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When being a band like Iron Maiden, there must always be a high pressure from fans to outdo themselves over and over. Being a fan of Iron Maiden, however, is probably easier as we are ultimately the judges of the band's music, and thus we also know that Maiden is one of those bands who tend to do great records, but there's almost always a stigmatic track on most of their albums. For instance, we have "Invaders" on The Number Of The Beast or "Quest For Fire" on Peace Of Mind. Without a doubt, "Can I Play With Madness?" was the one for their Seventh Son Of Seventh Son album.
The song starts off with a shout of the song title by Bruce in his rather "chubby" sounding vocal trait, you know the one his voice developed into more and more over the course of his aging, and which is highly present on Maiden's newer albums. I tend to hate when he sounds like that, as it does sound rather unattractive. After this, the song launches into a flat sound of guitars, drums and Steve's trademark gallop-bass. The music itself is also surprisingly "soft" compared to their other material, even from the same album, and doesn't really feel like a good representation of what their then-new album was about. I would even dare say that this song treads into a Blue Öyster Cult kind of sound. It also sounds like a very happy song, something which is also quite out-of-character for Maiden.
As a whole, the song is more-or-less disastrous and out-of-place not only on its album, but pretty much in the band's catalogue overall. The B-side "Black Bart Blues" is also nothing of great interest musically, and it's probably the least good B-side from these album sessions. However, it does feature some dialogue at its end where the band, not too seriously and in typical Nicko McBrain-fashion, are just being silly. At least this could be of some fun value. All-in-all though, this single is a most cringe-worthy choice (and induction on the album) for a lead single. While it did indeed bring out a new side of the band, it was a side better left behind closed doors, and so far any other songs from the band in the same vein of this have stayed there as well.
Unless you're a real die-hard collector of Iron Maiden, or really love and want the single's artwork on your wall, you should avoid this one and just stick to the full length album, where you'll get to suffer enough every time this song comes on.
I shan’t say much about ‘Can I Play With Madness’ except that I really love this song despite its radio-friendly rock-cheesiness. As I said earlier about many rock covers Maiden played in the eighties, they managed to make even sleazy rock sound great (a skill they obviously lost since then). The production has an important influence as well here, making the song sound more majestic than it actually was.
Anyway, onto the real highlight of this single, ‘Massacre’. A Thin Lizzy cover played to such perfection and beauty it’s almost creepy. In the hands of Maiden it turns into gold and the earlier mentioned broad production is the icing on the cake. It also is a cover which suits Maiden own songs remarkably well, style wise.
And then we have ‘Black Bart Blues’, which has a lot of spoken nonsense but the joke is funny only once and it feels like ages before the ‘real’ song finally kicks in. And the ‘real’ song isn’t even good. Enjoyable once, granted, but really nothing more than a lame bluesrock tune. A bit annoying since the first single from their previous album had a joke song as well, which was a lot better.
Really, ‘Massacre’ is reason enough to get your hands on this single. It is that good!