IRON MAIDEN — Maiden England '88 (review)

IRON MAIDEN — Maiden England '88 album cover Live album · 2013 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Run for the hills or die with your boots on! IRON MAIDEN is gonna get you so fret not over the wasted years. Heaven can wait while infinite dreams are running free in a sanctuary cursed by the number of the beast where thou art a prisoner of the clairvoyant of still life. The moonchild screams hallowed be thy name of the seventh son of the seventh son who remains a prisoner of the evil that men do like bloody killers while they are MAIDEN ENGLAND!!! Scream for me Birmingham! Screeeeeeeeeam for me Birmingham!!!

Oh yeah! The IRON MAIDEN guys were at their prime when they embarked on the Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour that kept the indefatigable quintet of metal musicians on a tireless tour from April 1988 to the end of the year in December. While many shows were recorded for posterity none would be released until 1994 in the form of a limited VHS/CD combo edition that captured the last days of magic of the mighty MAIDEN before Adrian Smith quit the band and the gradual decline into the dregs of the 90s would fully sink in. And believe me. As spectacular as MAIDEN’s seven album stint from 1980-88 would be, the 90s would be the complete equal in opposition, namely dismal.

The original CD was basically the audio of the video presentation however due to limitations of the technology (and the unwillingness to add a second disc), it lacked the two tracks “Can I Play With Madness” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”) All of this was corrected however with the remastered reissuing titled MAIDEN ENGLAND 88 which was the first-time stand alone CD release which featured not only the missing two tracks but an additional three more including “Run To The Hills,” “Running Free” and “Sanctuary.” While most live albums are tacked together from performances over the course of the entire tour, MAIDEN ENGLAND limited itself to only two nights, both recorded and shot at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England on 27 and 28 November 1988.

Since i’ve never owned nor heard the original limiting version released in 1994, this review is strictly about the CD reissued in 2013 which due to the remastering and generous serving of extra MAIDEN yumminess, gets my vote as the ONLY version of this album to get. Of course, just like the earlier “Live After Death” album, you can totally opt to get the DVD and watch the concert visually as well but this album is perfect for driving time while stuck in traffic and when Bruce beckons for us to “Screeeeeam for me Birmingham!!!!,” suddenly i’m transported to the 80s and in the audience where i’m caught up in the frenzy of course with all the hindsight that this was the last leg of the magic golden years where MAIDEN could do no wrong. Until it all did of course.

Interestingly MAIDEN ENGLAND 88 contains tracks from all of MAIDEN’s early albums with the sole exception of “Powerslave.” Presumably that album was ignored due to the fact that “Live After Death” was recorded during the “World Slavery Tour” which focused on the corresponding tracks. Given that this tour promoted the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” album, the performances include six of the eight tracks. Only “The Prophecy” and “Only The Good Die Young” are excluded. Surprisingly the 88 version a few of pre-Bruce tracks notably “Killers,” “Sanctuary” and “Iron Maiden” both brought to a new level of mastery with Dickinson taking over. All the tracks flow together perfectly with the band capturing every subtly flawlessly.

Overall the production and mixing jobs are spectacular as Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines are easily distinguished from Adrian Smith and Dave Murray’s twin guitar attacks and of course Nicko McBrain takes the metal madness to a new level with his unique percussive style which is equally audible and balanced. As with most MAIDEN live albums, the band does not improvise a lot and sticks to how the songs as presented on the albums. While this may rankle some, i have never found MAIDEN to be a band that i want to hear jam on for ridiculous amounts of time outside of the context of the compositions as all of that was calculated into their content in the first place. This does not mean that there isn’t energetic audience participation however on the track “Running Free,” Bruce really starts egging the audience on to sing the catchphrase and whips em up into a frenzy making it the rare exception where the band floats on for a while.

Generally speaking this album is excellent! It shows MAIDEN at their prime delivering to the fans some of the best heavy metal the 80s had to offer. The band played to one of its largest audiences during these nights and displayed exactly why IRON MAIDEN has virtually become the patron saint of the entire metal universe. During this tour the band hired the keyboardist Michael Kenney to bring the creepy atmospheres to life that were an integral part of the pseudo-progressive offerings of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” and as a result the tracks from that album stand out the most. The album shows how the chemistry between these five musicians was almost impeccable with each supporting the other and how subtle variations always kept the music fresh and best of all how perfectly the band performed these live as well as in the studio unlike many successful bands of the 80s.

While this album is a spectacular sampling of 80s MAIDEN in action, these live performances do suffer a bit of Bruce Dickinson’s vocals sounding a little strained at times. This is most clearly heard on tracks like “Number of the Beast” and “Run To The Hills” which have unusually high registers. Apparently several incessant years as well as these recordings occurring towards the end of this particular tour had taken its toll. However for the most part Bruce is right on key and his frontman charisma carries on. Perhaps the most awkward moment is on “Run To The Hills” where he drops the title lyrics and the audience is supposed to pick up the slack but don’t quite cut the mustard. Only a minor quibble though. This is one of the better live releases by the mighty MAIDEN just behind the flawless “Live After Death.” Get the 88 version!!! Just do it :)
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