Release DetailsLABEL Sanctuary
RELEASED ON 7/12/2005
The Essential Iron Maiden (2 Discs)
posted on 7/2005 By:
Iron Maiden? As essential as it gets. The Essential Iron Maiden? Not so much. “Essential” is quite a stretch to describe either the overall quality of the tracks, or the relevance of this collection. I’m as big a Maiden fan as anyone not sporting an Eddie tattoo, but sweet Jesus, enough with the collections already. In the last decade, Maiden’s best have been repackaged on Best of the Beast (1996), Ed Hunter (1999), and Edward the Great, just one studio album ago in 2002. Then there’s the live albums—Maiden Japan (1981), Live After Death (1985), A Real Live One (1993), A Real Dead One (1993), Live At Donington (1993), Maiden England (1994), and Rock in Rio (2002). Without even counting the couple box sets and a score of home videos, The Essential Iron Maiden and Death on the Road (a live CD/DVD to be released later this year) bring the total to twelve best of/live albums. By the way--the number of studio albums? Thirteen. As great as it is, how may versions of “Iron Maiden” does one fan need?
Sanctuary/Sony believe we need one more. The term “The Essential” is actually the name of Sony’s “best of” line, and every release in the series is uniformly titled. Likewise, each release contains a plain black and white photograph for artwork. Very Maiden, right? This is a US only release, and manager Rod Smallwood’s message on the band’s website claims that Sony sees this as a “career summary for the general American rock fan who may not yet be into Maiden and/or metal”. More Maiden fans are always welcome, but I’ll bet my Eddie’s Archive that Smallwood’s description doesn’t apply to anyone reading this. So why should you shell out for The Essential Iron Maiden? Well, you probably shouldn’t. The only readers that might consider picking up the double disc set are those that haven’t bought the band’s post 80’s output and would like a sampling of the best of the lot. Truly a retrospective rather than a best of, TEIM includes, in reverse chronological order, tracks from each of Maiden’s thirteen albums, usually two tracks each. Much like YMCA basketball—everybody gets a turn to play, regardless of whether or not they best contribute to the effort. To wit, the album contains eight songs from what was easily their darkest creative days, the four albums of band’s 90’s output (No Prayer for the Dying through Virtual XI).
Considering the target audience for the collection, the selection of “Paschendale” as an opener is a curious but commendable move. The track is easily the best Maiden song since the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son days, but its epic length is contrary to the quick hook that one would guess Sony would look for. It’s also surprising (but fortunate) that this song was chosen over the first single from Dance of Death, the weaker “Wildest Dreams”. The second single “Rainmaker” claims the second DoD spot. The rest of disc one is fairly predictable, but concert favorite “Fear of the Dark” is served up live, and the lengthy “Sign of the Cross” makes an appearance. Disc one runs through half of Seventh Son, with “The Clairvoyant” ably closing the disc, while “The Evil That Men Do” kicks off the second. But while the discussion of disc one will be centered on what was included, talking points of the second disc will focus on what was omitted. It’s strictly greatest hits fare, and with each classic album only contributing two songs, fans will be groaning over the exclusions, most notably “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. As a preview of the upcoming Death on the Road, a live version of (guess what) “Iron Maiden” caps the collection.
The twenty seven song length provides a respectable length to summarize the career of one of the most loved and influential bands of metal, and if allocated differently, The Essential Iron Maiden would be more, well, essential. The Maiden catalog deserves to be celebrated, and there are plenty of quality retrospective offerings. Pick up Eddie’s Archive or The Early Days Part I DVD, and leave this on the shelf, unless you’re looking for a gift for that hard to buy for general American rock fan.
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