Released: 2009, EMI
May is Maiden Mania Month for us at http://www.metal-rules.com.
This month we are going to review lots of Iron Maiden related material. Two books, two CD’s and a Maiden DVD, all of it mostly related to the last two world tours: the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour (2008-2009) and the Final Frontier World Tour (2010-2011). Lastly, we have the formal results from The Iron Maiden Tournament run by Erik on our Metal Forum. Thanks to Erik for running this fun poll and series of threads. Feel free to enjoy all of these reviews in this mini-series.
There are many ways to structure a Live album and Iron Maiden has mastered all of these styles and released Live albums in all these styles. For example, you have the albums that are a single point in time, the entire show, in the correct sequence at a single location. (ROCK IN RIO, DEATH ON THE ROAD) These are the most common types. Then you have the albums that commemorate a special event, a festival for example. (LIVE AT DONINGTON). These are not necessarily related to a tour and the set-list can be quite different for that event. You have albums that are a representation of a certain era recorded at many different locations (A REAL LIVE ONE, A REAL DEAD ONE) and the songs not necessarily in the sequence they were played live. Often sound levels vary on these albums from track to track, city to city. At times the songs are blended together with cheering added in between to maintain the continuity of the ‘feel’ of a live concert but sometimes there are hard breaks in between the songs. There are geographical themed albums (MAIDEN JAPAN, MAIDEN ENGLAND) that document a bands tour in a country. There are specialty live albums recorded for promotional purposes for media, showcase gigs etc (BBC ARCHIVES) Lastly there are Tour Representation albums, which duplicate/document the tour and play the shows in sequence they were played live but not necessarily all the same concert or same venue. (LIVE AFTER DEATH) This is my least favourite way to structure a live album and FLIGHT 666 falls in this last category.
FLIGHT 666 has 16 songs from 16 cities all documenting the ‘Somewhere Back In Time Tour’. As always this album has gorgeous presentation; big booklet, tons of photos, nice layout, a good essay from Steve Harris and good value. Iron Maiden never let us down in this department. In my review of Iron Maiden’s most recent Double Live album, EN VIVO (also this month) I discussed at length the quantity of Iron Maiden live albums concluding that the quality is so high on all of them it really comes down to an individuals personal preference of the track-list. This is where this album falters just a little bit.
There are a few track quirks. The tour that this album is documenting is not a ‘retro tour’ as the band firmly stated, but an opportunity for younger fans to hear/see these songs that the band hadn’t played in a long time, with a combined effort to duplicate the set and style of that era. Fair enough. The ‘Somewhere Back In Time’ Tour is the second in a publically announced series of tours where the band highlights older material. The first tour in 2005 was called ‘Ed Rips Up The World’ and was covering songs from the first four albums (IRON MAIDEN, KILLERS, NUMBER OF THE BEAST and PIECE OF MIND) That’s cool.
This tour was supposed to cover the next three Iron Maiden albums (POWERSLAVE, SOMEWHERE IN TIME and SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON) My question is, why are there six songs (Revelations, The Trooper, The Number Of The Beast, Run To The Hills, Iron Maiden and Hallowed Be Thy Name) from the first four albums on this ‘second era’ theme tour? It doesn’t make sense. They could have/should have dropped those songs which they just showcased live in 2005 and played more rare songs from the second era.
Another bizarre inclusion to the set-list is the song, ‘Fear of The Dark’. If the ‘Somewhere In Time Tour’ is supposed to look back at the second-half of the 80’s why is that song here? It wasn’t even written during that era. It came out in 1992. Don’t get me wrong, I love that song, it’s great song, but it has already been on A REAL LIVE ONE, LIVE AT DONINGTON, ROCK IN RIO, DEATH ON THE ROAD and now FLIGHT 666! So to summarize, seven of the 16 songs were not even from that era, almost half!
Now, of course the band and/or management doesn’t think like a fan in terms of setlist development. They say to themselves, “We can’t omit Fear Of The Dark (or Number, or Hallowed) from the set-list, the fans would lynch us!” So onto the album it goes…. for the fifth time in a row. But that is the beautiful thing of these Live albums that are the tour representation style. The band can play those songs live all they want BUT they don’t have to be included on the album! They can rotate songs in and out of the set. I would have much rather had another seven songs that have never been on any Live album than the fifth version of ‘Fear Of The Dark’ in a row. It sticks out like a sore thumb and disrupts the continuity and theme of the tour and of FLIGHT 666.
Let’s break it down even farther to illustrate the point, namely Maiden’s lack of originality in choosing tracks for live albums.
-Seven songs from FLIGHT 666 appeared on DEATH ON THE ROAD
-Seven Songs from FLIGHT 666 appeared on ROCK IN RIO
-Ten songs from FLIGHT 666 appeared on LIVE AT DONINGTON
-Seven songs from FLIGHT 666 appeared on MAIDEN ENGLAND
-Ten Songs from FLIGHT 666 appeared LIVEONE/DEAD ONE
We can’t in fairness include the fact that ten songs from FLIGHT 666 appeared on LIVE AFTER DEATH because that is the whole point of revisiting that album. There are no songs on FLIGHT 666 that have not been on a Iron Maiden Live Album before. None. Zero. But who cares right? There are all amazing songs unto themselves. Seriously, the only vaguely ‘rare’ songs on FLIGHT 666 that has not been multiple previous live albums before are ‘Moonchild’, ‘Wasted Years’, and ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’. Three songs, for an entire tour, that was supposed to highlight rare, lesser-known, lesser-played songs. The track list is really, really weak as compared to the intended purpose of the album.
Now that I’ve micro-analyzed this thing to death (if the band ever reads this review they will likely think I’m an obsessed idiot or at the bare minimum think I have way too much time on my hands) let’s talk about the music. It’s fantastic! FLIGHT 666 sounds great. Amazing sound, amazing performances. Bruce’s voice is in great shape, Nicko’s on fire adding little fills and things to the songs, and everyone is in top form. I really did enjoying hearing the lesser-known songs again and I must admit…I got chills up my spine when ‘Churchill’s Speech’ opened the album!
Despite all my technically grumbling, I have a soft spot for this album because it really does a fantastic job documenting a great tour and ties in with the movie, the book and I saw them on that tour as well. It’s nice to think my colleague Sam Dunn was out there on that tour so I can live vicariously through his eyes and ears with this record. So what I might initially classify as a yet another premature, stupefyingly unnecessary, Double Live, Iron Maiden album with an uninspired track-list, FLIGHT 666 gets the benefit of the doubt for nostalgia and the fact that ‘The Somewhere In Time Tour’ was so damn epic and cool, how could they NOT document the hell out of it? Consequently, I have yet another Double Live Iron Maiden in my collection and you should too.