Iron Maiden

Box Set

Holiday Gift Guide

Iron Maiden

Eddie's Archive (Columbia Legacy) Honestly. The box should have been lead. Or better yet, pewter, like the Eddie shot glass inside ("please hand wash" polites the sticker), and the pewter Eddie seal 'round the Maiden family-tree parchment scroll. Tin?! What were they thinking? The Trooper would not be pleased. Fortunately, the sounds sealed inside this tiny tomb are heavy metal -- three 2-CD sets. BBC Archives jolts upright with a crypt-kicking four-song set from 1979, featuring Paul Di'Anno, the English quintet's original screamer. The nasty, straight-razor metal that bands like Guns 'n' Roses appropriated a decade later -- founder Steve Harris' black rider bass; the guillotine twin-axe attack -- slashes through Iron Maiden's "Transylvania," and then "Sanctuary." Rather than pairing it with the second disc's Di'Anno-fueled Reading Festival gig from 1980, which is twice as gripping, suddenly it's the Bruce Dickinson era and The Number of the Beast tour. Again, Maiden is white hot, slightly less so on this version of the group's disc two reprise, an eight-song slice from the Monsters of Rock, UK, 1988. The Beast Over Hammersmith is a 90-minute patchwork also from 1982's Beast Tour, which was the beginning of the band's peak (1982-88). The second half -- opening with another wicked trip to "Transylvania," then "The Prisoner" ("I am not a number, I'm a free man!"), and into "Hallowed Be Thy Name" -- is scorching. Best of the B-Sides peals back the most flesh, beginning with the Alice Cooperish "Burning Ambition" -- the first song Harris "ever wrote completely by himself" -- and evolving into Somewhere in Time-era keepers ("Juanita") and Dickinson remakes of Di'Anno classics "The Prowler" and "Charlotte the Harlot." The Spinal Tap studio gibberish is especially diabolical. Disc two indulges itself in a plethora of b-side covers: Free, Zeppelin, Budgie, Montrose ("Space Station No. 5"), The Who, and UFO, whose classic "Doctor Doctor" fits the lads like a pair of silk scrubs. More Tapish mockery and "Wasted Years" live nail the coffin shut. Following the reanimation of the group's entire catalog earlier this year, Eddie's Archive is a real rotter's nightmare.

***

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