Eddie's Archive

Iron Maiden

Columbia / Legacy, 2002


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


What do you get for the Iron Maiden fanatic who has everything? I mean, really -- the band's albums have been repackaged numerous times over the last few years (including packaging them in their mascot Eddie's head), so buying for the diehard Maiden fan has to be bloody difficult.

Which leads us to Eddie's Archive -- a six-CD set broken up into three "albums," plus a shotglass, scroll charting the band's progress (designed by Pete Frame) and a ring holding the scroll together, all in a metal "casket." For $100, Eddie should also come out of the box and wax my car, but I digress.

The question is whether this set will satisfy the drooling Iron Maiden fan. For that answer, we have to look at each two-disc set as its own release:

BBC ARCHIVES The first two-disc set compiles four gigs recorded and broadcast on the BBC from 1979 to 1988, and is an interesting picture of how the band grew in both popularity and style.

The first four selections -- studio sessions from 1979 -- seem to capture the band (with Paul Di'Anno as lead singer) at their most vulnerable, making these the most interesting of the selections. Still without a full-length disc on the market, Iron Maiden tear through a four-song set which accurately captures the energy of the band while showing off songs which still needed a coat of paint or two to make them classics. (Especially noted is the lack of a specific guitar lick around the two-thirds mark on "Running Free.") For me, this is a real treasure unearthed, as it shows what the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sounded like in the raw.

A six-song set from their 1980 performance at the Reading Festival is also of interest, even if the playing is a little uneven (especially on "Prowler") as the band almost gets wrapped up in the energy of the moment. You can't really blame them, though -- this is what bands were working hard to aim for, and they were able to achieve that goal very quickly. I admit I've never been a big fan of "Remember Tomorrow," so I'm not terribly impressed with hearing this one live, but the bulk of this set shines.

A second appearance at Reading -- this one from 1982, when Bruce Dickinson was fronting the group -- dares to suggest that Iron Maiden was at the edge of reaching superstardom, so it is interesting to hear how the band was dealing with it -- and, courtesy of rumors of Satanism running amok in America, how they dealt with the downside. Again, the band sounds like they're getting caught up in the moment, especially Dickinson, but overall it's a well-played set.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The eight selections from the band's 1988 Castle Donnington appearance, though, is weakened by a reliance on material from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (granted, they were touring in support of that album). If you thought the studio versions of songs like "Infinite Dreams" and "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son" couldn't get more sterile, think again. Fortunately, the band saves face with killer versions of classics like "The Trooper," "Wrathchild" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name."

BBC Sessions isn't designed to take the place of an official live album like Live After Death, but is a very enjoyable set illustrating a band's ups and downs in their career.

BEAST OVER HAMMERSMITH There is a guilty pleasure in this particular set from Iron Maiden's headlinging gig at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1982. When will you hear Dickinson perform a set mostly comprised of songs from the era before he joined the band?

Sure, there is a great selection of tracks from their then-unreleased disc The Number Of The Beast, but Dickinson is forced to rely on Maiden's then-brief history for this set, and he handles it well. These old ears did detect Dickinson having a little bit of difficulty staying in tune on the opener "Murders In The Rue Morgue," but he quickly settled into his role as lead throat and put on one helluva show.

What strikes the listener about this set is that this particular concert is fun to listen to, and it almost makes you wish you had been there in the front row to enjoy it in person. Indeed, one has to wonder why it took the band 20 years to release this to the public.

BEST OF THE B-SIDES It's ironic that the one thing that Maiden fans have been clamoring for all these years turns out to be the weakest link in the chain. Granted, there are some great performances on this set, but seeing that many of these songs were second-thoughts recorded for singles, it's hard to take it too seriously.

Certain tracks are bound to be favorites, depending on when you got into Iron Maiden, of course. I still like "Reach Out," a track sung by Adrian Smith, from the Somewhere In Time-era Maiden, and their cover of Jethro Tull's "Cross-Eyed Mary" never fails to make me smile. Each listener will probably have their own benchmark era of the disc; to each, their own.

And some of the performances on this one are worth some praise. Paul Di'Anno does a great job on the live version of "Drifter," and it is interesting to hear Bruce Dickinson take over as lead throat on "Remember Tomorrow," "Prowler '88" and "Charlotte The Harlot '88."

But many of these tracks are simply throwaways, and should have been left in the realm of vinyl for diehards to search out in morbid curiosity. "Black Bart Blues" -- originally the B-side for "Can I Play With Madness" -- is an absolute waste of time, especially with Nicko McBrain farting around in the studio. Likewise, there's a reason not every track makes it onto an album, a lesson the band should have learned with "Justice Of The Peace" from The X Factor-era Iron Maiden. Incidentally, the few contributions that Blaze Bayley makes on this set turn out to be respectable; the band's covers of "My Generation" and "Doctor, Doctor" are enjoyable, as are the two live versions of tracks Bayley sings on.

Best Of The B-Sides is a definite set for diehard collectors. Otherwise, it's two hours I'd like to have back.

OVERALL So is Eddie's Archive a worthwhile addition to your collection? If the price were lower (and the B-side collection were dropped), it would be a no-brainer. As it stands, this is one that belongs in your collection if you're the ultimate Iron Maiden completist. Let's hope the powers that be eventually see the wisdom in releasing these three volumes individually.

Rating: B

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© 2004 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 Columbia / Legacy, and is used for informational purposes only.