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Both Sides (Deluxe Edition)
Both Sides (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £10.28

4.0 out of 5 stars The overlooked, near masterpiece..., 9 Feb. 2016
How should one review this 'deluxe edition' release? Should one focus on the content of the original album or the remastering and bonus content? Perhaps a short review of both...

The original album saw a major commercial dip for Mr Collins in the USA, though the album still generated two Billboard Top 25 hits and went plantinum which was quite an achievement for an artist of his generation in the era of 'grunge' and 'hip-hop'. Still, compared to the other mega-stars of the 80s (e.g Michael Jackson and Madonna), his drop in commercial clout was greater than theirs in the USA - though in Europe and other parts of the world he retained his chart-topping status to a greater degree. Still, it's a mighty shame that many millions of casual Phil Collins fans would have overlooked this gem of a release.

A sombre affair, 'Both Sides' deals with 'another' divorce and, as such, is very similar in theme and feel to his classic debut; 'Face Value'. And, though not quite as majestic with its high points, as a whole, 'Both Sides' is a stunning collection of songs. The singles, including the title track, are all solid enough pleasers. But it's the hidden album tracks that are the real highlights, such as the epic 'We Fly So Close'.

Alas, whilst Phil does a fine job with playing all the instrumentation, one sometimes feels the sparse production values are not always welcome. And as such, the enjoyment of these songs on the original album is somewhat handicapped.

So, surely, the live performances of the songs would have been great? Maybe they were in concert, but the bonus content which is made up from several live cuts suggests a rather muted affair. None of the songs really come to life, and it appears as if Phil is going the through the motions.

It's not all 'live' cuts on the bonus disc - there's also an outtake or two and a demo here and there. All fine, but hardly breathtaking.

As such, I am not sure if those who have the original version of the album should be troubled to get this deluxe edition unless they are die-hard fans. BUT, for sure, those casual fans who left Phil in the 80s, well, they really should take up this opportunity to pick up what was an overlooked near masterpiece.

Piece Of Mind
Piece Of Mind
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A near, ever so nearly, perfect album..., 1 May 2013
This review is from: Piece Of Mind (Audio CD)
Released in 1983, the fourth Maiden studio album saw the band with their fourth recording line-up. However, this was the line-up that saw the arrival and establishment of the classic line-up that would survive and triump across the rest of the 1980s.

After the arrival of iconic lead singer Bruce Dickinson for 'The Number Of The Beast' in 1982, Maiden broke through to the big stages world over but by the end of 82, drummer Clive Burr was out and Nicko McBrain was in, and remains so till this day.

Somewhat suitably, this album opens with a nice little burst of drumming introducing the opening track, 'Where Eagles Dare'. It's a solid opener, but it's the nexty few tracks that really take this album to classic status.

1st single, 'Flight Of The Icarus' was a moderate hit in the UK (number 11 in the British charts) and became and remains the bands biggest radio-airplay hit in the USA (the bands only Top Ten hit on US Rock Radio). However, whilst the plodding 'Flight Of The Icarus' is now overlooked by the band, it is the second single from the album that Piece Of Mind is most associated with. 'The Trooper', an eventual UK Top 5 hit, is a stunning and fast paced anthem - quite possibly the only arena/stadium anthem without a chorus?

Despite, the success of the first two singles, no other tracks were released as singles which seems odd as there is plenty left from the album to be mined. 'Still Life' is a unique and haunting piece of music with some wonderful guitar parts and interesting lyrics. 'Die With Your Boots On' is standard stuff as far as lyrical contents goes but has plenty of riffs to keep any rocker happy.

Then there is the epic 'Revelations'. A Maiden epic perhaps not quite in the league as 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' or 'Phatom Of The Opera' but certainly splendid none the less.

But, notably, all of the above 6 songs are the opening 6 tracks. The last third of the album takes a notable quality drop. 'Sun And Steel' shows promise in places but seems unworked on and incomplete and 'Quest For Fire' really should have been relegated to a b-side. The closing track, 'To Tame A Land' is an epic closer that is certainly interesting but does not rank up well against other more appreciated Maiden 'epics'.

Really, it is not difficult to explain the inconsistency of the albums quality - this was, after all, the bands fourth studio album in 4 years!!! Indeed, it is actually quite incredible that, despite the weakness of the last third of the album, the first two thirds of the album are some best music in the genre of heavy metal!

30 years on, Piece of Mind remains a slightly flawed album but one where the flaws are, deservedly, overlooked in favour for its many stunning 'classics'.

Maiden England '88 [DVD] [2013]
Maiden England '88 [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Iron Maiden
Price: £13.71

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine release, but could have been even better..., 26 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This double DVD, is in many ways a bona-fide 5-Star worthy product.

Some of the content has been previously available on various VHS releases (Maiden England, 12 Wasted Years) and other DVD releases (Visions Of The Beast). But there is also plenty of 'new' archive stuff (3 concert encores) and the continuation of the 'History Of Iron Maiden' documentary with part 3 of the series.

The main feature is a visually spectacular Iron Maiden concert from 1988 with a fine, and now complete, set-list boasting classic tracks and rarely played gems. It also features a couple of documentaries in the form of the decades old '12 Wasted Years' and the more enlightening 'History Of Iron Maiden Part 3'. Then, there are also the 5 promotional videos from 1986 - 1988 including the fantastic concert performance of 'Stranger In A Strange Land'.

However, there are flaws and missed opportunites too.

The concert staging and set list are all great, but the performance is, by Maiden standards, a bit below par. The songs, in my opinion, are played too fast for their own good and Bruce, one of the greatest frontmen of any genre in music, is not having his best night as he struggles with a cold.

There is also the fact that the the promo video for SIASL aside, there is very little footage here of the equally spectacular 'Somewhere On Tour' from 1986/87. This is a sad omission by Maiden given that their previous DVD releases were not just reissues of an old VHS but also a paltform for presenting previously overlooked tours. For example, the 'Number Of The Beast' and 'Piece Of Mind' album tours were previously given very little exposure until their appearance on the excellent 'Early Days' DVD release. One would have hoped that since this release continues the 'History Of Iron Maiden' documentaries, footage for the 'Somewhere On Tour' concerts could have been located and used. Yes, it was shockingly never professionally filmed, but there appears to be some not too bad footage on YouTube so, one wonders....

And as for the promo videos, fine. But they have been seen before on 'Visions Of The Beast'. Instead, more TV performances from the era would have been a nice treat (as can be found in the 'Early Days' DVD)

And as for the documentaries, '12 Wasted Years' was probably great in its time but is now very much of little use as subsequent releases (notably the 'Early Days' DVD) have covered the contents far better.

And as for 'Part 3 of the History Of Iron Maiden', it reveals very little new information over a rather restricted 40 minutes. All Maiden fans know that Bruce presented some accousitc tracks for the Somewhere In Time album and these were rejected, it's been documented with any reference to the 1986 album for the last 25 years. So, how about letting us Maiden fans know or hear those songs - now that would have been of interest!

And that really sums up this release. It is, as a stand alone product, bloody amazing! It's just that whatever is presented here has been done better by the band elsewhere and there really was the scope for the band to have done better here too. Frankly, the care and attention given to this release falls short of what the Early Days DVD release achieved.

So, I find myself in the odd position of really enjoying this release, whilst also being somewhat frustrated.

Maiden England '88
Maiden England '88
Price: £8.56

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great band, great set-list, not so great performance..., 26 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Maiden England '88 (Audio CD)
In November 1988, as Iron Maiden toured some of the biggest indoor venues of their homeland, the band were closing out a glorious decade that had seen them truly conquer the globe with the release of seven, mostly excellent, studio albums.

The last of the 80s studio albums was the classic 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' from 1988 and it is the tour for this album that is captured here and now finally released as a full concert on both CD and DVD 25 years after the event (until now, there was only the 15 track VHS release and a very rare 13 track CD release).

This is, quite simply, a documentative release of the band at their peak in their homeland. Whilst SSOASS still shifted platinum in the USA and peaked at number 12 on the Billboard American album charts, it was a considerable drop from the 1986 release 'Somewhere In Time'. However, in Great Britain, SSOASS saw the band score their second number 1 album and the album produced 4 Top Ten singles ('Can I Play With Madness', 'The Evil That Men Do', 'The Clairvoyant' and 'Infinite Dreams')

Those classic singles, along with 'Moonchild' (the stunning album opener) and the epic title track are all featured here. Also featured are the now routine Maiden live album cuts such as 'Run To The Hills' and 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'.

Much of these classics will be much enjoyed by casual Maiden fans but for the die-hards, they would have heard it all before. However, such die-hards, will instead take joy from the much more rare live performances of early classics such as 'Killers' from 1981, 'The Prisoner' from 1982 and the wonderful but perhaps overlooked 'Still Life' from 1983.

Indeed, though there are some interesting omissions such as 'Two Minutes To Midnight', this live release boasts a set-list that does a great job of combining the classics, the what was then 'new material' from SSOASS along with some already rare gems from the Maiden catalogue of the 80s.

On a side note, it should also be pointed out the the final 3 tracks, which are the encores from the concert, are produced by Maiden's current producer Kevin Shirley who does a fine job of fitting these previously unreleased live performances alongside the previously released 15 tracks that were produced by Maiden's producer in the 80s, Martin Birch.

There's just a couple of irritations though.

Firstly, some of the songs seemed a bit too fast paced. The excessive speed of the performance whilst arguably adding to the energy of the concert, also detract a bit from the greatness of the songs. Of course, this could be just reflective of my own preferences.

However, the second issues is more objective and that is the fact that lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson is not up to his normal grand standards. The man was ill with a cold during these concerts (blowing his nose between songs no less!) and, sadly, it shows on some numbers - especially on Hallowed Be Thy Name.

Of course, we are talking of one of the greatest frontmen of all time, so even an ill Bruce still delivers a passable performance but, there is no doubting, he's had much better days.

So, as a live album, it's a great documentation of the band at their peak but it's sadly not a peak performance by the band.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2013 11:10 PM BST

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A fine end to the run of classic 80s releases..., 1 Jan. 2013
Maiden's final album of the 80s, was huge success across the world but less so in the USA where it peaked at number 12 and scrapped only a single platinum disc award which was a significant drop in sales compared to the 1986 success of 'Somewhere In Time'. One can't help thinking why SSOASS did not make more of any impact with American rock audiences as the musical climate was favourable for hard rock acts when the album was released in 1988.

Still, renewed success in their homeland, saw the British metal legends score a staggering 4 Top Ten hits in the UK charts and deservedly so - as all four singles are fine Maiden cuts. 'Can I Play With Madness', whilst arguably one of their most commerical moments, is a lively energetic romp. 'The Evil That Men Do' remains a concert regular to this day and a bona-fide Maiden classic with its sweeping guitars and dramatic pace. 'The Clairvoyant', in comparison, is more subtle in its approach but still has its hooks. Then, the last of the four singles,'Infinite Dreams', is a beautiful epic laden with time changes and boasting some of the best Maiden production landscapes ever.

Of the other remaining 4 tracks the opener, 'MoonChild', is a polished but frantic burst of guitar riffs and gripping bass lines that makes for one of the very best Maiden openers.

And the there is epic title track which, despite a rather silly mid-section of spoken word, erupts into a splendid third section of guitar solos.

The remaining two tracks are not of the same standard as the rest of the album but the closing track 'Only The Good Dies Young' is as good as one can expect from a typical 'album track'.

All in all, a stunning Maiden album and, for me at least, their most consistent effort of all the much acclaimed 80s albums. The 4 albums of the 90s that followed were a bitter let down after this and it arguably wasn't until the 'reunion' line-up emerged in 2000 that Maiden have sinced scaled such hights again.

Oh, and this is, for the record, a 'concept' album. But really, it's a loose collection of songs and so this is not something, in my opinion, that needs to be pondered upon. Much better, instead, to simply enjoy the songs for what they are - mostly fantastic Maiden!

Run to the Hills: Iron Maiden - The Authorised Biography
Run to the Hills: Iron Maiden - The Authorised Biography
by Mick Wall
Edition: Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maiden propaganda?, 28 Dec. 2012
For a band who have built a most deserved reputation on honesty and respect for their fans, this book is a rather odd 'official' release since its so full of blatant untruths.

For example, we are informed in this book that that Blaze Bayley (singer from 1994 - 1999) resurrected the bands career sales in the USA. Yet, the fact is that the first Blaze album charted at number 147 in the USA and the second charted at number 124 on the charts. In contrast, the 'Fear Of The Dark' album in 1992, with Bruce Dickinson on vocals, reached number 12 in the USA. Really, how on earth could anyone claim Blaze reignited American interests in the band in the face of such facts.

Also, apparently, 'Somewhere In Time' and 'PowerSlave' were top ten albums in the USA. Well, they were not (SIT peaked at number 11, Powerslave at number 21 - though of course both enjoyed considerable charts runs and were certified platinum)

Returning to the issue of Blaze, the whole story of his departure and the return of Bruce Dickinson is, one suspects, not totally told. This is a shame, since the book starts very well covering the bands early days in extensive and interesting details. Alas, as the years go by, the details are less forthcoming and the book soon becomes less interesting.

All in all, a rather disappointing reading experience.

Nevertheless, now that this book is nearly 10 years old (published in 2003), there is the chance surely for the band to make amends with a whole new official biography?

Virtual XI
Virtual XI
Price: £7.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The worst album in a mostly fine catalogue..., 19 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Virtual XI (Audio CD)
The second album with Blaze on vocals, and his last.

Virtual XI, the bands eleventh release, was a commercial and critical failure when released in 1998 (it peaked at number 124 in the USA and number 16 in the UK). Needless to say, it would prove to be the last album the band would record with Blaze Bayley as he was replaced by a returning Bruce Dickinson in 1999.

The fact is, that by any measure, Blaze was not a good enough singer for this iconic band and its demanding style of music. Though, as the per the X-Factor, he is only half the problem as the other issue with this album is the truly terrible production (by founding member and bassist Steve Harris).

However, there are additional issues with Virtual XI when compared to even the X-Factor.

Notably, there is a very real and serious issue with the drumming. It has been questioned (by internet rumour) whether or not long time drummer Nicko McBrain is actually playing on this album. This may be a bizarre conspiracy theory, but certainly one can see why his particaption on the album is questioned. The acclaimed drummer is known for his placement of 'drum-fills', but, here, the drumming is awfully simplistic and weak.

And finally, where as the X-Factor had numerous songs of a good potential, Virtual XI has less going for it. Opener 'Futureal' is a short sharp rocker of some merit and the epic 'Clansman' is majestic and stunning even with Blaze's limited vocals. There is also the closing track, 'Comos Estais Amigos' which is a fine emotional track co-written by Blaze and delivered with conviction.

However, the flop lead single, 'The Angel And The Gambler' is shockingly repitiive and with a terrible chorus. Indeed, this is true of many of the remaining album tracks - and this is only an 8 track album!

All in all, the weakest entry in Maiden's mostly fine back catalogue of albums.

The X-Factor
The X-Factor
Price: £7.31

3.0 out of 5 stars No 'x-factor' at all!, 19 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The X-Factor (Audio CD)
In many ways, The X -Factor was a suitable name for this album. After all, it was the bands 10th release and they were moving into a new phase of their career having lost both iconic lead singer Bruce Dickinson and acclaimed producer, Martiin Birch - both of whom had been with the band for over a decade.

And there in lies the problems with this album.

By any measure, short lived voalist Blaze Bayley is a singer of limited abilities and it beggers belief that he was appointed to the frontman status of what was, until his arrival, still one of the biggest bands in the world.

But the weakness of this album is not simply down to Blaze's vocal limiations and, for this release at least, his vocal performance is not too lacking to the point of irritation.

The main irritation with 'The X Factor' is the production. With production duties being led by band leader and bassist Steve Harris, we find the guitars lacking in crispness and the drums rather flat. All in all, the production is lacking the dynamics and tightness one would expect from a professional release.

Then there are the songs. In fairness, there are many good solid songs here and, if not for the vocal and production issues there are at least a couple of tracks as good as anything in Maiden's fine catalogue such as the opening epic 'Sign Of The Cross'. It is also notable that on tracks where Blaze has a writing credit, his vocal perfromance is less of an issue such as on the brilliant hit single 'Man On The Edge'. He also puts in a good performance on the impressive, 'Lord Of The Flies', which is an overlooked gem.

Overall, this is an album which had significant potenial with its songs, but this was painfully not realised due to the patchy vocals of Blaze and the production by Steve Harris.

Fortunatly, the vocal and production issues would last just one more release, the even worse Virtual XI. Due to, relatively speaking, very poor commercial reaction to both albums and Blazes' concert performances, it wasn't long before Bruce Dickinson returned and Kevin Shirley arrived to take care of producer duties.

Since then, 'The X-Factor' has been a mostly overlooked album and, to a degree, rightfully so. Though, just as rightly, some of its better songs have been given a raised profile on the bands 1990 - 2010 compilation album, 'From Fear To Eternity'. Perhaps not surprisingly, the versions featured on this compilation were 'live' performance with Bruce on vocals! But there's a bit more to the 'X Factor' than just the 3 songs Bruce has since performed.

All in all, it's worth investigating.

Hush Puppies Mens Courtland 3 Black Chelsea Boots H13187000 10 UK, 44 EU
Hush Puppies Mens Courtland 3 Black Chelsea Boots H13187000 10 UK, 44 EU
Offered by Faulkners Footwear
Price: £49.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality, Style and COMFORT!, 9 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There's not much to say other than the quality and style are very good but the comfort of the shoes are divine!
Excellent value for money.

British Lion
British Lion
Price: £3.26

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same flaws as the Blaze era Maiden albums..., 30 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: British Lion (Audio CD)
It goes without saying, that as the founding member, bassist and principle song-writer of Iron Maiden, Steve Harris is a genuine giant of rock and metal music. It also goes without saying that in Maiden's 30+ years of recording, some of their albums have been better that others.

Most would consider The X-Factor (1995) and Virtual XI (1998) to be weak points in Maiden's history. Both these albums shared some common features. In addition to being Maiden's weakest albums in terms of chart success, there were also the only two albums where Harris was the lead producer and both these albums featured Blaze Bayley on vocals. Now, one should not benchmark this 'British Lion' album against Maiden's output as it is a different creative force for Harris, but it is interesting that the flaws of the Blaze album, seem to be apparent with this British Lion album.

Like, the Blaze era Maiden albums, the biggest issue is not the songs. Rather, it is a weak vocalist who struggles on much of the material and, just as bad, terrible production that lacks dynamics. It's a real shame, because amongst the 10 tracks on offer, there are some very respectable songs here that are fine examples of hard classic rock delivered with a modern edge. The closing track, 'The Lesson', also shows Harris pursuing a musical direction that will take many by surprise and wonder why he will not allow Maiden to be a bit more expansive on their own albums?

A great bassist, admirable band leader, fine song writer but, it would seem, Harris isn't cut out for 'production'.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2015 7:36 PM BST

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