I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
"The Many Faces of Iron Maiden"
(3 CD set) Music Brokers, 2016
Disc 1: "The Many Faces of Iron Maiden" - 13 tracks
Disc 2: "Their Greatest Songs" - 12 tracks
Disc 3: "The Scene: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal" - 12 tracks
If you're one of the few folks who still bothers to flip through the shrinking selection of CDs at your local Wal-Mart or other big box retailer, you've probably come across at least one volume of the bargain-priced Many Faces of... series of rock tribute compilations. At last count, there were more than two dozen of these snappy looking, 3-disc digipak sets out there, released by the mysterious "Music Brokers" label and offering salutes to the legendary likes of Queen, KISS, AC/DC, Van Halen, the Ramones, and more.
These sets, which consist mostly of repackaged, previously-released material licensed from other labels, seem to have a bad rep among music fans (I've seen them called "worthless," "trash," "crap," and other niceties online) but after skimming the back cover of The Many Faces of Iron Maiden during a recent shopping trip I was intrigued enough to put it in my cart. I can't resist weird stuff like this, especially when it's dirt cheap (A 3 CD set for only $6.97? SOLD!).
Paul Di'Anno - "Remember Tomorrow"
Disc 1 is sub titled "The Many Faces of Iron Maiden," which I presume is supposed to signify the vast reach of Maiden's membership during their years of existence. Some of the track choices on this disc in particular are truly odd, since their connections to Iron Maiden are tenuous at best. The two cuts by the long-forgotten British thrash metal band Slammer, ("Insanity Addict" and "Bring the Hammer Down") are apparently included here merely because Steve Harris produced the EP they came from.
Likewise, Black Star Riders' "All Hell Breaks Loose" is a fine song, but its relationship to Iron Maiden (it was produced by longtime Maiden associate Kevin Shirley) is even thinner than Slammer's, so why is it here?
Thankfully, the rest of Disc 1 makes more sense, consisting of tracks that actually feature performances by members of Iron Maiden (past and present) -- most notably, former vocalist Paul Di'Anno, who snarls his way through a batch of re-recorded tracks from his era like "Killers," "Wrathchild," and "Remember Tomorrow." I am pretty sure that the Di'Anno cuts were recycled from The Number One Beast Vol. 1 and 2, a pair of tribute albums that Paul took part in back in the early '00s. Unsurprisingly, they don't sound terribly different from the original versions heard on Iron Maiden and/or Killers.
Collectors may be more interested in hearing the two cheesy-but-fun songs by Stratus, an obscure, short lived mid '80s hard rock/AOR outfit with drummer Clive Burr, who sound like a slightly heavier Foreigner. In addition, guitarist Janick Gers makes an appearance on "Sunbeam," a cut from Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan's solo band.
Slammer - "Insanity Addicts"
Sub-titled "Their Greatest Songs," Disc 2 is a compilation of Maiden's best known classics like "The Number of the Beast," "Run to the Hills," "2 Minutes to Midnight," and "Aces High," sung by some notable British rockers like Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper), Steve Overland (FM), Gary Barden (Michael Schenker Group) and Doogie White (MSG, Alcatrazz, Yngwie Malmsteen). Like the Di'Anno cuts on disc 1, these tracks are repackaged from the previously-released The Number One Beast tribute albums. They're not out and out terrible covers, but they're mostly performed in very workmanlike, punch-the-clock fashion, with only Grimmett showing any kind of fire or passion at all.
The only song not repurposed from Number One Beast is the closing track, an unexpected classical instrumental take on "Run to the Hills" by Vitamin String Quartet (who?), which is good for a few laughs, at least.
Stratus (with Clive Burr) - "Back Street Lovers"
Honestly, this is the disc that sold me on this set; "The Scene: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal" is a compilation of tracks by the bands who were Maiden's contemporaries (and competition) on the English pub circuit during the fabled NWOBHM era of the late '70s and early '80s. The always-welcome Saxon make two appearances with latter-era songs "If I Was You" and "Need For Speed," and the rest is filled in by obscurities like the irresistibly-named Split Beaver ("Hounds of Hell"), Jaguar ("Back Street Woman"), Quartz ("Buried Alive"), and Persian Risk ("Calling For You"). I've read and heard much about some of these bands over the years but had never actually heard them, therefore I have spent more time listening to this disc than the other two in the set. Any day I can add some NWOBHM rarities to the collection on the cheap is a good day!
Bernie Shaw - "Fear of the Dark"
Summing It Up
So is The Many Faces of Iron Maiden worth picking up on your next trip to Wal-Mart? I found it to be a mostly-interesting listen, but I suppose it would depend on the depth of your Maiden fan-hood. There are a few dud tracks, of course, but there were more than enough goodies and rare nuggets to justify the purchase, especially at such an ultra-cheap price point.
Casual Maiden fans will likely be turned off by the number of unfamiliar names on the back cover, but the die hard, gotta-have-everything collectors of Maiden memorabilia (and I know there are a lot of you out there) should be interested in some of the gems hidden within. As always, Up the Irons...
© 2022 Keith Abt