Posted on December 11, 2009 -
If not always the most popular, Iron Maiden was the best heavy metal band of the 80’s. Glam and hair metal may have been ‘in’ but for those who wished to delve deeper than fast cars and girls, chose Maiden. Often composing songs based on classic novels and containing some blazing musicianship with a sense of melody, Iron Maiden was at the top of their game in the 1980’s. Their songs often delivered messages or philosophical musings about life, death, history and war. Yes, they were the thinking man’s heavy metal band. The truth is that none of this would matter if they didn’t possess the sophisticated and epic song structure that quite easily put them ahead of the pack. “Somewhere Back In Time” tries to summise all of these traits into a one disc package. As many of Maiden’s best songs were quite lengthy you can imagine that the anemic 14 tracks listed here leave something to be desired. Of course with a band like Maiden you will never be able to put all of their best songs from the decade onto one disc so this attempt is obviously directed towards the casual fan, as the die hards own all of the classics represented here, and on THAT level, it does succeed. Maiden, however, was an ALBUM band so it seems a crime to pinhole them to just these songs.
This compilation focuses on the first 8 Maiden albums, all from the 1980’s, which was inarguably the group’s pinnacle years. Please note that on the first two albums, Paul Di’Anno was the original lead singer, later replaced by the more popular Bruce Dickinson starting with “The Number of the Beast” in 1982. None of Di’Anno’s orginal studio cuts made it onto this collection. The live versions from “Live After Death” with Dickinson on vocals were used instead.
Iron Maiden (1980)-The tracks represented from the group’s debut are all in their live versions with Dickinson on vocals from “Live After Death”(1985). The songs include “Phantom of the Opera” and “Iron Maiden”. “Running Free” is one of the band’s classics that is not included on this set.
Killers (1981)-The lone song representing “Killers” is the title track in a live version, again taken from “Live After Death” with Dickinson on vocals when it should be Di’Anno.
The Number of the Beast (1982)-Iron Maiden’s commercial breakthrough and Bruce Dickinson’s first that is well represented on this collection by containing the title track, “Children of the Damned”, “Run to the Hills” and the death row tale “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” Personally I feel that “The Prisoner” was overlooked but there is no argument that the best songs were chosen.
Piece of Mind (1983)- Oh let the travesties begin!!! The lone song from this release is “The Trooper”. Great choice BUT where, oh WHERE are “Die With Your Boots On”, “Where Eagles Dare”, “Flight of Icarus” and “To Tame a Land”? C’mon, maybe you can’t fit them all but only one song from this classic???
Powerslave (1984)- This album gives us “Aces High” (in the live version from “Live After Death”), “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Powerslave”. For time contraints, Maiden’s best song ever, the 13 plus minute “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is not included.
Live After Death (1985)- Winston Churchill’s speech is taken from this release before seguing into “Aces High.” See above for other track selections.
Somewhere in Time (1986)- “Wasted Years” is the sole representation here. An argument can be made for “Sea of Madness” or “Stranger in a Strange Land” but the best track was chosen from this release-a song about living in the present as the line protests “Realize you’re living in the golden years.”
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)- Maiden’s concept album that is best heard as such. However, a few standout tracks have been chosen in the likes of “Can I Play With Madness?” and “The Evil That Men Do.” What this collection is missing from this release are the two other songs that, in addition to the ones previously mentioned, also worked their way into the UK top 10 and those songs were “Infinite Dreams” and “The Clairvoyant”.
Iron maiden was too prolific a band to capture their entire essence on one disc, even by narrowing it down to one decade. “Somehwere Back in Time” does succeed in capturing Iron Maiden at their peak but in no way is it complete. If you’re a casual fan and are interested in hearing Iron Maiden, pick this up for a taste. If you have the extra cash you can also opt for the better but not perfect 2 disc collection “The Essential Iron Maiden”. Just like Pringles, however, you can’t have just one and you will be finding yourself tracking down those original albums, for that is the only way to truly appreciate the glory that was Iron Maiden.