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Unreleased Beast Unleashed - 60%

Frankingsteins, March 12th, 2007

The reunion of Iron Maiden’s classic line-up in 1999 revitalised its energy and has consistently improved its output, each new release being better than the last and the most recent album ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ matching the greatness of their classic period. EMI have taken full advantage of this resurgence of interest in the ageing East End boys, peddling endless live albums and best-of compilations each year and occasionally offering something genuinely original for the hardcore fans. The monstrous ‘Eddie’s Archive,’ released in 2002, is a compact and mostly-well-thought-out gateway to rare and classic ’Maiden material that was released alongside the appalling and unnecessary greatest hits collection ‘Edward the Great’ for the n00bies.

The Archive is itself a nice collectable piece, a metal box moulded with the face of the band’s ever-present zombie mascot Eddie, and includes three previously unreleased double-disc albums. Also included are a nice shot glass and a family tree of the band’s discography and changing line-up, which is especially helpful when viewed alongside the time-spanning ‘Best of the B’sides’ included here. Two of the albums are live, ‘The BBC Archives’ featuring material from 1979, ’80, ’82 and ’88, and the excellent ‘Beast Over Hammersmith’ capturing a single show in ’82. The final album collects together almost every B-side the band has ever recorded, saving penniless fans the trouble of collecting expensive 7” singles and allowing those who already have them all to save the wear and tear on the records, as well as insist that you really need to have the original artwork and everything or it isn’t as good, but secretly wishing they’d saved their money and waited for this.


The first thing that’s obvious when browsing the tracklist of these CDs is the repetition of songs, especially the titular ‘Iron Maiden’ which crops up a ridiculous four times; two times per disc. That’s because this is a collection of four archived shows from the 1980s, and that namesake piece either opens or closes all of them. The first four tracks stem from a Friday Rock Show session in 1979, allowing fans to experience the long- (and easily-) forgotten line-up featuring Tony Parsons on guitar. The rest of the collection comes from live festivals, arranged out of chronological order in order to fit them onto the CDs. The 1980 line-up, with Paul Di’Anno on vocals and Dennis Stratton on lead guitar, performs at Reading for the first six tracks of disc 2, while the mic is handed over to Bruce Dickinson (and the second guitar to Adrian Smith) for the 1982 Reading festival which occupies the last ten tracks of the first disc. The remainder of disc 2 jumps ahead to the 1988 Monsters of Rock festival at Donington with a similar line-up, although drummer Clive Burr had long been replaced by Nicko McBrain.

It’s great to have these shows from different eras placed alongside each other, but as you’ve probably just seen, the uneven time travelling is a little off-putting. It’s also a shame to consider just how much was left out, not only from the shows featured – the 1988 show was a little longer, as seen in the ‘Maiden England’ video release – but from the rest of Iron Maiden’s career. The Di’Anno material is suitably rare, but the 1982 concert could easily have been replaced with something from a later time, especially considering that the ‘Beast Over Hammersmith’ CDs in this same archive come from roughly the same time and feature all the same songs in almost exactly the same order. At least the 1988 material provides something of a relief from this nostalgia for the early days, finally granting an official live release for the songs from ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’: ‘Moonchild,’ ‘Infinite Dreams,’ and the title track. The rest of this collection has been performed and re-released so many times as to be unnecessary, however rare these specific performances of those songs may be.


The most solid third of this collection, this really should have been Iron Maiden’s first live album way back in 1982, but was never released. Showcasing the band at the very start of their ‘classic’ period, recorded several days before the landmark ‘Number of the Beast’ album was released, this excellent concert features almost the entire album amidst the best songs from the first two albums, all given a new perspective with Dickinson’s operatic vocals. He hasn’t quite established the familiar air siren wail just yet, but that’s what makes this early material all the more interesting, especially when compared to 1985’s definitive ‘Live After Death.’ This remains the final recording to feature drummer Clive Burr. The concert was also recorded on film under the same title, and can now be found on ‘The History of Iron Maiden part 1: The Early Days’ DVD, which is also great.

The band’s early sound is captured perfectly here, as are the hints of the epic heavy metal monster Iron Maiden would become, with the lengthy classic ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ setting the template for pretty much every album-closing track forever afterward. Everything is played precisely, but with enough cute errors to authenticate the performance; it’s just a shame that the set-list here is almost exactly the same as that on the BBC Archives. Highlights include the cool opener ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ the ever-reliable ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and the entire performance of the ‘Number of the Beast’ material, wisely omitting the two weakest songs and even performing the B-side ‘Total Eclipse,’ which was later added to re-releases of the album anyway, and as such finds no place in:


The part of the collection that’s naturally the most valuable even for fans who own all the albums, but not the 7” singles, this collection of 31 non-album songs is arranged in precise chronological order across the usual two discs. The most noticeable problem comes in the omission of certain songs found on the old singles, such as the cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Massacre’ that would otherwise come towards the end of disc one. As the running time for each CD comes in with around 20 minutes to spare each, it’s likely that this was due to contractual problems, which is a shame, though nothing to get really annoyed about considering the wealth of material here. (In fact, even further B-sides have spawned from the two studio albums produced since this collection, already necessitating some kind of future re-release by those greedy geezers at EMI).

The new artwork features an old-school Eddie, though unfortunately not painted by the truly old-school Derek Riggs, mischievously displaying his wrinkly walnut b’side through the window of a tour bus for our appreciation. This is the bloke that knifed Margaret Thatcher to death on the cover of the 1980 single, so it’s nice to see that the years have seasoned his transgressions somewhat. Disc one encompasses the B-sides from the band’s first ten years, from the ‘Running Free’ single to ‘Infinite Dreams,’ while disc two covers the turbulent 1990s. The best thing about these B-sides are that they’re almost completely frivolous and pointless, whether they’re a silly comedy song, regurgitated live version or, as is most often the case, a cover song of a band Iron Maiden likes. This means that there’s no noticeable drop in quality between the two decades, unlike the substantial drop reflected in the band’s more bona fide material. The only immediate clue that the listener is being taken on a historical journey is the changing of vocals from Di’Anno to Dickinson and then Blaze Bayley, with Dickinson returning for the finale, though more attentive or familiar listeners will notice the sound quality alternately improve and degenerate as the band moves between ‘eras.’

It’s great to have all of these songs presented here in this chronological manner, and although it may anger real completists, it was a wise decision to exclude repetitions, such as the endless live versions of ‘Number of the Beast’ and ‘Drifter.’ The covers are mostly adequately performed, the source material ranging from dangerously popular to hopelessly obscure, and it’s nice to hear the band’s apparent influences even when the legacy is hard to see. The re-recorded versions of older studio material, the titles marked with a year, are all pretty unnecessary, as Dickinson doesn’t offer much to the Di’Anno songs. It’s always nice to see the infamous live version of ‘Remember Tomorrow’ surfacing in these collections, as this track was originally included on the ‘Maiden Japan’ E.P. when Di’Anno was still singing. The ‘Number of the Beast’ single subsequently featured exactly the same performance, but with Dickinson overdubbed in a feeble attempt to warm him to new fans. The good part comes at the end, when Dickinson’s ‘thank you’ is followed by one from Di’Anno that someone forgot to erase. The live tracks on the second disc are valuable as the only official live songs recorded with Blaze.

The most interesting tracks are those that were never released on albums, such as ‘Justice of the Peace’ and ‘Judgement Day’ from 1994 that would have made their way onto ‘The X Factor’ album if a CD could only hold more than 80 minutes of music. The self-satisfied comedy songs ‘The Sheriff of Huddersfield’ and ‘Black Bart Blues’ don’t invite repeated listens but can be quite entertaining, though Dickinsons’ Yorkshireman impression of record label boss Rod Smallwood really smacks of a cheap Monty Python imitation. The funniest B-side of all isn’t included here, either for reasons of time or taste: the classic ‘Mission From ’Arry’ from the ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ 7”, a seven minute argument between Nicko McBrain and Steve Harris over an on-stage miscommunication secretly recorded by Dickinson, which ends with Harris discovering the tape recorder and exclaiming, in muffled audio proximity, ‘some c***’s recording this.’

The most disappointing aspect of Eddie’s Archive is its lack of diversity, epitomised in its inclusion of both the 1982 Reading show and the 1982 Hammersmith show that are almost exactly the same. The B-sides collection is really this archive’s saving grace, as the inclusion of live tracks with Blaze Bayley makes up for his lack of appearance on the archives, although there still seem to be enormous chunks of the band’s history completely left out. The recent release of ‘The Early Days’ on DVD has hopefully got this Di’Anno nostalgia out of everybody’s system, and I eagerly anticipate further instalments of ‘The History of Iron Maiden’ series. In 2002, Eddie’s Archive was collectable and problematic, but fairly complete. Five years later it’s out of date and fairly pointless, the original ‘limited edition’ print being predictably extended due to demand, as per usual.

If the BBC Archives are truly the only Maiden material stored in Radio 1’s vaults, this collection is forgivable, but still the weakest link in this box set (aside from the tangible extras, which at least could have been tackier). ‘Beast Over Hammersmith’ is a great live album that could stand alone, and the ‘Best of the B’Sides,’ although entirely fan-oriented, would also succeed as an independent product. There are lots of fans worldwide, that’s why they could ever make this ugly metal casket in the first place. EMI are sure to re-release this archive some time in a minutely revamped form, probably with a free badge or Eddie chew. “Up the Irons!”, or whatever.