Review Summary: A chronological journey through the B-sides of one of the most enduring metal acts of all time. The quality on here veers from the sublime to the ridiculous but it's well worth hearing for any Iron Maiden fans out there.
Iron Maiden need no real introduction. Over their career spanning more than three decades they have released countless albums and singles. This is a collection of B-sides from their singles and includes alternative versions of well known classics, a few live tracks, some cover versions and some songs which never made it onto the original album releases.
The track order is presented in roughly chronological order such that things get underway with music from the Paul Di'anno era. It is immediately apparent why 'Invasion' and 'Burning Ambition' never made it onto a full album release as the quality is well below that of the first two Maiden albums but they are enjoyable nevertheless and demonstrate how much the band had matured by the time they put out their debut. Perhaps the most interesting thing that is revealed when skipping through this collection is that the oft maligned Blaze Bailey is a far better mimic than dear old Bruce. Some of the cover versions that include Blaze on vocals are the Who classic 'My Generation' on which he attempts a passable Daltrey impression and the UFO number 'Doctor Doctor' which doesn't suffer too much from the absence of the velvet warblings of Phil Mogg. However, with the possible exception of a most excellent cover of Jethro Tull's 'Cross Eyed Mary' and a credible performance of Budgie's 'I Can't See My Feelings' it's rather a different matter when Bruce the air-raid siren has a go. He tries to get his larynx around 'Communication Breakdown' and it's almost worth hearing alone for his totally unconvincing attempt at paying a homage to the legendary Mr. Plant. He does rather a better job on the slowburn Free cover 'I'm A Mover' but one is still left scrambling to hear Paul Rodgers's soulful rendition on the original to wipe away the memory. In fact, on an initially promising sounding take on Montrose's classic 'Space Station No.5' Bruce finally seems to give up entirely and resorts to forcibly comedic ramblings. But let's not be too harsh, the boys were obviously just having a bit of fun cracking off some B-side material.
The most interesting selections on the album for bona-fide Maiden completists will no doubt be the original material that never made it onto a full album release. In addition to the aforementioned Di'anno era numbers we have the whimsical 'The Sherriff of Huddersfield'. This features some ridiculous lyrics and spoken passages and is merely a humorous curio. 'Black Bart Blues' is also an odd attempt at a bit of Maiden frivolity but at least there is some nice lead guitar work from Murray. Another original piece 'Nodding Donkey Blues' is an enjoyably harmless boogie-woogie number. The original material featuring Blaze on vocals includes the rather nifty 'Judgement Day' which boasts some trademark Maiden riffs and some excellent lead guitar work. In addition there are also a couple of updated versions of 'Prowler' and 'Charlotte the Harlot' with Bruce on vocals and while they don't really touch the Di'anno originals in my opinion they may well represent definitive versions for the Dickenson fans. Also included is a rare vocal performance from Adrian Smith, at least within the confines of the band anyway, on the commercial sounding and ultimately forgettable 'Reach Out'.
This album would serve as an interesting curio to most Iron Maiden fans. The early Di'anno tracks allow us to cast a glimpse back at the band's formative years and there are a few songs unavailable on the full albums which are quite enjoyable, as well as some excellent live versions of some Maiden classics. Furthermore some of the cover tracks featuring Bruce on vocals are worth hearing for the amusement factor alone. Not an essential purchase by any stretch of the imagination but fun nevertheless.