fear of the dark

#830: 1992


I’ve never been much of a winter guy.  I get that from my dad.  The winter of ’92 was long with a number of serious snow days.  I had just learned how to drive and it was certainly a challenge.  Details are not important.  You don’t need an accounting of times my little Plymouth Sundance got stuck or struggled to make it home from school.  All you really need to know was what was in my tape deck.

I was still digesting a lot of the music that I received for Christmas at the end of ’91.  The live Poison and Queensryche sets got a lot of car play once I dubbed them onto cassette.  At this point my attention to detail was becoming overwhelming.  I painstakingly faded in and faded out the sides of the live albums onto cassette.  This had to be done manually as you were recording.  If I missed the cue I’d do it over again until I got it right to my satisfaction.  I should have known there was something wrong with me!

We had one serious snow day that year, and although class wasn’t cancelled I stayed home.  My school friend Rob V made a tape for me of David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour.  I know that I played that tape on that day because the memory is so clear.  It was a great concert.  Roth and Steve Vai had a fun interplay, where Steve imitated Roth’s vocal intonations with his guitar.  Vai followed his voice as Roth told the crowd, “Toronto kicks ass, because the girls are soooo fiiiine!”

Time flies, and 1992 didn’t take long to kick into gear with new releases.

I had just discovered Queen.  Suddenly here comes this new movie Wayne’s World which made Queen a worldwide phenomenon for a second time.  More important to me though was the fact that the soundtrack CD included the first new Black Sabbath track with Ronnie James Dio in a decade:  “Time Machine”!  My buddy Peter didn’t care — he was strictly an Ozzy Sabbath fan.  No Dio!  (And certainly no Tony Martin!)  But I was excited.  I wanted to get that soundtrack as soon as possible.

There was a new music store that had just opened at the mall about six months prior.  The very first tape I would ever buy there was the debut album by Mr. Bungle in late ’91.   It would be the very Record Store that I would later dedicate years of my life to…but not yet.  When it opened, I recall my sister and I being glad that there was finally a music store at the mall again, but disappointed in the prices.  $14.99 for a tape was a lot of cash.  CDs were unfortunately out of our price range.  New cassette releases like Wayne’s World were cheaper at $10.99, so I went to the mall before class one morning to get a copy.  And this is a funny memory as you’ll see.

When I worked at the store, the boss would give me shit if he thought I was talking to someone too much.  I think he would have preferred good old fashioned silent labour, but I don’t know that.  He also drilled into us to pay attention to every customer and don’t ignore anybody.  So it’s quite ironic that he lost a sale that day by ignoring me and talking it up with some hot girl visiting him!

I was standing there in front of his new release rack looking for Wayne’s World.  I knew it was out, but didn’t see it anywhere.  I checked his soundtracks and it was missing in action.   I wanted to ask him if he had it, but he was chatting it up with this girl.  Eventually I caught his attention, but only because as I stood there waiting, I thought he did ask me a question.  So I said, “Pardon me?”  But he wasn’t actually talking to me, he was still talking to the girl.  Once he noticed me, he informed me that Wayne’s World was sold out but he could hold a copy for me as soon as the next shipment arrived.  I was ticked off so I said no thanks, and picked it up at the Zellers store down the hall instead.

Wayne’s World in the deck, I happily rocked to Queen, Sabbath, Cinderella, and hell even Gary Wright.  Peter and I saw the movie one Saturday night at a theater in Guelph, and liked it so much that we went back to see it again the following afternoon.  I saw Wayne’s World four times that winter!

I got my fill of Queen with the recent Classic Queen CD, released later that March.  I got the CD for a good price at the local Costco!  This enabled me to get a good chunk of Queen hits all at once in glorious CD quality.

The next big release to hit my car deck was a big one.  A really big one.  An album five years in the making through triumph and tragedy.

On March 31 I went back to the Record Store on my way to class, and the new release I was waiting for had arrived.  I left gripping Adrenalize in my hands.  An album I had been waiting for since highschool and even had actual dreams about!  It was finally real.  Into the tape deck it went as I drove to school.  Less riffy…more reliant on vocal melody…not bad?  I’ll let them have it though.  After what they’ve been through?  Yeah, I’ll cut them some slack.

Two weeks later, I was digesting another massive chunk of music.

I didn’t get Pandora’s Box in 1991 when it was released.  There was so much going on.  But my parents bought it for me as an Easter gift in April ’92.  That Easter I was “Back in the Saddle” with three CDs of Aerosmith!

It was a bittersweet gift.  Traditionally the family spent Easter at the cottage.  I have lots of happy memories of playing GI Joe in the fresh Easter afternoons up there.  This time I had to study for final exams and stayed home with my gift.  I must have played that box set two times through while studying that weekend.

Exams were over by the end of April and suddenly…it was summer holidays.  In April!  It was…incredible!  I stubbornly refused to get a summer job.  I have to say I don’t regret that.  I had savings from my previous job at the grocery store and I was getting Chrysler dividends cheques (yeah, baby).  Between that, Christmas & birthday gifts, I got most of the music I wanted.  And I got to spend that summer just enjoying it all.  It felt really good after such a long and frankly lonely winter.

Pandora’s Box tided me over.  After all, it was a lot to absorb having heard very little “old” Aerosmith up til that point.  My favourite track was “Sharpshooter” by Whitford – St. Holmes.  I liked that they included a sampling of solo material by various members.  These were new worlds to discover, but what about the next big release?  Who would be the one to spend my valuable savings on?

Iron Maiden were back on May 11 after a very short absence with Fear of the Dark, their second of the Janick Gers era.  But I needed to save my money, and wait one more week for something even more important to me.  It was Revenge time.

Speaking of triumph and tragedy, it was time for some overdue spoils for Kiss.  Having lost drummer Eric Carr to cancer in late ’91, Kiss deserved to catch a break.  Fortunately Revenge turned out to be a far better album than the previous few.  I recall getting over a really bad cold, and my lungs were still congested on that spring day.  The outdoor air felt amazing.  I walked over to the mall on release day and bought my CD copy at the Record Store.  I probably ran all the way home to play it, lungs be damned.

To say I was happy was an understatement.  In 1992 you had to come out with something strong or you would sink.  It was a more vicious musical world than just a year ago.  Fortunately Kiss did not wimp out and came out with an album just heavy enough, without following trends.  It would be my favourite album of the year, though a few strong contenders were still lined up.

My birthday was coming and I would have to wait a little while to get some more essential tunes.  Fear of the Dark was on the list.  So was Faith No More’s Angel Dust, which was a must.  And, of course, rock’s ultimate royalty returned in 1992.  A band that rock history cannot ignore, though it arguably should.  A band that defined the term “odorous”.  A band with a colourful and tragic backstory.  A band making its long feared return with its first album since 1984’s Smell the Glove.  And with their new album Break Like the Wind, they proudly proclaimed, yes indeed, this is Spinal Tap.

Once again, quite a bit of music to absorb.  I had been anticipating the Iron Maiden.  I heard the first single “Be Quick or Be Dead” on Q107 late one night, and didn’t think much of it at first.  I was concerned that Bruce Dickinson’s voice was becoming more growly and less melodic.  The album helped assuage these concerns with a number of melodic numbers including “Wasting Love”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Fear of the Dark”.  But the album was infected with lots of filler.  “Weekend Warrior”, “Fear is the Key”, “Chains of Misery”…lots of songs that were just not memorable.  Fear of the Dark sounded better than its predecessor but could you say it was better than Seventh SonSomewhere in Time Powerslave?  No.

Though it was murky and dense, the Faith No More album blew me away.  The M.E.A.T Magazine review by Drew Masters gave it 2/5 M’s.  I gave it 5/5.  I wanted something heavy and weird from Faith No More.  I got what I wanted.  Peter was a big Faith No More fan too, but I don’t think he dug Angel Dust as much as I did.  We both appreciated the comedic aspects but I really got into the samples, nuances and rhythms.  It was, and is, a masterpiece.  I believe I can say that I was of that opinion from the very beginning.

And Spinal Tap, dear Spinal Tap.  The Majesties of Rock took a little longer for me to fully understand.  And no wonder, for Spinal Tap are playing musical 4-dimensional chess inside your ear canals.  I simply had to accept that several years had passed since Spinal Tap last recorded, and they had grown in their own stunted way.  I’ve always thought that the title track was sincerely brilliant.  But I never liked that Nigel Tufnel had so few lead vocals.  I have long appreciated bands that had multiple lead singers.  While this time even bassist Derek Smalls stepped up to the microphone, it was David St. Hubbins who sang lead on 11 of the 14 tracks.  Now, this is certainly not to criticise the enviable lead pipes of St. Hubbins, but merely to state that there wasn’t enough Nigel.  Having said that, Nigel did branch out by employing a new guitar playing technique — doubling his solos with vocals, like Gillan used to do with Blackmore.  He also got to unleash his new amps that went up to infinity, which debuted live at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in April.

Like all things, summer eventually came to an end and it was back to school once again.  That fall and into Christmas I got some of the last new releases that were on my radar.  I missed Black Sabbath when Dehumanizer came out in June.  That one took a long time to really like.  While the production was incredibly crisp, the songs didn’t seem up to snuff to me.  At least at first.  In time, it became a personal favourite album.

That Christmas came the new Bon Jovi album Keep the Faith, Queen’s new Greatest Hits, and of course AC/DC Live.  It was also the Christmas that I first realized there was something wrong inside my head, and I realized it because of those albums.  It was partly the obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also a massive hangup about being ignored.  I wanted the AC/DC double Live, but was given the single.  I wanted Keep the Faith and Queen on CD but got cassette.  As I grew older and learned more about myself, I realized that I became very upset if I felt like someone was not listening to me or understanding me.  Nobody seemed to get why I wanted specific versions (because of my OCD actually), and I couldn’t explain it, so that set me off even further.  I became extremely grumpy that Christmas over these gifts, and it was ugly.  I isolated myself to stew in my own negativity.  It’s not something I’m proud of, and you can call me a spoiled brat if you want to (you wouldn’t be wrong).  At least I’ve worked at trying to figure out my defects.

It’s not like any of it mattered in the long term.  I have re-bought all of those albums twice since, each!

1992 went out much like it came in, cold and snowy.  Canadian winters are hard.  Some people have the DNA for it, but I don’t.  I’m half Italian.  I wasn’t designed for snowy, damp winters.  That’s why music is so important to me in the winter months.  Music can be a completely indoor activity and I had a continually fresh supply.  1992 was a big year for heavy metal even though the grunge revolution had already started.  Of course, things were not to stay as they are.  Iron Maiden and Faith No More were about to hit some major speedbumps, and Black Sabbath had already split in two by the end of the year!  1992 was the last time we could pretend heavy metal was still in good health.    Hard rock was about to endure further challenges and hardships.  At least we had ’92.



VHS Archives #70: Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray and Janick Gers live interview (1992)

I’ll let the video do the talking.  It’s a big one:  Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray and Janick Gers went live with Teresa Roncon to divulge the details of the new album, Fear of the Dark.  Live calls are answered, new artwork is discussed, and Bruce’s new son is named!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Best of the Beast (1996 2 CD edition)

Part 22 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Best of the Beast (1996)

I’m not sure what prompted Iron Maiden to put out their first greatest hits disc in 1996, but at least they did it in style.  Originally available as a limited edition 2 CD book set, it was pretty extravagant packaging for the time.   My only beef is by the nature of such packaging, the paper sleeves will always scratch your discs, 100% of the time.

This album was also available in a standard edition single disc, with the songs in a different running order.  I don’t have that one so I’m not going to talk aboot it.

The 2 disc version, perhaps to emphasize that Blaze Bayley is the current Maiden vocalist, starts at the present and then rewinds all the way back to the beginning, closing with The Soundhouse Tapes!  An interesting approach indeed.  As a listening experience I’m not sure that it works that well.

Since we’re starting at the present, the album kicks off with a new song.  “Virus” is 6:30 of same-old same-old X Factor Maiden, but not as good as anything on that album.   It drags and drags for three minutes before finally kicking into gear, but it is otherwise repetitive and boring until then.  Lyrically, it is another attack on the sicknesses in society, much like “Be Quick Or Be Dead” and “Justice of the Peace” were.

Then back in time one year, to “Sign of the Cross”, the dramatic 11 minute epic from The X Factor, as well as “Man on the Edge”.  (I would have preferred “Lord of the Flies” to “Man on the Edge”, but perhaps “Man” was the bigger single of the two.)

To bridge into the Fear of the Dark album, a new live version of “Afraid To Shoot Strangers” is featured, with Blaze Bayley singing.  It’s a good live version, but it’s immediately obvious that Blaze is no Bruce.

Bruce takes over on the next track, “Be Quick Or Be Dead”, and we’re back in the saddle.  Singles (including the popular live version of “Fear of the Dark”) and album tracks are counted down from 1993 to 1986’s Somewhere In Time album, ending disc 1 with “Wasted Years”, a great closer.  My beef here:  I would have preferred the single “Stranger In A Strange Land” to the album track “Heaven Can Wait” (but I know the Heavy Metal OverloRd doesn’t agree with me!)

Disc 2 is the glory years, if you will, everything from Live After Death to the beginning.  It begins with the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a ballsy move for a greatest hits album, and the live version at that.  Chasing it is the live single version of “Running Free”.  Then we count them down, all the singles from Powerslave to “Run To The Hills”, plus “Where Eagles Dare” and  “Hallowed Be Thy Name” thrown in for good measure.

Then it’s the Di’Anno years, which are given an unfortunately brief expose.  “Wrathchild”, from Killers  is one of the best songs from that era, but the only included track from that album.  Maiden’s first epic, “Phantom of the Opera” and the single “Sanctuary” represent the debut Iron Maiden.  Finally, an unreleased track from The Soundhouse Tapes sessions (“Strange World”), and the rare Soundhouse version of “Iron Maiden” close the set.  To read my review of The Soundhouse Tapes and these tracks, click here.

There was also a 4 LP vinyl edition available, with 7 extra tracks:  “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”,  “The Prisoner”, “Killers”, “Remember Tomorrow”, an exclusive live version of “Revelations” from the Piece of Mind tour, plus the final two songs from The Soundhouse Tapes, “Prowler” and “Invasion”. You can read a story about the 4 LP edition by clicking here.

And there you have it, Maiden’s first greatest hits set, with lots of the hits and plenty of rarities thrown in for the collectors.  I confess that I don’t listen to it often, and this time for this review was the first time in roughly two years.

The cover art was once again by Derek Riggs, doing a sort of mash-up of his (and nobody else’s) Eddie’s.  It’s a suitably glorious piece of art for such a monument of metal.  The inside of the book is loaded with concert dates, lyrics, liner notes, and chart positions, as well as more Eddie’s and photos!

I still want to talk about the single, “Virus”, but I think that it should get an article of its own.  Check back soon for that!

Curiosity: the cover features an ad for the never-to-be Iron Maiden video game, Melt!  Maiden did eventually release a video game, but we’re not going there yet….

For the 2 CD edition of Best of the Beast:

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Bruce Dickinson – Balls To Picasso (1994, deluxe edition)

Part 20 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

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

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shfZzTJYZWs&w=560&h=315]

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.

4/5 stars

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…

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

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Fear of the Dark (1992, 1996 bonus disc)

Part 15 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Fear of the Dark (1992, 1996 bonus disc)

I remember staying up late one night, listening to Q107, waiting to hear the new Maiden track.  They promised it, and after airing “Burn” by Deep Purple, they debuted “Be Quick Or Be Dead”.

Nice riff, I said.  The song took a while to grow on me, because Bruce was still growling a bit too much for my taste.  If there was one thing I disliked about Maiden’s previous, No Prayer for the Dying, it was Bruce’s growl.  I’d rather hear him sing.  He was growling the verses, and singing the choruses.  And Nicko was doing some serious steppin’!  It was the Maiden writing debut of Janick Gers (with Bruce), and it was a rant on big business.  Maiden were the 99% in 1992!  I thought it was one of the best songs from the new album, Fear of the Dark.

The second track, “From Here To Eternity” featured the return of Charlotte!  Harris wrote this one alone, and it too was a single.  It has a shout-along chorus, but too much rinky-dink bass way up high in the mix.  This song wouldn’t make my road tape, I never particularly cared for it.

Much, much better is “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”.  Steve wrote this one for the men and women who served in the Gulf War, who as Bruce said, “never wanted to kill anybody.”  I consider this song to be the birth of the “new” Iron Maiden.  The gentle guitar, with the melodic bass in the background, the keys…is it a ballad or an epic?  It’s both.   Then it picks up with some of the catchiest guitar parts Steve’s ever written.  There would be many many Maiden songs that followed this blueprint on albums to come, especially The X Factor.  (My friend Andy and I beat this song by a year.  In 1991 we wrote a Maiden-inspired tune called “Unleashed in the Middle East” about the Gulf War.  Fortunately, it remains unrecorded to this day.)

Did you also noticed Maiden getting more topical?  Big business…the Gulf War…it was the 90’s.

The Zeppish “Fear Is the Key” is next.  Bruce and Janick wrote this one, but again, I’m not too fond of it.  It has a great hook, and it’s technically accomplished, but Maiden and Zep don’t always mix.  I don’t think they ever played it live.  Do I hear a slide?

“Childhood’s End”, written by Steve, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Arthur C. Clarke novel.  It is rhythmically complex and melodic and powerful with a soaring guitar melody.  I don’t consider this one of Maiden’s greater songs in the canon, but it is one of the better songs on Fear of the Dark.

The triumphant ballad, “Wasting Love” closes side 1.  This one may have thrown people for a loop, both by the title and the music.  Maiden, singing about love?  More Scorpions sounding than Maiden, this one came from Bruce and Janick.

Maybe one day, I’ll be an honest man

Up til now I’m doing the best I can

Long roads, long days

of sunrise to sunset, sunrise to sunset

The song seems to be a reflection on infidelity on the road, but was there more between the lines?  “Maybe one day I’ll be an honest man…”

Yes, it’s a ballad, but it is not wimpy.  The guitar harmonies evoke mellow Thin Lizzy.  I think “Wasting Love” is among the three best songs on Fear of the Dark.  “Afraid to Shoot Strangers is another one, and we’ll get to the third in due time.

Side 2 opened with Steve’s “The Fugitive”.  It takes a long time to build.  It’s OK, nothing special.  Again, I doubt it was ever played live.  I don’t know if The Fugitive really needed to be made into a song, but Steve beat the movie adaptation by a year!

Bruce and Davey’s “Chains of Misery” follows.  I think it’s another OK song, again nothing special and again I doubt it was ever played live.  Nice shout-along chorus.

Another Zeppish song is next:  “The Apparition”.  Steve wrote this one with Janick.  See above comments:  OK song, never played live.  The lyrics start with promise, a ghost story perhaps, but then it turns into a series of pieces of advice from the apparition to the living.  Stuff like “You can make your own luck,” etc.  And Bruce is doing that annoying growl vocal!

Thankfully, “Judas Be My Guide” gets us out of this slump!  Ironically I always found this one to sound kind of Priest-like!  I like this tune.  Bruce wrote it with Davey, and to me this is the kind of song that Adrian Smith used to bring to the table.  Melodic, powerful, anthemic, sing-along metal.  I don’t think it was ever played live, but to me this one would have been single material.  I would have picked it over “From Here To Eternity”.

The mellow “Weekend Warrior” is one of the oddest on the album.  Bruce does his growl vocal (again!) but the song goes from acoustic section to electric section to acoustic again, and it’s quite unlike most Maiden songs.  The lyrics seem to be about football hooliganism.  I’m not sure if this was a topic that Iron Maiden needed to delve into, but there it is.

Finally, we have the Steve epic you have been waiting for:  “Fear of the Dark”.  It’s a little simple and repetitive compared to past epics, but it’s solid and has remained in the live set tour after tour after tour.  It is a fan favourite worldwide, and I think it’s great.  Although it’s simpler musically, I think in a lot of ways it’s one of Steve’s best epics.  It’s absolutely perfect live, it begs to be sung along with, and it goes from peak to valley so well!  I like big gothic opening riff.  The mellow sections, again, would serve as a blueprint for the next era of Iron Maiden.  Steve’s melodic bass, backed by quiet keys…

And that’s the album, a fat 12 songs, and although many are in the 3 minute range, there are several over 5 minutes this time.  It was a generous slice of studio music from Maiden, never before had they crammed so many songs onto a record.   It was also released on DAT, cassette, and CD.  The vinyl was a double, and very hard to find.  Vinyl was an import here in Canada:  Capitol stopped pressing vinyl here in early 1990.

As I mentioned, there are moments here that musically look into Maiden’s future.  But changes were already afoot, and in a real way, Fear of the Dark is the first album of the new Maiden.   For the first time ever, Derek Riggs’ artwork was absent.  Maiden instead chose a painting by Melvyn Grant.  Gone were the Riggs trademarks, and a lot of fans reacted negatively to the new art.  Eddie looked more Nosferatu than Eddie, and the idea of Eddie being reborn from a tree was…weird?

This was also to be Martin Birch’s final production effort.  He retired after Fear of the Dark.  Happy retirement, Martin!  What can you possibly say bad about the man who produced Machine Head?  Nothing.  I will say though that this album, recorded digitally for the first time, sounds very thin.  I think it was immediately noticeable and this was rectified on future albums.

My 1996 reissue has a bonus disc chock full of B-sides.

“Be Quick Or Be Dead” came with the piano-infused joke boogie tune, “Nodding Donkey Blues”, an ode to plus-sized ladies.  It’s actually really great fun.  “Ahh, there should be some kind of guitar solo here!” says Bruce before the piano kicks in.

Also from the same single is Montrose’s “Space Station #5” – Sammy Hagar’s first and only writing credit on an Iron Maiden disc!  Maiden of course kick this song in the nuts.  What an awesome riff.  But wait — don’t turn it off.  The hidden track “Bayswater Ain’t A Bad Place To Be” is yet another hilarious roast of manager Rod Smallwood!

Second single, “From Here To Eternity” was an oddity of sorts, one of the few Maiden singles to not feature Eddie on the cover.  It’s B-sides included a Chuck Berry cover/ode to roadie Vic Vella called “Roll Over Vic Vella”.  There were also two live tracks from the previous tour:  “Public Enema Number One”, and “No Prayer For the Dying”.  Nice to have live versions of these songs, as I doubt they were played again after that tour.

“From Here To Eternity” also supposedly featured a remixed A-side — a “Triumph Mix”.  (The name “Triumph Mix” is only printed on the disc itself and not the back cover.)  I can’t tell the difference, so don’t get excited.  I also haven’t attempted to do a detailed comparison, so if you know more than I do, please comment.

The third and final single was “Wasting Love” which unfortunately had a terribly boring music video.  It’s just too 90’s!  It had three more live tracks, all from the previous tour:  “Tailgunner”, “Holy Smoke”, and “The Assassin”.  Same comment as above:  Nice to have live versions.  But note, none of these songs are on the 1996 reissue with bonus disc!  Not one!  And this is one of the rarest of Maiden singles.  Took me a while to find a copy at a decent price.

There was one bonus included on the 2 CD edition of Fear of the Dark, in lieu of the above:  “Hooks In You”, also live from the previous tour.  Probably my most hated of all Maiden tunes.  It’s actually from a later single, and I’ll get to that when I get to that album.

This was the last of the ten Iron Maiden 2 CD reissues from 1996.

So there you have it:  Fear of the Dark.  It’s superior to No Prayer, I believe.  Both the good songs and the filler are superior.  It pointed the way to some interesting new directions, mixing light and shade, and it proved that Janick Gers was an able songwriter in Iron Maiden.  He had also begun to gel with Dave Murray as guitar player.  Yet the album also had much filler, it would have been stronger at a traditional 9 or 10 tracks.   I still have a fond place in my heart for Fear of the Dark, for it was one of many albums that helped me get through the 90’s.

But if you thought the last couple Maiden albums were controversial among fans, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

3.75/5 stars

Part 116: IRON MAIDEN’s Gonna Get Ya…No Matter How Far! (The first 10, in 2 CD picture discs!)

Alright folks, strap yourselves in and get ready for the ride.  After the positive feedback from my series of Kiss reviews, I’ve decided to go with popular demand and do all the Iron Maiden next.  We’re going to talk about every studio album, every live album, every compilation, and every rarity that I have access to.  But why not start off with a Record Store Tale?  Here’s how I acquired rare editions of the crucial first 10 albums….


IRON MAIDEN’s Gonna Get Ya…No Matter How Far!

My love of Maiden is well documented.  The very first blog here at LeBrain’s Record Store Tales, Part 1, was called “Run To The Hills”. It describes the first time I ever heard the band.  I don’t need to explain to you why I love Iron Maiden.  If you’re reading this, chances are that you already understand.  Iron Maiden are more than just a band.  They are a passion.  With a band like Maiden, the fans strive to own everything.

The setting:  Early 1996, when we still carried new CD stock.  One of our suppliers dropped off a brand new catalogue.  Inside, was a new listing.  An exciting new listing!

Iron Maiden were reissuing their first 10 albums in 2 CD editions, with a bonus disc of B-sides!  Picture discs!  Iron Maiden, Killers, The Number of the Beast, Peace of Mind, Powerslave, Live After Death, Somewhere In Time, Seventh Son, No Prayer, and Fear of the Dark!  Knowing that Maiden usually released a minimum of two singles per album, with a minimum of 2 B-sides per single, this was a MUST for me.  I didn’t have all the Maiden singles.  Not even close.  Some of these songs, like “Burning Ambition” and “Invasion”, I’d never even heard before!  Now I was going to have the chance to own them on CD.

The discs were expensive, even with my staff discount.  But there was absolutely no way I was missing these.  As an added incentive, I didn’t even own all the Maiden albums on CD yet.  Most of these albums I still only owned on cassette or vinyl!  So really, it was a win-win situation.  Not only was I getting the B-sides, but I was also getting all the Maiden albums on CD with a minimum of overlap with my existing collection.  Plus, these were picture discs with Derek Riggs’ singles artwork.  Picture discs were something of a novelty at the time.  Today, most CDs are picture discs and nobody cares if they are.

My boss warned me:  “If you order these, you better make sure you buy them all.”  There was absolutely no question of that, I’m surprised he even mentioned it, knowing what a collector I am.  It’s too bad we didn’t order more, for stock.  The rarity of these discs has shown that we could have sold them quickly, or better yet, hung onto them for a couple years and jacked up the price once they were out of print.

The supplier we were ordering from, the name of which escapes me, was a small-time supplier, and usually couldn’t get everything we ordered.  They had about a 50% success rate.  Yet he listed all these European imports that our main supplier usually shied away from.  The Maiden reissues were all from Europe.  I crossed my fingers.  I wanted all 10.  Not “some”, but all!  “Some” would not do it!

A week later, the first five Maidens arrived!  The following week, another chunk of Maiden shipped!  They only failed to get me one disc: Fear of the Dark.  Resolving to get it somehow, it turns out I didn’t need to worry about it.  Two weeks later, even that one arrived.  Total expenditure:  About $300 with taxes!  I had all 10.  My Maiden B-side collection:  almost complete!  [Note:  When I go through the Maiden reviews, we’ll cover all the B-sides, including songs that are not on these deluxe editions.]

I settled in for some long, long nights of listening.  I made a compilation tape of all the B-sides that I had (including up to the current album, The X Factor), and it ended up being 3 tapes, 100 minute cassettes, which I still have.  To knock so many songs off my wishlist in one fell swoop like this was the kind of thing I lived for.  This was the perk of working in a record store.  What a score!  Today, I don’t know anybody else who has the full set of 10.

Be sure to check back in the coming days and weeks for all the reviews, starting with The Soundhouse Tapes, to the present day…