The Best of…Back To Back
Released: 1998, Sony
Hidden Gem Review
If you observe the metal industry it is uncanny how some bands follow an extremely similar trajectory. In this case I am referring to Pretty Maids and Bonfire. Each European melodic metal act has been going since 1981 or so with very few line up changes, each has had 10 studio CD’s, a Live CD, a Best of CD and a few rare releases. Each had huge success in the 80’s, each lost ground in the early 90’s, but resigned with major labels in Europe and Japan. Both are virtually unknown in North America but continue to make kick-ass music to this very day! Coincidence? How I came to review this CD is virtually identical to that of my Bonfire reviews this month! I recommend you checkout those reviews as well.
Ahhh….sweet Pretty Maids…how I yearn for them!
Have you ever been looking through your collection and been hit by the realization that you have almost the entire catalogue of band but didn’t really know it? That happened to me with Pretty Maids. I actually have eleven Pretty Maids albums! Weird. Until last month there was only one review of this great band on Metal-Rules.com! Accordingly, I picked out two CD’s to review, a live and a compilation, to give an overview of their career because I am too lazy to review all ten, studio albums. Read my review of SCREAMIN’ LIVE from this month as well.
I know my rating of a four might seem very generous for a Best of , but it is a very well done best of! 17 tracks and 74 minutes in an excellent value and it better be for the price you will dish out for this expensive import (either version the European Massacre or the Japanese Sony version)
The packaging is gorgeous, really nice paper, lyrics, photos, discography (with cover photos) all presented in a slick, elegant black design. Very nice compared to many of the crummy, two-page compilations that usually flood the US market. However is nice packaging really enough to give a compilation which usually would only get a three at the best of times? In this case, Yes but with a few more reasons.
The songs are all of the highest caliber melodic metal really driving home how talented and under-rated this band truly is. They have it all and do it all very well over a long career. They have the big ballads, “”Walk Away” and “Please Don’t Leave Me”. They have atmospheric tracks like “Yellow Rain”, and fiery rockers like “Back to Back” (whom HammerFall saw fit to cover years later) and “Red, Hot and Heavy”. There is an unreleased track done in Danish (which is totally lost on me) although musically it is great! It starts as a almost spoken word piano ballad and suddenly kicks into this great mid to up-tempo sing along, anthemic rocker with a fluid and charming solo in the middle. A nice finish to a great disc.
This is an excellent overview of their career which is gaining a bit of a resurgence as metal sees a bit of a global resurgence. If you don’t want to track down the ten, expensive, imported, studio CD’s grab this instead. I must admit that my high rating of four is biased because of my preference for the band and the sterling track selection of magnificent songs, so you may want to take that into consideration and drop this a point. For me, it is one of the better compilations I have seen in a while and a nice overview of a great band.