London Blaze (The Godfatherecords G.R.738/739)
Hammersmith Odeon, London UK – December 7th, 1988
Disc 1 (55:28) Moonchild, The Evil That Men Do, The Prisoner, Still Life, Die With Your Boots On, Can I Play With Madness, Heaven Can Wait, Infinite Dreams, Killers, Wasted Years
Disc 2 (73:36) The Clairvoyant, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, The Number Of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Iron Maiden, Run To The Hills, Running Free, Sactuary. Bonus tracks Queen Mary’s College London, UK 8/17/1988; Wrathchild, The Trooper, 22 Acacia Avenue, 2 Minutes To Midnight
1988 was a year of huge success for Iron Maiden, they released the epic Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son record in April and it topped the charts in the UK and they had amazingly 4 top ten singles from the record.
They headlined a short Monsters Of Rock tour in Europe as well as the massive Castle Donnington festival, playing to 100,000 fans. There was a bit of tragedy though, during Guns N Roses set 2 young fans were crushed to death. The success did have its costs and after dust had settled and the band was preparing to beginning writing the next record Adrian Smith decided it was time to leave the band, a huge blow to the tightly knit band. But for now let us sit band (or stand up and head bang) and enjoy this latest release as it captures the band in all their glory at the tail end of the tour.
The recording used has been around for some time, it was first released in the early 90’s as Dec. 7th 2008: It was 20 Years Ago by Metal Crash (MECD 2033/34). It is a very good to excellent audience recording that is just slightly distant and favoring the upper frequencies, there is very little audience disturbance near the taper and I am guessing that it was taped from the front row of the balcony. All instruments and vocals have nice separation and the recording is a great listen and the band is in fighting form.
The recording starts with the opening notes of Moonchild, There is a small bit of sound fluctuation during the first couple minutes but does not even come close to distracting, and sounds like the taper was positioning the equipment. The seventh Son record turned out to be a concept record, Moonchild is the beginning as the young is born and his soul is being sought after, Bruce is great on the vocals and punctuates many of the lines. The song gives way to a crying baby, ala Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and the band waste no time going into The Evil That Men Do.
The second single from the record, the audience sings the chorus with Bruce, the track is a barn burner and gets the crowd on its feet. It is immediately followed by The Prisoner, a definite crowd pleaser complete with Patrick McGoohan intro, the song is ultra heavy Maiden at its best. The next song is an interesting one, Still Life from the Piece Of Mind record. I love its slow dream like lyric and almost psychedelic metal feel and never tire of hearing the studio or live version, a Dave Murray classic. What makes it interesting is how it is sandwiched between The Prisoner and Die With Your Boots On, like the band needed a little breather !
The latter is a barnstorming version, fast and aggressive and has the band on fire, Steve Harris bass is clear and it is great to enjoy his playing, his finger picking style is incredible and drives the band. Finally the band take a breather, Bruce talks to the audience and asks them how they have been since Donnington and says he can’t compete with David Lee Roth ! He also complains about the heat inside the venue before leading the vocal introduction to Can I Play With Madness. The first single from the record that got as high as number 3 on the charts is surprisingly a very up tempo song from the band and is only one of a few that can compete with Wasted Years for commercial appeal. Adrian and Steve provide great backing vocals as does the audience, the single can also boast a great cover of the fist flying through Eddie’s ‘ed.
It is obvious that the tour is coming close to the end, while you cannot detect any weariness from the band but they waste little if no time going right into the next song, Madness ends to the opening of Heaven Can Wait. The song must be considered a mini epic and one of Harris’ most interesting complete with great lyric about living for the present and ohhoo….ohhoo sing along section. Infinite Dreams, the last single from the period (actually from the Maiden England video) is my favorite, from the mellow beginning to the way it just slams you with heaviness and ripping guitar solos, a superb song. The band dust off Killers, one of the Di’Anno era songs that I almost prefer the Dickinson vocals on. He seems to punctuate the lyrics and gives a most evil and deliberate feeling to where Di’anno versions its was as if he could not stop himself.
Bruce talks about dusting off the song before saying “don’t spend all your time searching for those Wasted Years”, the crowd agrees and clap and sing the chorus along with the band.
The second disc starts with an incredible version of The Clairvoyant, with its beautiful Dave Murray melody leads to the excellent “Time to live time to die” chorus this song is a classic, the audience feel the same way and help out with the vocals. There is only one true epic on the record, its title cut is ten minutes of quintessential Steve Harris, the keyboards are perfectly blended and provide a atmospheric presence needed for the song. Musically this is the natural progression from Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and follows a similar structure. The mellow interlude with the scribe Eddie writing the story of the Seventh Son by candle light, again the keyboards are perfect as is Bruce’s spoken word, So It Shall Be Done. After a building like sequence of what could be a battle in ones mind the song explodes with a furry of heaviness and killer guitar solos both Adrian and Dave.
A trilogy of terror finishes the main set, The Number Of The Beast, a crowd pleasing Hallowed Be The Name and finally Iron Maiden. The song has a major cut in it, about 15 seconds in that eliminates a good minute of the song, The same cut is evident in the Metal Crash version also and is seamless, at first you can even tell till they start the chorus. A few minutes of cheering brings the band back and Bruce goes into some conversation about a chick who’s a geezer and a transvestite dog before introducing the band. The first encore is Run To The Hills, the crowd is total re energized and sing and clap with the song. That is just a warm up for Running Free, the crowd is loud a boisterous by this point and get the lungs out during the sing along portion. Sanctuary is the nail in the coffin and the crowd is laid to waste.
The bonus tracks are from Queen Mary’s College just days before the Donnington Show, the bonus songs are carry over from the last part of the American tour and songs that the band would play at their epic Headline appearance. The recording is very good audience, not quite as good as the Hammersmith gig but very clear and enjoyable with a nice bottom end, the band is in excellent form and in obvious preparation for the big day. Wrathchild and The Trooper were played during the first part of the show while 22 Acacia Avenue and 2 Minutes were played as encores. All are lively versions and again the crowd is very into it.
The packaging is tri fold cover with a great Eddie still on his bike from the Maiden England cover pealing out amid flames and the Union Jack in front of the Hammersmith Odeon, the rest is mostly live shots, the back cover being a great one with Steve Harris arms and bass in the air after another triumph.
Again a great value for the money with the bonus tracks, with Maiden getting ready to tour America this summer with a retro tour based upon the Seventh Son era this release has not only made me salivate at hearing these songs live but delivers on a scale of importance. After this tour the band would evolve once again after the crack into what is the quintessential line up of the band, this release with much improved sound is a nice upgrade to those of us who needed to update the old release and a great one for those who do not own a copy of this show.