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The best of the best.
on November 19, 2001
In reality, the best of Bruce Dickinson can be found on his albums Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding. Both are easily among the best heavy metal albums of the 90s, or of all time. His other albums were mixed bags, with music ranging from mediocre to genuine brilliance. For The Best of Bruce Dickinson, most of his finest songs are brought together in a nice little 60+ minute package. Not only is this some of Bruce's best work, but it could easily be subtitled "Some of the Best Metal Ever."
I admire Bruce Dickinson. Best-known as the "air raid siren" vocalist of Iron Maiden, Bruce has spent a great deal of time on a solo career that has developed his growth as a singer and songwriter. Aside from that killer voice, he truly has a melodic instinct to die for. Him and guitarist/producer Roy Z. have grown into a powerful duo that commands respect from the entire metal community. What's more, Bruce's voice has only improved with age. He still possesses all his youthful intensity, but he now commands a larger range of expression.
This disc complies with a "Best of" collection's requisite purpose. Bruce's entire solo career is covered very well; the song selection is really great, well-ordered, with two awesome new tracks. Tattooed Millionaire, which was Bruce's first solo project, was more of a melodic hard rock album than a metal one; very unlike his work with Maiden. Both "Tattooed Millionaire" and "Born in '58" are polished hard rock numbers with good choruses you can latch onto and stomp your foot with.
Balls of Picasso was a more important step in Dickinson's career. Like Tattooed Millionaire, it was slick, pop-influenced hard rock/metal. A live cut of "Laughing in the Hiding Bush," with savage guitar licks and acerbic vocals, isn't that important an addition (good song, though). What matters here is "Tears of the Dragon," which remains to this day one of Bruce's best songs. It maintains a Maiden aesthetic, and yet the sheer passion, coupled with the monumental soloing, put it on another level entirely. Some have interpreted the song as a repudiation of Maiden, but it is nothing that indignant. It is about being afraid, and the challenge of conquering your fear.
Skunkworks is the dark horse of Bruce's work. I've only actually picked up this album recently, and I must say it's better than I thought it would be. Again, hard rock/metal, but with touches of experimentation. The album is represented by the solid, lone single, "Back from the Edge." Delicious guitar patterns and mighty vocals characterize this one.
With Accident of Birth, Bruce returned to his heavy metal roots, melding musical intensity and crystal-clear recording quality. It was commercially successful, and the songwriting is at peak of its craft. "Road to Hell" and its harmonized, razor-sharp precise guitars has hooks even a metal-hater would find hard to resist. "Accident of Birth" is heavier and darker in tone, with hammering metallic power and no lapse on the melodic factor. "Darkside of Aquarius" is ambitious with layers of aggressive riffing and a gripping, melodic finale. I wish they'd included the awesome "Omega," which is one of Bruce's finest tunes. After all, there is 15 minutes of space left on the CD! "Man of Sorrows," the powerful single, is also missing.
The Chemical Wedding was Bruce's crowning achievement. It was a lyrically complex concept work based on the poetry of William Blake, coupled with fierce songwriting and crippling guitars. The riff-monster "Book of Thel" is represented with a live track from a South American concert. Growling riffs, bloodthirsty vocals, and enthusiastic crowd noise make an awesome song better. "The Tower," a groovier, more melodic song, is irresistible metal. "Chemical Wedding" is slow and growling. Just one question...where the heck is "Trumpets of Jericho"?
There is a pair of non-album tracks as well, and they're incredible! "Silver Wings" is soaring, melodic, and heavy, with slammin' double-bass drums driving the chorus. "Broken" is mid-tempo and heavy, with guitar atmospherics that wouldn't seem out of place on The Chemical Wedding (although the lyrics wouldn't fit!).
SINGLE DISC If you're new to Bruce Dickinson's solo career, this compilation is a pretty good entry point. Although you might just want to get both Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding, Bruce's "Best of" is a good, single-CD choice.