Review: The Best Of Bruce Dickinson (2001)

brucebestcover1

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.

bruceandroy3

Roy Z and Bruce Dickinson looking metal.

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.

brucebestdisc2

Dickinson’s notion of releasing a solo box set called Catacombs seemed to morph into this disc of tracks from the vaults, the 2005 expanded album reissues, and the subsequent DVD collection Anthology in 2006.

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

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

11 thoughts on “Review: The Best Of Bruce Dickinson (2001)

  1. This was my introduction to Bruce’s Solowork and apart from the music, the real highlight for me was the spoken-word part “The Voice of Crube”, in which Bruce gave a brief overview of his solo career. I still can’t understand why “Wicker Man” didnt make the cut for Accident of Birth.

    • Yes, “The Voice of Crube” is great. As is the silly short story of Crube, Greg, King Dor and Prince Harry, included with the CD booklet. 🙂

  2. Hi Christer,

    I’m really fond of Bruce’s solo work – despite the genre hopping in the mid 90s, each album (TM aside perhaps) is much more coherent than Adrian or Steve’s and until Nicko releases his debut album i think it’s the best solo work we’ll get from the band. Question – can you view it in isolation? i.e. what would you have thought if you’d been handed an unmarked tape (remember them??) of Bruce’s solo work and listened to it without the context of Maiden? The number of times I’ve listened to all of Bruce’s solo stuff I reckon I’d have still gone back to it again and again, esp CW and AOB.

    Anyway, hope you and yours are well, keep up the good work as always 🙂

    Dave

    • Hi Dave! Good question, and impossible to answer really. To be perfectly honest, I suspect that I would not like Bruce’s music as much as I do if I was never a Maiden fan to begin with. I can’t really trust that I would have liked it this much without the context and my personal history as a fan of the artist in question. So, I guess I should be glad that I became a Maiden fan back in the 1980s. Cheers, and stay safe! Chris 🙂

      • Thanks Chris! Reminds me of Stephen King writing books under a pseudonym to see if they’d sell as well. Spoiler alert, they didn’t until it was revealed SK was the actual author, at which point they started selling in droves…guess you can’t ever really separate the artist and the mothership. Suspect there aren’t many folk who got into Maiden after hearing Balls to Picasso

      • Haha, too right. It’s also like, how many units would A Momentary Lapse Of Reason have sold if the album cover said “David Gilmour” instead of “Pink Floyd”? 😉

  3. Accident of Birth, The Chemical Wedding, and Tyranny of Souls are all better albums than Maiden has put out since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, with the exception of A Matter of Life and Death. The production on those particular albums is also much better than recent Maiden efforts. For as great as Steve is, I feel he is married to the Maiden way of song writing and production, to a fault at times.

    • Now that I’m thinking more about Maiden’s reunion period and listening more to those albums again, I have to say that my favorite of those is probably A Matter Of Life And Death. Steve Harris is Steve Harris, no doubt, and the latest live album proves that his hearing and/or his production preferences don’t at all agree with my opinion. On the other hand, I do get a bit worn out by the heavily compressed Z sound of Dickinson’s records too. So in my opinion/taste/preference, the Shirley productions are actually the best realistic Maiden sound I could have hoped for. Credit to him for making both Steve and the others happy enough that they have recorded 6 studio albums since reuniting. That was never a given.

  4. 5/6 for me. Worth buying for the (then) new tracks. Broken is a superb opener, powerful and insistent. Silverwings has everything I want from a metal song. The actual ‘best of’ selection on CD1 is very good, but the addition of Son of a Gun and Taking the Queen (IMO a song that ranks with Revelations and Powerslave) would have made it perfect. The curios on CD2 are very interesting and The Voice of Crube (and accompanying insert) is a fantastic bonus. It’s the only best of/greatest hits album that I regularly listen to.

  5. This is a great collection of Bruce´s solo career, which today is as dead as it can be. Despite some rumours and / or comments thats something new is in the works, nothing has happend yet. Which is a
    shame since i really miss him, even if we of course still see / hear him in Iron Maiden.

    Some of the tracks on CD 2 are still uniqe to this collection, as far as i know. The re-issues of his sololbums, released in 2005 (and not in 2001, if i´m not mistaken) are missing some of these. Tracks like Wicker Man, the live version of Jerusalem (a leftover from Scream for me brazil, left out becasuse of time limits), Dracula and a few more tracks is not on the reissues. So, even if you have the re-issues, (which is also worth getting because they contain even more tracks not included here), this collection still have some gems only avialiable here.

    • 2005, yeah. Typo. You know, the most annoying thing is that Jerusalem would easily fit on Scream For Me Brazil, which stops at 69 minutes…

Leave a Reply to Anders Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s