Review by Kevin Templeton
Aah, the mighty Maiden. Remember when teenaged rebellion consisted of feathered-haired boys roaming the high school hallways, their Walkmans blaring cassettes of The Number of the Beast or Piece of Mind, square Eddie pins lining their jean jacket collars? Or how about taking the bus with your buds to go see "The World Slavery Tour" at the Coliseum way back when? (That's still one of the best arena rock concerts I've ever attended.) Jog your memory at all?
Nostalgia aside, I've always felt that "album" artists are rarely served by the greatest hits format. But, having said that, it seems Iron Maiden have decided to go the nostalgic route, now that the song-writing well has started to run dry (witness their last few albums and the amount of live recordings being released). Thus we arrive at their latest opus, the 78-minute Best of the Beast compilation.
Also available as a four-record set or as a double CD complete with hardcover book, Best of the Beast captures the British group running on all cylinders with classic cuts like "Aces High," "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "Hallowed be Thy Name," while the single-oriented "Can I Play with Madness" and (the lone new track) "Virus" display a more annoying and clichéd side to the band.
Sure, Iron Maiden circa 1996 may not be the adventurous juggernaut of a band they once were with air-raid siren vocalist Bruce Dickinson at the helm (he's since been replaced by ex-Wolfsbane young'un Blaze Bayley), but you won't catch me casting off bands -- especially ones with musicians as rock solid as Maiden -- just because they appear less fashionable than they once were. Broadening one's scope by adding new music to one's overall experience is great, but to dispel classic acts from years gone by would be a silly notion indeed. So, with that in mind, keep the faith (Judas Priest, where are you?) and pick up a fresh perspective on some kickin' old tunes. Up the irons!
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