Welcome to a very special Album by Album Challenge! This time around, Brainfart contributor (and my best friend) Jaymz has taken it upon himself to tackle the Iron Maiden Live Discography. From the Live!! + 1″ EP all the way to the band’s current live release, Maiden England ’88, Jaymz has covered all the bases to talk about the good, the bad, and the indifferent.
This is a two part challenge. In part one we will visit “Live!! +1” through “Live at Donnington.” Part II will follow shortly but for now, just kick back, grab yourself a pint of Trooper Ale and dive dive dive head first into the Iron Maiden Live Discography with Jaymz! UP THE IRONS!
Iron Maiden – Live!! +One EP
Release Date: November 1, 1980
The Good: Sanctuary, Phantom of the Opera, Drifter
The Indifferent: Women in Uniform
This is a fun EP and a great way to start this challenge. Iron Maiden built their following by playing live, especially in these early years, and the energy on these tracks is fantastic. The band had been playing live for 5 years in various lineups, so by the time we get to hear them they were already a powerful unit.
The EP starts off with a solid and rocking version of Sanctuary. It’s a great start, but the band really kicks in with Phantom. Other songs like Sanctuary and Drifter would get the crowd involved, but for me Phantom of the Opera is Maiden at their best in these early years. It’s one of my favorite Maiden songs and this version is fantastic. The live portion is finished off with a cracking version of Drifter with an extremely lively crowd. They start singing in the middle before their time and Paul Di’Anno actually has to hush them for a few seconds before they can fully unleash. It’s a great moment that shows the connection between the audience and the band.
The EP closes with the studio version of Women in Uniform. It’s a fun song but in all honesty it’s just silly and unnecessary. I don’t hate the song by any means, but it’s kind of an embarrassing track for Maiden fans. I know the Brainfart himself loves it more than I do, but for me I only stick it in the “indifferent” column. As I said, it’s a fun release and definitely worth seeking out.
Iron Maiden – Live at the Rainbow
Release Date: May 1981
The Good: Killers, Remember Tomorrow, Transylvania, Phantom of the Opera, Iron Maiden
The Indifferent: The Ides of March, Wrathchild
Live at the Rainbow hasn’t yet seen an official audio release. I ripped the audio from the Early Days – History of Iron Maiden Part 1 DVD and that’s what my review is based on. Live at the Rainbow was recorded at the famous Rainbow Theatre in London on December 21, 1980 and was the final show of Maiden’s 1980 tour. The most important thing about this release (besides being Maiden’s first live home video) is that it’s one of the few places you can hear the “alternate” lyrics to Killers. Paul Di’Anno claims that he wrote them backstage “5 minutes” before going on. Di’Anno’s been known to exaggerate a little bit so who knows when he actually wrote them. Regardless, it’s fun to hear a completely different set of words for this well-known song.
I’m not too thrilled about Wrathchild; they sound fine, but the song doesn’t move me at all. After a “meh” start with Wrathchild, it’s great to hear them just destroy the room with the rest of the tracks. Once Killers starts the band kicks it up a few notches and it’s solid the rest of the way through. The version of Iron Maiden is absolutely RAGING. I love this “no frills” version of this song and prefer it to the drawn-out version we get in the current lineup. As the Brainfart would say, this song is a total face-melter. Both Phantom of the Opera and Remember Tomorrow are excellent versions as well and I love hearing the band rip it up with these two. If you’ve even got a passing interest in Iron Maiden, I highly recommend getting the Early Days – History of Iron Maiden Part 1 DVD. Great interviews of the band’s early years and you get to actually SEE this concert, in addition to all the other cool live footage.
Iron Maiden – Maiden Japan EP
Release Date: September 14, 1981
The Good: Running Free, Remember Tomorrow, Wrathchild, Killers, Innocent Exile
The band sounds great here, absolutely on fire. Maiden Japan was recorded about halfway through Maiden’s Killer World Tour on May 23, 1981 in Nagoya, Japan. The title is a pun on the famous Deep Purple live album Made in Japan from 1972. The album appeared on shelves 4 days after Paul Di’Anno’s last show with the band, even though it wasn’t announced until October. The original version of the album artwork shows Eddie with a decapitated Di’Anno head and what’s hilarious is that it actually went out that way on the Venezuelan release! Di’Anno gets crapped on for his poor health and attitude on this tour, but he sounds great on these songs.
Maiden Japan kicks off with a super enthusiastic version of “Running Free.” I did laugh at the sequencing of the track on here because after it’s over Di’Anno says “thank you, good night!” Next up we have an excellent version of “Remember Tomorrow”, maybe the best one on record. Paul always sang the hell out of this one. Color me shocked, but I also really enjoy “Wrathchild” here. It’s a solid, rocking version and the band nails it. One after the other we get a band that’s really tight and putting on a powerful set – both Killers and Innocent Exile are fantastic. This is absolutely worth seeking out and hopefully the band will release the full show one day.
Iron Maiden – Live After Death
Release Date: October 14, 1985
The Good: Intro: Churchill’s Speech, Aces High, 2 Minutes to Midnight, The Trooper, Revelations, Flight of Icarus, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Powerslave, The Number of the Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Iron Maiden, Run to the Hills, Running Free, Wrathchild, 22 Acacia Avenue, Children of the Damned, Die With Your Boots On, Phantom of the Opera
Most of this album was recorded at Long Beach Arena on (probably) March 17, 1985 which was about ¾ of the way through the tour. Side 4 (“Wrathchild” through “Phantom of the Opera”) is from London’s Hammersmith Odeon on (again, probably) October 12, 1984, from near the beginning of the tour. The band is playing better on the Long Beach tracks, but I love having those Hammersmith tracks finally on CD. The first thing that I noticed in listening to this album for review purposes is just how damn intense these guys are playing. I mean, they are fearless! I’m a huge fan of all these compositions anyway, but with all the emotion and adrenaline flowing through the band the songs actually become better. If you’ve never seen Iron Maiden this album is a perfect example of why they’re one of the best live bands ever. Actually, this is my all-time favorite live album. It’s just ferocious!
I’d say that this is probably the best Maiden album up to this point and a perfect place to start. You get all the major tracks off the first 5 albums and they’re all played brilliantly. “Revelations” is still my favorite song, but as for the versions on this album go, Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the best thing on here. Yes, it’s actually better than the studio version, which is saying a lot. The middle bit is extra cool on this. “Powerslave” is also excellent and Bruce’s vocals on “Children of the Damned” are chilling. This album’s fantastic. The DVD of this album was finally released in 2008 so you get to enjoy possibly Maiden’s greatest stage show in its full glory. Front to back, this is an excellent and essential release.
Iron Maiden – A Real Live One
Release Date: March 22, 1993
The Good: Wasting Love, Tailgunner, The Evil That Men Do, Afraid to Shoot Strangers, The Clairvoyant, Fear of the Dark
The Bad: From Here to Eternity, Can I Play With Madness
The Indifferent: Be Quick or Be Dead, Bring Your Daughter, Heaven Can Wait
A Real Live One was the first Maiden live album recorded in a bunch of different cities, all in August and September of 1992. I think live albums recorded in various places lose a bit of energy. It makes the music itself suffer a bit and it makes the album feel disjointed. The good songs here were really enjoyable, especially Fear of the Dark, Afraid the Shoot Strangers and The Evil That Men Do. Originally, this and its companion album, A Real Dead One, were released 7 months apart, but since 1998 the albums have been combined into one 2-disc set called A Real Live Dead One.
The first three songs are “meh.” While From Here is a total embarrassment. “Can I Play With Madness” is a song that I hate anyway, but on A Real Live One they made it worse. Sloppy drum fills and general sloppiness all around, total shit solo by Janick and again, those awful background vocals. Thankfully the band turns it around by a very well-played and sung version of Wasting Love. Where Bruce had been screechy on From Here to Eternity, he sounds great on Wasting Love. The Evil That Men Do blew the doors off. This is the first track on the album that made me really get into it and they sound fantastic here. Afraid to Shoot Strangers continues the love-fest from me and the version of “Fear of the Dark” on this album entirely justifies this album’s existence. It’s clearly the best version of this song.
The mix on this album is muddy and flat. The music doesn’t breathe. Honestly, the mix is junior high level bullshit. It’s so jarring, esp. coming after the clarity of Live After Death. There’s a nice mixture of good tunes, awful ones and ones that are just meh. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, because starting with Fear of the Dark, Maiden decided that “more is more” so they forgot about quality control and just put out as much as they could. What a disappointing album overall.
Iron Maiden – A Real Dead One
Release Date: October 18, 1993
The Good: The Number of the Beast, The Trooper, Prowler, Transylvania, Remember Tomorrow, Where Eagles Dare, Sanctuary, Running Free, Run to the Hills, Iron Maiden, Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Indifferent: 2 Minutes to Midnight
A Real Dead One is a major improvement from A Real Live One. The sound is just as muddy here, but that’s not surprising. While Live One covered songs from 1986-1992, this album covers tunes from the first 5 Maiden albums, spanning 1980-1984. ARDO has a much better song selection and whatever plagued the band on ARLO, they sound fantastic on this album. Maybe it’s that the older material is superior or maybe they just chose better performances after hearing the response from Live One. Who knows? Whatever it was, the band sounds so good on this disc.
All of these songs are played with massive enthusiasm and fire from a band that on the previous disc sounded like they didn’t give a crap at times. The versions of The Trooper, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Where Eagles Dare are absolutely on fire. Where Eagles Dare has Nicko McBrain firmly in the driver’s seat and he’s out like a cannonball. The rest of the band is just holding on tight for their lives. You can tell this track really means a lot to Nicko and it’s an absolute joy to hear him play like this. We get some really nice surprises on this album such as Prowler, Remember Tomorrow, Transylvania & Where Eagles Dare. I love hearing the three from the first album and they’re all played really well. Bruce Dickinson doesn’t sound that great on Prowler, but I think it just doesn’t suit his vocal style as well. At least on this album, it doesn’t show one bit that he was slagging off in his vocals for this tour. It’s a shame that Prowler is such an overlooked song, because I think it should be considered a classic like Sanctuary or Running Free.
On the whole, this is a great live album. If you took the best moments from here and combined them with the best from A Real Live One, you’d have a stellar live album. When put together as a set (A Real Live Dead One), the differences couldn’t be more obvious between the discs.
Iron Maiden – Live at Donington
Release Date: November 8, 1993
The Good: Be Quick or Be Dead, The Number of the Beast, Wrathchild, The Evil That Men Do, Afraid to Shoot Strangers, Fear of the Dark, Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter, Run to the Hills, 2 Minutes to Midnight, Iron Maiden, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Trooper, Sanctuary, Running Free
The Bad: From Here to Eternity, Can I Play With Madness, Wasting Love
The Indifferent: Tailgunner, The Clairvoyant, Heaven Can Wait
Live at Donington is the 3rd live album from the Fear of the Dark Tour and was recorded at Castle Donington, UK on August 22, 1992. I love the raw, under-produced sound of this album. Right from the beginning of Be Quick or Be Dead, the roar from the crowd signals that they know they’re in for a treat. The band sounds great on Be Quick and actually has some serious energy for the first three songs of the show. Even Wrathchild sounds so damn good. Then it’s From Here to Eternity and jeez does the energy seriously drop on this one. Instantly the band loses energy, the crowd loses energy and we all have to slog through this weak fucking song. What a piece of shit. Then comes Can I Play With Madness and while the band’s energy goes up very slightly, it’s still a shit song.
Tailgunner brings the energy up slightly, but really it’s just a boring song live, at least in 1992. Thank goodness The Evil That Men Do is up next and blows the (figurative) roof off. Evil not only really wakes up the band, but the audience too. It absolutely slays and leads in perfectly to an excellent version of Afraid to Shoot Strangers. Maiden plays an impassioned version of Afraid to Shoot Strangers and it’s possibly their best written song from the 90’s. Fear of the Dark is another stormer. There’s great energy on this and it’s followed up by a pretty rocking version of Bring Your Daughter that I really enjoyed. Both The Clairvoyant and Heaven Can Wait were let downs from the preceding four songs. They’re ok versions, but nothing amazing and aren’t close the quality of the good parts of the set.
It’s really amazing to me how good the good parts of this show/album are. Especially those last 7 songs including the encore…total facemelt. Maiden sounds so damn good here. It’s too bad about the “bad” and “indifferent” songs, but for the most part Live at Donington is a great live album. It’s a great way to say a temporary good-bye to Bruce while he did his solo thing for a few years and Maiden did…what did they do? I don’t recall them doing anything from ‘94-’99. Sounds right to me.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Iron Maiden LIVE Album by Album Challenge