  If a friend had an album you wanted, you could try to record it.  For example my next door neighbor George had all the Kiss albums, on LP.  All he was missing was The Elder.  What Kiss albums I didn’t own myself (which was most of them) I gradually taped one by one from George.  I’d write down the song titles and make a cassette cover.  When George wrote down the songs, I couldn’t always read them.  When he did get The Elder in ’86, he made a copy for me.  For a little while, I thought Kiss had a song on it called “Escape from the Ish”.

One Sunday afternoon in ’85 I went over to his place with a 60 minute tape, intending to record Unmasked.  George dusted off the LP, dropped the needle and hit “record”.  At the same time, he also decided to play bass along to the whole album.  Somehow, his bass bled through to the tape recorder.

I didn’t find an original copy of Unmasked for two more years.  Until that time, all I had to listen to was my taped copy, complete with George’s bass “overdubbed” on top of Gene’s!  If I think back and remember really hard, I can still hear in my mind how George kept playing through the song fade outs!

Other recording sessions were far more elaborate.  When George acquired Kiss’ Animalize Live Uncensored on VHS tape, he brought it over along with his own VCR, so we could dub a copy, VCR to VCR.  On other occasions I would bring our VCR over to my best friend Bob’s place, and record there.  My parents hated it when I disconnected the VCR!  My dad always seemed to fear we’d never get it hooked up properly again!  Or that we’d lose the controller, or worse, break it.  But then, if we were recording at my house, my dad would always walk in and mock the bands.  “What’s wrong with that man?” my dad said of Bruce Dickinson.  “He keeps on screaming as if he’s in terrible pain!”

Copying music improved greatly in the 1990’s.  The durability of the blank tapes improved, and dubbing from CD was infinitely better than recording tape to tape.  Because of the improvements in quality, the cassettes we dubbed in the 90’s are still playable.  Still, there is no comparison in sound to a CD.  Finally in 2001, I purchased my first CD burner, enabling me to create the best possible sounding copies of music.

None of those improvements in technology, nor the advent of the CD-R, swayed me from owning an original CD or LP.  I may have had a burned copy of the Sultans of Ping F.C., but there’s nothing better than an original.  Somebody could send me a CD rip of some amazing rare bonus tracks by bands I like, which is great…but not as great as owning the original.

Why?

I don’t really know.  Certainly I have plenty of friends from every age group who are content not to own any CDs.  They don’t need to own it in order to listen on an iPod.  That’s not good enough for me.  I want the whole experience.  I want the cover art (on paper, not a computer screen), I want the liner notes.  I want to file the new CD on my shelves in the right order, and then gaze upon my collection of a given artist.  I like to handle the artwork, the CD, and take a hard squint at the pictures.  It’s hard to explain.  I can justify it by saying CD just sounds better than an mp3.  And as good as CD gets, sometimes vinyl can sound even better.

Even though I don’t need them anymore, I miss the old days of the Sunday recording sessions.  I miss the social aspects of friends gathering in somebody’s basement or living room to share and discuss and enjoy music (all of which I later bought, anyway).  I miss that feeling of heading home with some new music to listen to, right out of a friend’s collection.  But I don’t miss having only enough money to buy blank tapes, instead of originals.  I’m much happier now with my collection of well loved physical, original music.

#337: Oh Say Can You Scream

NOTE:  None of the information below should be taken as actual singing advice!

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#337: Oh Say Can You Scream

In the 1980’s, screamers were king.  Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Brian Johnson, Udo Dirkschneider…all of them were able to scream the high notes, sending chills up and down your spine.  We all wanted to be screamers back then!  None of my friends were able to croon like Coverdale, so screaming seemed like a viable option.  We worked on our screaming voices with practice, practice, practice.

My buddy Bob came up with two ways to practice our scream techniques:

  • At home: Go to your bedroom and close the door. Put on AC/DC’s Who Made Who cassette, and grab a pillow.  Then, scream along with Johnson directly IN to your pillow.  Nobody should be able to hear you!  The pillow should muffle your wailing Johnson imitation.  You can belt it at top lung power without disturbing mom and dad’s TV shows.  Just remember to lift your head from the pillow for breathing!  (That part is really important.)
  • If out at dusk: Go to your local park. Make sure the coast is clear.  Then, just sing and let it out!  Bob and I did this one frequently, walking through our local Stanley Park.  We serenaded the neighbors with a selection of AC/DC and Iron Maiden.

There were a couple specific Maiden songs that Bob and I really enjoyed screaming along to.  One was a classic from Powerslave: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.  Such an excellent, challenging choice.  We would focus on the line, “Then down in falls comes the raaaaaaaaaaain!”  We’d scream that section over and over again until we were satisfied that we had it right.

After a few years, I became quite good at hitting the high notes.  I moved on from my screaming by the time I was in University, and focused on the Bee Gees.  I knew that screaming Maiden tunes wasn’t a good way to attract female attention.  Singing “Stayin’ Alive” note for note though?  That may have had potential!  (Note: it didn’t.)

Although I can no longer perform the song as I used to, I am proud to say that I used to be able to hit every note in “Stayin’ Alive”.  Something to be proud of at Karaoke.

Part 316: Oh What A Feeling

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 318:  Oh What A Feeling

In 1996, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Juno Awards, a box set titled Oh What A Feeling was released.  It was four CDs loaded to the gills with Canadian music, from all corners of the country and all styles of music.  It was a great set and one which sold regularly in our stores.  The original run of the set sold out briskly.  We had a hard time keeping it in stock new, and a few years later, used copies were somewhat scarce.  We sold it at a very reasonable price of $19.99, used.

We had one customer, who I never gave a name to except for “Eastern European Guy”.  He had an accent and broken English so that worked for me.  He pulled Oh What A Feeling off the shelves and asked to listen to it on one of our six crappy listening stations.  I popped in all four CDs, handed him the headphones and remote, and left him to listen.

One thing that always pissed me off was people who constantly need help on the listening stations.  It’s not hard.  Volume controls were right there in front of you.  The remote was like any remote that people would have had at home.  People who couldn’t figure out how to skip tracks pissed me off.  How do you listen to music at home?  I didn’t get it.

Eastern European Man motioned with his hand for me to come over.  “This song…there is a problem with it.  Listen please.”

“Hey, I have an idea. Let’s stick the lead guitar player behind the bassist for this video.”

I placed the headphones on my head.  It was track 1, disc one.  “American Woman” by The Guess Who.  I listened for a few seconds, nodded my head in approving time with the song, and removed the ‘phones.

“Sounds good.  What problem are you having?” I asked as politely as I could manage.

“This song…there is strange sound.  Listen again.”

I placed the headphones back on.  Dah da da da da, dah da.  American Woman, stay away from me-hee.  Sounded fine.  I heard no strange sounds.  I told him I heard nothing unusual.

“There is a sound…ticking sound.  Tick tick tick.  Listen please.”

I put the phones on for the third time.  Finally I got it.  I heard the ticking.  It was the cymbal.

“Oh, OK, I get it.  Yeah, that’s not a defect.  That’s the drummer playing cymbals.”  I made a drumming motion to get my point across.

“No, no.  There is ticking sound.  Tick tick tick.  This not right.”

I explained again, “I hear the ticking sound you’re talking about.  It’s part of the song.  It’s the drummer playing cymbals, it’s a percussion instrument, like this.”  I made the drumming motions again.

“I not like.  Can you order me other copy?”

Man, I freaking hated ordering shit in when I didn’t have to.  There was nothing wrong with Oh What A Feeling.  If I ordered in a copy, it would be coming from another store in our chain.  We carried this item as a used item, but they were all going to be the same.  When we brought in this item from another store, we wouldn’t make any money on it.  The store that sent it to us gets the sale.  So, even if he buys it which was not guaranteed since the next copy would have the same tick tick tick, I would be losing the sale.

He insisted.  I ordered in the box set, we called him, and inexplicably, he bought the new one even though they were identical.  He never even returned it, which I completely expected.

SAM_1244Later on, the same man came in and picked out Bruce Dickinson’s album Balls To Picasso to listen to.  Once again, I brought him over to the listening stations, and left him to listen.  Once again, he signaled me over with a hand gesture.  I made my way to home wondering what the hell could be wrong this time.

“Did you put in correct CD?  I know this singer.  This is…not him.”

I put on the headphones and turned it up.  It was Bruce singing “Cyclops”, track one.

“This is the right CD.  This is Bruce Dickinson,” I told him.

Puzzled, the man said, “He changed his style!”  Well, win some lose some man.  I left him to listen once again.  I got back to my work, I had lots of customers to deal with that day.  About 10 minutes later, he motioned me over once again.

“The player…it not working.”  This happened quite frequently.  Our stuff was used and abused by the lowest scum and passersby who needed to kill 10 minutes while they waited for the bus.  Tire kickers.  They like to try things, but not to buy things.  Eastern European Man was not one of these, he did buy things.  However our stuff took a lot of abuse from others and was always on the verge of failure.

Attempting to joke around with him, I put on a happy voice and said, “Oh, did you break it man?”

Not understanding the humour, he answered, “Ehhh…perhaps.”

He bought the disc.  After a while, I never saw him again.  It’s funny.  You dread people like this coming into your store, and you having to wait on them hand on foot when they want to listen to something.  You hate them constantly signaling you over when you’re busy with other customers.  But, then you miss them.  You miss that eastern European accent because hey, he might have been annoying but at least he wasn’t a dick, and he did buy things.  He might have treated you like a servant to him, but technically that’s what you were.  You might have been a manager but to these guy you’re serving them, and they’re the customer, and that’s it, and I don’t begrudge it anymore.

But what happened to him?  Did he return to Eastern Europe?  Did he go online and start listening and downloading there?  Who knows.  After all, I never caught his name.  He was just Eastern European Man.

CUPFACE

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Revenge Is Living In the Past (2006 live bootleg CD)

Part two of a two-part series on live bootlegs. For part one, click here!

IRON MAIDEN –  Revenge Is Living In the Past (2006 live bootleg CD, The Godfatherecords)

Astute metal fans know that there have been couple very special Iron Maiden tours of late that were not commemorated with a live album. That’s shocking considering how many live albums Maiden’s done since reuniting with Bruce and Adrian in 1999 (four). The one I had been seeking the most was the Matter of Life and Death tour. On that tour, Maiden played every song from that excellent album in sequence. Some moaned and complained about the shows being loaded top-heavy with an album 70 minutes in length. Those people did not appreciate what they were witnessing, which was the only time you were going to be hearing most of these songs live. And what great songs they are. I am on record with A Matter of Life and Death being among my favourite Iron Maiden albums.

Then, at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014, I found it: A soundboard recorded double CD from Stockholm, November 18 2006. This was the second of two nights at the Globe arena. (They would return to Stockholm again a week later on the 25th!) I do not pay money for “burned” (CD-R) bootlegs, and one vendor had hundreds of beautifully packaged, factory pressed live bootlegs. They had many from this label, The Godfatherecords, all in lovely digipacks. I paid $40, the most I paid for any single item at the CD show. This was well below the $60 that I paid 15 years ago for the awful Virtual Lights Strikes Over France, also by Iron Maiden. I think $40 was a fair price for a double bootleg CD of this quality.

MAIDEN REVENGE_0006

How does a live performance of A Matter of Life and Death hold up?  Remarkably well!  In fact there was only one song that I felt didn’t work well, which was “The Longest Day”.  It’s a great song on album, but live, Bruce’s vocal is more erratic.  Still, it is hard to be critical since this is but a blip in the course of the CD.  The songs are remarkably album-accurate otherwise, with Steve and Adrian providing backing vocals where needed.

“Different World” is a brilliant opener, and the crowd is immediately fired up.  Also well received was the single “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”.  At the conclusion of A Matter of Life and Death, Maiden break into “Fear of the Dark,” and the crowd sings along to every word, as they often do.  The set closes with classics:  “Iron Maiden,” “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Evil That Men Do,” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.  All brilliant of course.  It is good to have an excellent sounding commemoration of this tour.  I had never really understood why Iron Maiden did not release their own official CD.  That’s why the world needs bootleggers.

The Godfatherecords generously filled out the second CD with four songs from another very special show:  Rome, October 27 1981.  Why is that special?  It was only Bruce Dickinson’s second show with the band!  Ever!  Paul Di’Anno’s final show was only a couple weeks prior, on the 10th.   From this show, we get “Iron Maiden,” “Transylvania” (what a bizarre song to include since it’s instrumental), “Drifter” and “Prowler”.  I don’t think I have a copy of Bruce singing “Drifter” on anything else I own!

The sound quality is not that great, as expected.  The lineup then was Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Clive Burr.  Immediately obvious is that the band were playing much faster back then, and Bruce’s range was greater.  It’s very cool to hear Steve Harris himself do the song introduction on “Transylvania”!  I don’t think I’ve ever hear him speak so much on stage before.  (He also introduces “Prowler” with Bruce.)   And Bruce singing “Drifter”?  Very different.  The audience “Yo yo yo yo’s!” along to Bruce, but it sure sounds weird to hear anybody but Paul Di’Anno doing it.

This is a great CD, and if you happen upon it, I recommend you add it to your collection.

4.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Bruce Dickinson – Anthology (2006)

I acquired this DVD for ridiculously cheap at my old place of employ via their web order service, but after I left their employ so no staff discount.  Its condition is impeccable!  Very impressive.

BRUCE DICKINSON – Anthology (2006 Sanctuary)

Bruce Dickinson is that rare kind of artist, one whose solo work has the same level of quality, integrity and emotional impact as the work with his better-known band. I think it is safe to say that most Iron Maiden fans have enjoyed Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, or at least most of it. This DVD Anthology is a complete collection of all of Dickinson’s solo video material in one 3-disc package.

Up first is Bruce’s live video supporting his first solo album whilst still in Maiden, Tattooed Millionaire. This video, which was extremely rare when it first came out (I never located a copy), was called Dive! Dive! Live! and featured Maiden guitarist Janick Gers. It also features every song from that Tattooed Millionaire performed live, plus several B-sides and a handful of covers.  No Maiden.  As Bruce was proud to say, this video is very raw. Also on the first DVD is the video Skunkworks Live, which was released in the mid 1990’s. It featured Dickinson’s new solo band, also called Skunkworks, featuring guitarist Alex Dickson. I was not a huge fan of Skunkworks, as I found their style (particularly the bass by Chris Dale) not to mesh so well with Bruce’s songs. Most of the Skunkworks album is performed live, plus some older songs and B-sides, and one Maiden cover (“The Prisoner”). This is another very rare performance as once again, the original video was very hard to find.

Disc 2 is the Scream For Me Brazil show, featuring my favourite lineup of Bruce’s band. Roy Z and Adrian Smith on guitars, the hulking Eddie Casilias on bass, and the talented tribal and bizarre Dave Ingraham on drums. This to me was Bruce’s finest moment as a solo artist. The performance itself was never meant to be released at first, this is a rough and raw video feed. However, as grainy as it is, the raw energy and sheer performance chops of Bruce and his ace band come through. The tracklist is a mix of songs from the three albums featuring Roy Z (Balls to Picasso, Accident of Birth, and Chemical Wedding).

Disc 3 is my personal favourite disc, seeing as Bruce’s music videos were rarely shown on Much. Every video is included here. There are some really off the wall videos directed by Storm Thorgerson (check out “Tattooed Millionaire”! Shoes for hats?) and some really cool horror-chiller-theater-type videos directed by Julian Doyle. Further on, I loved “Accident Of Birth” (directed by Bruce himself), mainly because Dave Ingraham makes awesome faces while playing the drums, and is wearing this funny leather aviation hat through the whole thing. But that’s nothing, wait until you see “Road To Hell”. Ingraham is now wearing a gas mask through the whole thing! Julian Doyle’s “Abduction” video is also cool, as Bruce himself is captured by mysterious Men in Black, and experimented upon….

But there are some pretty bad videos too. “Tears of the Dragon” comes to mind, a great song, but a terrible video. Here’s Bruce, looking all pensive…then there’s some weird sumo wrestler looking guy…fire…a beach…Bruce wrecking stuff…I would have preferred to see his band. It was the early 90’s, and this was the kind of video that people were sick of seeing, pompous and self-important. Awful video.

Lastly as a bonus there is an old Samson video directed by Julian Temple. I don’t even know what to say about Biceps of Steel except it’s an odd one! There is also a lot of supplimentary bonus material, including some introductions and explanations from Bruce himself….

This package was extremely well assembled, and is very enjoyable for all Bruce Dickinson fans. You won’t be let down.  Completists in particular will appreciate that Bruce is very hands-on with his product and tends to give the fans what they wanted along with stuff they didn’t know existed.  Full endorsement from LeBrain.

5/5 stars

More BRUCE DICKINSON at mikeladano.com:

Accident of Birth (1997) Man of Sorrows EP (1997)
Balls To Picasso (1994 & deluxe edition)
The Chemical Wedding (1998 Japanese import)
Skunkworks, Skunkworks Live EP (1996)
Tattooed Millionaire (1990, 2005 Sanctuary 2 disc set)
Tyranny of Souls (2005, Japanese version)
RECORD STORE TALES Part 148: Navigate the Seas of the Sun

Part 242: The Ego Has Landed

RECORD STORE TALES Part 242: The Ego Has Landed

In the spring and summer of 1999, Robbie Williams suddenly got big in Canada.  Previously he was all but an unknown.  That is until they compiled the best songs from his first two solo albums (Life Thru A Lense and I’ve Been Expecting You) onto one CD and called it The Ego Has Landed.  This compilation went platinum in Canada, but before that I had never heard of Robbie Williams.

One of my staff guys Matty K started spinning The Ego Has Landed in-store.  It actually grew on me quite quickly.   I bought it and still own it today.  I don’t play it often, but I have three major memories of this album that still stick with me:

1.       Once I got into it, Matt and I would play this album almost every shift together.  He’d pull his sweater up over his nose and imitate the cover.  Then in horrible accent he’d recite the hidden poem at the end of the CD, “Hello Sir”.  Good times!

2.       When we first carried it, I wanted to find out who Robbie Williams was.  I knew nothing about him, except that people were asking for the CD.  I then discovered via the magical internets that he was ex-Take That.  I knew who they were, at least.  Also, Alex Dickson from Bruce Dickinson’s band was playing with him.  I had no idea!   I remember trying to tell one of my bosses these cool details, only to have them snap at me!

“Hey, did you know who this Robbie Williams is?” I asked.

“I don’t care!” they barked.  “You’re carrying it, whether you like it or not!”

“I was just going to tell you that he used to be with Take That,” I responded sheepishly.   Somebody needed to chill the fuck out.  Bad times!

3.       I’d been waiting patiently for a used copy to come in, so I could get it cheaper.  I had a big cottage weekend coming up, and my friend Shannon was coming with me.  I didn’t want to subject her to thrash metal in the car trip, and I really wanted Robbie for the journey.  The weekend was fast approaching, so I decided to spend the money on a brand new copy.  We had a great trip and a great weekend, but the following week, guess what came in used and much cheaper?  The Ego Has Landed!  Fuck me.

I was given a free copy of the followup album, Sing When You’re Winning, by Warren from Global Bass magazine.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like it nearly as much as The Ego Has Landed.  In fact I’ve never bought a Robbie album since!