Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Iron Maiden - Wasted Years/Stranger in a Strange Land EP (1990)

The First Ten Years: Part VIII

Wasted Years/Stranger in a Strange Land is the 8th EP in the First Ten Years collection, featuring both of the band's 1986 singles for the phenomenal album Somewhere in Time. It's one of the more valuable selections of singles in the series, because each of these two songs is complemented with 2 tracks that you won't find on any of the band's albums. However, I wouldn't say the non-album material is the best quality. Much of it originates from The Entire Population of Hackney project the band members did with a few of their peers from other NWOBHM bands, in which the Maiden members wrote some of the songs, as did the other members.

Aside from its excellent title track, the Wasted Years single includes "Reach Out", a hard rock song written by Dave Colwell, who was in the band FM in addition to joining Adrian Smith's ASAP project later on. He was also a member of The Entire Population of Hackney. This track is a little more mainstream than one expects from Maiden, though it does have some of the band's classic dual melodies and a decent atmosphere. But what is most curious about the song, is that features Adrian Smith on the lead vocals (Dickinson provides some backups). And as far as a bluesy hard rock singer of the Coverdale camp, Smith is really not all that bad...though the lyrics are pretty trivial and typical of bad 80s rock. "The Sheriff of Huddersfield" is a goofy tribute to manager Rod Smallwood's life in Los Angeles, set to music which, while not horrible, feels like it did not take long to compose (though there are some melodies in there).

The B-sides for Stranger in a Strange Land are two more tracks from members of The Entire Population of Hackney. "That Girl" is actually quite strong, an old FM track, with typical Maiden triplets and a subtle melodic picking, and a fine performance from Dickinson. The lyrics are once again tripe at the level of 80s glam rock radio, about as compelling as those of "Reach Out", but musically this is probably the best bonus of the EP. "Juanita" feels like a "Cat Scratch Fever" type riff with some of Maiden's brazen melodies, Bruce giving it his dirtiest rocking vocals, and it's not that bad, with the least annoying lyrics of the three bonus tracks from Adrian Smith's associates (this track being the cover of a band called Marshall Fury).

The "Listen With Nicko!" segment for this EP is a little hard to follow, as he bounces back and forth with his anecdotes and you don't get a very clear picture of what all the bonus tracks are all about, but it's one of the longest at over 12 minutes and there are a few interesting stories, in particular about Rod Smallwood and "The Sheriff of Huddersfield". After the Can I Play With Madness?/The Evil That Men Do EP, this is probably the most valuable (outside of the obvious collector factor and the voucher for the box set) because you get three good non-album tracks. Granted, the lyrics are not at the Maiden level, but it's fun to hear other projects these guys were involved with, even if they were just intended for a few lives.

Verdict: Indifference [5.25/10] (too much time on my hands)

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