Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Iron Maiden - A Real Live One (1993)

A Real Live One is the first official live album released by Iron Maiden after the phenomenal Live After Death in 1985. Consisting of material from 1986 to the band's most recent album at the time, Fear of the Dark, it feels like a natural successor to that legendary title, wise to offer only material that you hadn't heard there. It was handled as a bit of a marketing ploy alongside A Real Dead One (which featured older material and was released later in the 1993), and the two have since been re-issued in a single package, so if you've got the choice, just pick up A Real Live Dead One. No, I didn't laugh either. And I actually find the content here a little better than its companion album.

This is not one of those cases in which the entire album is culled from a single live experience; instead, A Real Live One is clipped together from a number of European performances in 1992, with a slight preference towards Helsinki Ice Hall, in Finland, which represents the last chunk of the album. Unfortunately, this creates an unstable consistency in the quality of the live performances, ranging from average to decent. Of the 11 tracks available here, almost half of them are from Fear of the Dark, so the band was leaning heavily on their newer material for these live dates, instead of the simple 1-2 track sampling most veteran bands include in their sets. "Be Quick or Be Dead", "From Here to Eternity", "Wasting Love", "Afraid to Shoot Strangers", and "Fear of the Dark" are all present, of which the hindmost recorded in Helsinki sounds by far the best. "Be Quick or Be Dead" and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" in particular sound fairly underwhelming.

From No Prayer for the Dying, Maiden have included "Tailgunner" and "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter", both of which sound fair at best, "Daughter" opening with its usual extended crowd play. "Can I Play With Madness", "The Evil That Men Do" and "The Clairvoyant" are here to represent Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and though none of the three is spectacular, I found them to be among the more enthusiastic of the performances on the record. "Heaven Can Wait" is the sole selection from Somewhere in Time (my favorite Maiden album, coincidentally), and it sounds fair, though suffers from a too-clunky bass tone, like some of the other tracks on the album.

I can't claim Dickinson is on fire through the entire track list. He sounds a little shaky in some spots, and out of breath. But seeing that these performances are plucked from massive sets, and he was likely worn out for half of them, and he's still a better singer than you or I will ever be, it's not all that bad. The crowd is very much present on the album, swelling up in places like the bridge of "Heaven Can Wait" so loudly that they almost threaten to drown out the band. It's certainly no Live After Death or Maiden Japan (fan club version), but if you can excuse its occasional stumble, it's tolerable. Just don't expect much consistency here, or on its companion album. 1993 seemed like the year for Maiden to make some scratch, because not only did they release both of the 'A Real _ _ _ _ One' albums, but also the full set from 1992 Donington Monsters of Rock performance as a double live album (a few tracks of which appear on the others). Unfortunately, they include the same set list.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]


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