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REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast – Live in Mexico City (2020)

IRON MAIDEN – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast – Live in Mexico City (2020 Parlophone)

I feel a bit like a jackass reviewing this, because so many people I know caught this tour, or at least one of the recent tours, and I’ve never seen Maiden live.  I only have these live albums to go by.  But what I like about Iron Maiden is that they take the time to document almost every single tour since the Bruce reunion era began.  (Only three tours did not receive a live album.)  The Legacy of the Beast tour was in support of a video game, and featured a sort of “legacy” setlist, heavy on the old classics with a small smattering of more recent material.  This prevents too much crossover with the prior live album, The Book of Souls – Live Chapter.

Without going track by track, I can tell you that Nights of the Dead was pieced together from three shows in Mexico City, much like Live After Death in Long Beach and Hammersmith.  Even so, Bruce’s voice only tends to get stronger as they go further down the setlist.  By “Hallowed” and “Run to the Hills”, it sounds like the man is just warming up!

The setlist is a delightful mix of hits, deeper cuts and the odd recent classic.  “Where Eagles Dare” from Piece of Mind whips the throng into immediate hysteria.  “Revelations” from the same LP has a certain contemplative gravity that it brings to any live album, and hearing it here is sheer nostalgic delight.  Two Blaze-era songs return to the set in “Sign of the Cross” and “Clansman”, both lengthy epics.  Enhanced by the three-guitar lineup and the Air Raid Siren, can we say these versions challenge the originals for supremacy?  Though it wasn’t written for Bruce, “Sign of the Cross” has more dynamics with him at the microphone — he adds a few high notes for embellishment.  Not to mention the depth that the third guitar adds to a song that was always a bit thin sounding.

Reunion era Maiden is cut back, leaving only “Wicker Man” and the always welcome “For the Greater Good of God”.  Both deserving songs.  Stuff like “Wicker Man” (and the earlier “Flight of Icarus”) really pump up the adrenaline levels by keeping it short, sharp and unshackled.

Then you have the stuff that you have to call “the hits”:  songs like “Aces High”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “Trooper”, “Beast”, “The Evil that Men Do”, “Iron Maiden”, “Fear of the Dark” and “Run to the Hills”.  These are the Maiden standards; a serving of essentials that everybody has connected with at some point in their life.  Some of them float in and out of setlists, and some always remain.

A word should always be said about the packaging and artwork of any Iron Maiden album.  The Mexican-themed Eddie can be found in a couple pieces of art inside and out.  Manager Rod Smallwood wrote the included liner notes, explaining that the live album came to be when the world came to a halt due to Covid-19.  Yay Covid?  Joking aside, Smallwood’s notes are always informative to read while rocking along to the CD.  There is even a mini 2021 tour poster (let’s hope!) included, with the Trooper version of Eddie surrounded by iconic imagery from prior Maiden artwork.  Icarus, the mushroom cloud from “2 Minutes to Midnight”, a crashed Spitfire…have a look.  Finally, a sticker sheet is an added bonus though most of us will be keeping the stickers intact, I reckon.

Perhaps it’s just giddy glee that there’s a new Maiden live album to cap off this year, but Nights of the Dead is so good that I wouldn’t change a thing.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Essential (2005)

Part 38 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

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IRON MAIDEN – The Essential (2005)

…And the era of Maiden compilations had begun.  And I did buy them all.

The Essential is a series.  I have The Essential Johnny Cash as well as others.   So, this one was not put together by the band.  There’s no Eddie on the cover, no exclusive content, no liner notes from Rod Smallwood nor Steve Harris.  Instead there are liner notes from Lonn M. Friend of RIP Magazine.  They’re aimed at newbies, but at least all songs get full musician and writing credits.

Much like 1996’s Best of the Beast, the tracks are reverse-chronological.  This time, it works better than on Best of the Beast.  The cool thing is that this means you start with the incredible epic “Passchendale” from Dance of Death.  What an opening.  Every album (studio and live) is visited, including four Blaze Bayley tracks.

Everybody bitches about what tracks should have been left off, and which should have been included.  Here’s mine:

1. I would have included no Blaze tracks, and instead included live versions of Bruce singing them.

2. Those are the only times I would have included live tracks.

3. I could do without “Holy Smoke” and “Bring Your Daughter”.  Give me “Tailgunner” instead.

4. Give me “Stranger In A Strange Land” instead of “Heaven Can Wait”.

But that’s about it.  You get a healthy mix of hits along with great album cuts such as “Wrathchild”, “Killers”, and glory be, “Phantom of the Opera”!  Those, plus “Passchendale”, make this a passable greatest hits disc.

Tracklist is below, but only you can decide if this one’s worth buying.  I bought it for “the collection”.  As far as a complete career-spanning set goes, this is about as close as it got without having to buy multiple sets.  However it’s now out of print, so the point is moot.

3/5 stars

Disc: 1
1. Paschendale
2. Rainmaker
3. The Wicker Man
4. Brave New World
5. Futureal
6. The Clansman
7. Sign Of The Cross
8. Man On The Edge
9. Be Quick Or Be Dead
10. Fear Of The Dark
11. Holy Smoke
12. Bring Your Daughter..To The Slaughter
13. The Clairvoyant
Disc: 2
1. The Evil That Men Do
2. Wasted Years
3. Heaven Can Wait
4. 2 Minutes To Midnight
5. Aces High
6. Flight Of Icarus
7. The Trooper
8. The Number Of The Beast
9. Run To The Hills
10. Wrathchild
11. Killers
12. Phantom Of The Opera
13. Running Free (Live)
14. Iron Maiden (Live)