A Real Live Dead One

Iron Maiden

Raw Power Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I remember receiving A Real Live One in the mail from my contact at Capitol Records back when I was the features editor of the college newspaper. I had been growing disillusioned with the direction the band had been taking since Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (yes, we still have to review that - patience, people, patience), and I didn't find anything worth celebrating on this particular disc. However, when A Real Dead One, the "brother" album featuring older material came out, I said to myself, "This is the disc they should have put out."

I finally got around to purchasing the Iron Maiden re-issues from '98, complete with multimedia goodies, and I have to correct myself about a few things. First, A Real Live Dead One, the combined album featuring both live discs previously mentioned, is the album that Iron Maiden should have put out all those years ago - though even this setup needs a little tweaking. (More on that in a moment.) Second, maybe it's that I'm getting softer in my heart - or maybe it's because I survived listening to that pile of dog crap they called Virtual XI, but the post- Powerslave material featuring Bruce Dickinson doesn't sound too bad these days. (Editor's note: The 2002 re-releases on Metal-Is divides this back into the two original albums. We'll eventually review each one as a separate unit.)

The two discs still keep the older (read: pre-'85) material separate from the newer (read: 1986-1993) stuff - and that's where I would have made a change. So they combined two separate live albums into one package - fine. What I think they should have done was to mix the tracks together in order to try and re-create the feel of a real Iron Maiden concert. It also might have placated those who feel particularly passionate about a specific point in Maiden's history. I, for example, worship the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Powerslave and Somewhere In Time albums, though I admit it's been years since I listened to the latter.

All of this said, now that these discs have had eight years to grow on me, I have to admit they're pretty good. Dickinson, preparing to take leave from Iron Maiden until his return in 2000, sounds like he's into the material, and is genuinely enjoying singing these songs to the European audiences captured on both discs. (Why no American crowds? Just wondering.)

And songs that I slammed back in '93 from the A Real Live One disc turn out to have sides that I couldn't have seen back then. Tracks like "Be Quick Or Be Dead," "Wasting Love" and "The Clairvoyant" show me that, despite my cynicism about Iron Maiden in that era, they indeed were cranking out some great tunes. "Heaven Can Wait" could still be one of the band's most underrated works ever.

When it comes to the period covered by A Real Dead One (disc one in this set), Iron Maiden pulls off some wonderful surprises. Whether it was dusting off the instrumental "Transylvania" or pulling a nugget like "Where Eagles Dare" from the depths of Piece Of Mind, Iron Maiden take some bold chances with their selections here - and they strike gold almost constantly. That said, you know that not everyone will be pleased with the selections - namely because their favorite tracks didn't make it on. (I personally don't have any gripes with the first half's selections - though it might have been interesting to hear the band do "Wasted Years" or "Stranger In A Strange Land" from the Somewhere In Time era.)

There are two bones of contention I will pick with this set - and both, not surprisingly, come from the A Real Live One material. The first, "Can I Play With Madness," might have been a hit single for the band, but it remains one of the weakest songs that Iron Maiden ever recorded. I'd rather have heard "Moonchild" if they had to put something from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son on the disc - and one-fourth of the tracks on disc two come from that album.

The second is, arguably, the worst song that Iron Maiden has ever recorded - "Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter". Again, I realize it was a hit for the band... so what? Jesus, we're the same people who made the fuckin' "Macarena" a hit, proving we don't necessarily have great musical taste. Let's call making this a chart-topping song a mistake on mankind's part, bury the song, and never hear from it again. You know, kind of like what Iron Maiden did to Blaze Bayley. (Uh-oh, let the flame war begin.)

A Real Live Dead One does accurately capture Iron Maiden in the period leading up to Dickinson's departure from the band, and while it doesn't have the natural flow of an Iron Maiden show, it does capture the boys having some fun with the music. (If you want the flow of a show from this time period, go pick up Live At Donington... which is also in the "to be reviewed" pile.) Separate, these albums are admittedly a tad weak. Together, they highlight each other's strengths.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Raw Power Records, and is used for informational purposes only.