Christer Reviews: A Real Live One (1993)

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Eight years after the colossal Live After Death, Iron Maiden have another four studio albums to plunder for their setlist. And so they decide it is time for another live album. Here is a retro review of Maiden’s controversial second concert record.

A Real Live One
Produced by Steve Harris
Released 22 March 1993

A Real Live One was released under the most depressing circumstances of any Maiden album in history, in the immediate aftermath of Bruce Dickinson announcing his departure from the band. Maiden had been through a year of European success and American failure in 1992 with the Fear Of The Dark album and tour, and would face emotional torture in 1993 as the tour resumed and turned into a painfully drawn-out Dickinson farewell. Here is our in-depth Iron Maiden story of making Fear Of The Dark and loosing Bruce Dickinson:

Into Darkness, 1992-1993.

Steve Harris ultimately decided not to retire the band, soldiered on through the Real Live Tour, and started looking for a new singer. On top of this, against the advice of manager Rod Smallwood, Harris had also decided to take on the responsibility of being the Iron Maiden record producer.

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Eddie on the road for the Real Live Tour in 1993.

Longtime producer and living legend Martin Birch had been working exclusively with Maiden for many years, but finally decided to retire altogether. Rather than getting a new (and presumably costly) top producer to do the work on Maiden’s new live recordings, Harris sat himself in the producer’s chair. The outcome is clear as soon as opener Be Quick Or Be Dead lashes out: Harris favors a production, or lack thereof, that renders No Prayer For The Dying (1990) positively overproduced.

It’s thin, it’s dry, and it’s not pleasant on the ears at all. Harris’ idea seems to be that overexposing the high energy of Maiden’s early 90s live performances will excite the audience, and so he ignores the fact that live albums are meant to be listened to, and relistened to. Even for a die-hard fan it’s hard work to revisit this record.

Maiden also decide to split the album in two, with A Real Live One exclusively containing songs from the post-Live After Death era and the earlier material set aside for A Real Dead One later in the year. Which means that this record does not reflect the actual set as performed on the Fear Of The Dark tour. It’s also recorded in many different cities throughout the tour, giving disc-space to more fans but denying the listener any chance to really get into a concert vibe.

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It was not easy to get into Iron Maiden’s new live album in 1993. Left to right: Dickinson, McBrain, Harris, Murray, Gers.

At the time Harris would explain the decision to split the album by saying that older fans might not want to buy the older material again. But it’s just as probable that Maiden and managment thought it was a good idea to get fans to pay for two records instead of one double album. There really is a lot to be unhappy about with the 1993 Maiden live albums…

Is there any consolation here at all?

Yes, kind of. Discounting the production issues, there are some tracks that stand out, mostly due to the energetic performances: Tailgunner, The Evil That Men Do, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, The Clairvoyant and obviously Fear Of The Dark. It’s certainly performed with passion, even if the production isn’t able to capture and communicate this very well. Both Dickinson and drummer Nicko McBrain are on top form, but Harris seems intent on sabotaging their efforts by coating them in crappy sound.

Derek Riggs is back after being dropped for the Fear Of The Dark artwork, but what he provides this time is just an uninspired run-of-the-mill version of the mythical character he painted through space and time in the 1980s. The album cover and the Fear Of The Dark single artwork match the uninspired production perfectly:

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Eddie as ‘Arry. The 1993 live recording is probably where the Fear Of The Dark title track found eternal life.

As soon as Birch left the console a sonic consequence of Adrian Smith’s departure in 1990 also became painfully evident. Both Dave Murray and Janick Gers play the Strat, and without the balancing tones of Smith’s contrasting axes (often the Les Paul) the Maiden guitar sound is reduced to a decidedly flat landscape. The less sophisticated guitar playing that Gers provides is not being done any favors by the Harris production.

And the less said about the drum sound, the better.

Harris’ garage aesthetic is certainly unforgiving when it comes to bum notes or other mistakes, so the album is clearly more live than Live After Death, but the brittle production and the absence of Smith’s groovy and melodic guitar stylings, as well as his backing vocals, makes this a less-than-mediocre effort.

After all, it’s the focus on recent material that makes the album interesting. But Maiden continue to stumble through the 1990s in a less than impressive manner, neither breaking new ground nor putting their legacy in a good light. In the inescapable shadow of Live After Death, this album is utterly disappointing.

Christer’s Verdict: 2/6

6/6 Masterpiece
5/6 Great
4/6 Good
3/6 OK
2/6 Disappointing
1/6 Crap

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5 thoughts on “Christer Reviews: A Real Live One (1993)

  1. I remember buying this album and being excited to hear live versions of the then newer material, since I found that Maiden live material is more often better than the studio recordings, displaying sped up tempo and a heavier sound. However this live album was an extreme disappointment, sounding like it was recorded in a blastic bin. The sound is muddled, nothing stands out or sounds clear. The album has a clautstrophobic feel to it. The Real Dead One, although not a classic, is much better than this effort. I probably have only listened to it 10 times, because it’s just not enjoyable.

  2. Recently found this site and I’m very surprised I hadn’t found it sooner! I used to browse a lot of Maiden sites in my early teen years and spent many evenings reading about the band. This site is a gem and I’ve been reading the articles as fast as I click on them. Up the Irons!

    • That is very kind of you Tony! We have been going for about five years, but we will certainly keep digging into the Maiden legacy in years to come. Maiden Revelations is a long-term project. 🙂

    • Not too much, Mike. But we will get there as time goes on. Our history series is up to 1993 at the moment, while we also have this feature about people that left Maiden. And many of our Best & Worst features also have bits of the Blaze era in them. Have a look around! We’ll publish more at the appropriate time.

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