Bruce Dickinson celebrated the new millennium by being back in Iron Maiden for the long term. This was a natural point for summing up his solo career with an expansive compilation.
The Best Of Bruce Dickinson
Produced by Roy Z, Jack Endino, Shay Baby, Keith Olsen, Chris Tsangarides
Released 25 September 2001
Dickinson’s first, and so far only, collection of past material was released in two versions. If you only wanted a simple overview, you bought the one-disc edition. But if you were a Maiden-head, or if Dickinson’s solo adventures interested you deeply despite Maiden, you got the two-disc edition of course.
The first disc of the set is a bit of a no-brainer. Even if you think that certain other songs should have been included, there is no arguing with those that are. There’s Born In ’58 and the title track from Dickinson’s solo debut Tattooed Millionaire (1990). There’s Tears Of The Dragon and Back From The Edge from his two most experimental albums, Balls To Picasso (1994) and Skunkworks (1996). There’s Darkside of Aquarius, Road To Hell and the title track from his metal comeback Accident Of Birth (1997), and The Tower and the title track from the equally metallic The Chemical Wedding (1998).
You will also find a couple of live tracks from the then recent Scream For Me Brazil (1999), and two new tracks. Of the latter, Broken is pedestrian while Silver Wings is a prime example of the exuberant heavy metal that was often forged between Dickinson and his muse, guitarist and producer Roy Z.
It’s as fine a synopsis of the singer’s most important solo works as could be expected. But the real education lies elsewhere: The second disc is really the one of interest to serious Maiden and Dickinson fans. Included here are a lot of tracks that were also made available on the 2005 expanded editions of the Dickinson solo albums, and some that are exclusive to this collection.
First out of the gate is the original 1989 recording of Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter, the song that was kept off Tattooed Millionaire when Steve Harris wanted to re-record it with Maiden. Bruce’s solo version is the same song, but the production is slicker and less out-and-out metal than Maiden’s would be, which is no surprise. Which one you prefer is subjective, of course, and this reviewer likes Bruce’s version of the chorus best while pretty much everything else is best on Maiden’s version.
A completely different side of the early Dickinson solo effort is the acoustic Darkness Be My Friend from 1990, while Wicker Man (no relation to the Maiden song) makes a strong case that it wouldn’t have been out of place on Accident Of Birth in 1997. Equally good is Real World, a b-side tune that was probably found a little too light for the very heavy The Chemical Wedding in 1998.
Of supreme interest here is the inclusion of a 1994 b-side called No Way Out…Continued. Presumably it’s the continuation of the earlier b-side No Way Out, and …Continued is one of very few glimpses Dickinson fans have ever had of his unreleased 1993 solo album with producer Keith Olsen. That record was Dickinson’s second attempt at a second solo album, and would ultimately be scrapped in favor of the third attempt, Balls To Picasso. No Way Out…Continued showcases the more electronic and introspective music and lyrics that Dickinson struggled with at the time of his exit from Iron Maiden. It’s admittedly not very good, but for fans it is certainly very interesting.
There is also an early version of the Accident Of Birth ballad Man Of Sorrows, recorded during the Tattooed Millionaire sessions and thus featuring Janick Gers on guitar. And rounding it all off is a trip way back in time: Dracula from Dickinson’s first session with the band Shots in 1977, the first recording of Bruce singing that was ever made. Baby pictures indeed!
In sum, the 2-disc The Best Of Bruce Dickinson set draws a clear and comprehensive picture of Bruce Dickinson the solo artist. There are obviously a lot of good tracks left off, as is par for the course with such collections, but the deep dives on the second disc makes a cool companion to a fairly safe first disc.
Christer’s verdict: 4/6