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A re appraisal...,
This review is from: Maiden England '88 (Audio CD)
1987 was a transition year for me. For years I was a massive Iron Maiden fan with the annual ritual of the single release, the album and the second single release being part of the routine of life. Then out of the blue came Queensryche with Rage For Order and then, more importantly, Operation Mindcrime. This earth shattering concept album hit the streets almost at the same time as Iron Maiden's Seventh Son and the contrast between the two led to this being the last Iron Maiden studio album that I bought. Both were concept albums, but that was the only direct link between them. Mindcrime was all about gritty real - world themes like murder, prostitution, sex, anti-religion (Catholic), seedy US politics whilst Seventh Son was all cartoon religious themes (good, evil, seven deadly sins, the Whore of Babylon, angels, chosen ones and other such childish flim flam) - the concept, like the cover on the album, was all a bit ridiculous. I did manage a last Maiden gig on this tour, but the sight of an eight foot tall eddie wobbling around the stage, which was decked out in plastic iceburgs, sealed the deal for me - it was time to move on and grow up (frankly, Queensryche partially performing Mindcrime at Nottingham Rock city in 1988 was one of the best gigs of my life).
Roll on a decade or two and this live album from that tour has finally been released on CD. Conscious that I may have been a bit harsh as an opinionated youngster, I thought I'd buy it and see if I had been wrong about the Seventh Son tracks all this time. The answer is, yes I was (almost), although the real low points of the studio album are left out of the live set (The Prophecy and Only The Good Die Young are thankfully absent). For the record, on the silly side the spoken part of the title track Seventh Son is still ridiculous when intoned with Bruce's privileged public school diction/annunciation and Steve's bass can sound disconcertingly like water running through your radiators or cistern (my wife thought there was something wrong with the car when I was playing this) but apart from this, this live album is an absolute blinder. What hits home most of all is how incredibly tight the band is. There are parts where you feel that even Bruce is struggling to keep up with their breathless gallop (notably on Hallowed Be Thy Name, which must be a nightmare for anybody to sing, let alone the 'air raid siren') - they are literally relentless in attack and this makes this live album an absolute peach (particularly emphasised by the crystal clear production job). Bruce is, nevertheless, on top operatic form and there are some great song choices, with 'Still Life', 'Wasted Years' and a bombastic 'Killers' being refreshing deviations from the usual Maiden 'live' script. The highlight for me is distinctly the sing-along 'Heaven Can Wait' from Somewhere In Time, with the ever enthusiastic Maiden crowd in fine fettle, and it's probably only the awful clunky keyboard infused 'Can I play with Myself' that is left wanting. Interestingly, there are no tracks from Powerslave, probably because the band were sick of playing them after the mammoth World Slavery Tour ground to a halt a year or two before.
So to the bloke in the pub in 1987 that I had the argument with about what a load of old tosh Maiden had become with Seventh Son, I apologise - it's still not a patch on Mindcrime (what is, apart from Rage For Order?) but not the tired old train wreck that it sounded at the time. Still, I was right all along about 'Can I Play With Madness' - it was, and remains, truly dreadful.