Turning 40: The Number of the Beast

The greatest metal album of all time turns 40 today! That distinction goes to Iron Maiden’s 1982 release; The Number of the Beast. While the band’s two prior releases are special in their own right, TNOTB saw them reach their full potential and kicked off a run of classic albums that would dominate the rest of the 1980’s.

Featuring the genre’s best bass player, founding member Steve Harris, this record saw the band go from supporting act to headliner around the world. It would be the last one with drummer Clive Burr but the first with former Samson singer Bruce Dickinson. The album is Burr’s finest accomplishment on the sticks and Dickinson’s voice transitioned the band from more of a amateur hard rock outfit to something entirely different but meeting Harris’ vision for the group. Soaring vocals that rivaled those of Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford took them to new heights. Childhood friends Dave Murray and Adrian Smith traded off guitar solos on the record and again combined with Harris to form the signature “Maiden gallop” that their songs are still known for to this day.

The frightening album art, along with it’s title, unfortunately led to the record being pigeonholed as some sort of devil worship. Perhaps the creative lyrics went over the heads of many critics of the time, but the stigma was attached to the band for several years. The record led the band to fall victim to folks burning and smashing their albums and protesting their concerts in the United States. Nonetheless, all of the extra attention caught the eye of teenagers looking for something different and was a commercial success. It became Iron Maiden’s first record to reach the Top 40 on the U.S. Billboard Charts. It produced two iconic singles in “The Number of the Beast” and “Run To The Hills” and was certified Platinum in the U.S. and virtually everywhere else in the world. This band has sold over 85 million records and 20 million of those were just this album alone. Its staying power and longevity speak for itself.

I discovered the record as a thirteen year old coming of age moron in roughly 1999, while going through my dad’s old cassette collection. Remember cassettes? I was immediately drawn to the cover art; as any thirteen year old boy probably was back in 1982. Upon placing the cassette in my stereo I was greeted with the heaviest thing I’d probably ever heard to that point. Invaders doesn’t have some melodic, build up intro like the more modern Maiden songs do. From the first note, it is an in your face metal onslaught. Most metal bands in the 80’s were making songs about girls and parties. Not Maiden. Invaders tells the tale of some ancient Saxons being invaded by and falling victim to Norse Vikings. Probably not the type of music that was popular with the chicks but nevertheless the type of music that would inspire future metal titans like Amon Amarth and Sabaton.

The second track is one of the album’s absolute gems and has the aforementioned type of intro that the band would become known for. Children of the Damned starts off with a melodic intro and was inspired by the TV show Village of the Damned. The song starts out nice before transitioning into a heavy metal classic that showcases the band at their peak. Rarely played live, I was able to hear it performed in Detroit on the Book Of Souls World Tour in 2016.

The next track is The Prisoner which was based off of the British TV show of the same name. It’s another song that is rarely played live, but I was fortunate enough to catch it in Indianapolis in 2012 during the Maiden England tour. The song was inspired by a character in the show who is taken hostage in a village that might seem to be too perfect, but in actuality is a prison as there is no free thought or freewill.

22 Acacia Avenue is another underrated masterpiece that is probably due to it’s lyrical content; but as a song it flat out jams. The song is a sequel to an earlier song about the band’s favorite made up (or was she?) lady of the night. First appearing in 1980’s Charlotte The Harlot, this song tells the third person view of her life before the narrator ultimately rescues her from her life of sin. In Charlotte the Harlot, the song is much more upbeat and has a very punk rock vibe to it. However, in 22 Acacia Avenue, the corner she works on and the song warns of the dangers of the lifestyle she has chosen on the streets. I hope that someday I will hear this one performed live.

Then comes the aforementioned, controversial title track. Contrary to popular activist beliefs at the time, the song is not an ode to Lucifer. Rather, the song is the reflection of a nightmare that Steve Harris had after viewing the sequel to The Omen. A quick look or listen to the lyrics could have calmed a lot of the outrage that this song created. Rather than running from it, the band embraced it, and rode the momentum of this moment all the way to the bank and then some. This was the second single released on the record and it has become one of the defining songs in the history of heavy metal. They’ve played this song on every tour I’ve seen them play.

Run To The Hills was the first single from the record and is probably the most popular and well known song from the band, at least here in the States. On the very rare chance that a radio station will play any Maiden music, you have about a 95% chance of it being Run To The Hills. From the catchy intro and piercing vocals the song was an instant hit and is usually in the set list when the band tours. The song is a back and forth tale from the perspectives of both the Native Americans and their conquerors from Europe. It’s an absolute metal classic.

Arguably their most popular song is followed by the “weakest” track on the record. Gangland isn’t necessarily a bad song but it doesn’t seem to fit. Written by drummer Clive Burr and guitarist Adrian Smith, it is from the perspective of life dominated by organized crime. Again, it isn’t a bad song, but when placed next to the song that it replaced on the album you can see why Steve Harris now believes they made the wrong choice. However, now knowing that this would the last album to feature Burr on the drums, I believe he delivers one of his all time best performances in this song. So, while the song isn’t catchy nor all that memorable in the Maiden catalog, it does show Burr going out in his prime with one of his best performances.

Total Eclipse was initially left off of the album and was instead used as the B-Side for the Run To The Hills single. This was the decision that Harris regretted. It’s a much stronger song than Gangland and would have been better served on the record. When the album was remastered and re-released in 1998, it was added as it should have been to begin with as it is a great straight ahead metal jam. I’d love to hear this one live.

The finale, as is common with this band, is the strongest track on the album. I’ll go further. I will opine that this is the greatest heavy metal song ever written. Throughout their career Iron Maiden have been known more so for their massive “epics” than their singles. They’ve released some doozies, like Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Phantom of The Opera, and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The crown jewel of them all, though, is Hallowed Be Thy Name. It is the one that closes most Maiden shows. I assume this is because it is too good to follow with something else. Lyrically, it tells the tale of a man that is awaiting death at the gallows and the reflection of his life during his final moments. The song has everything that a heavy metal song should have. It’s got a build up intro. It has, arguably, Dickinson’s finest vocal performance. It features the classic Maiden gallop and twin guitars trading off masterpiece solos. Burr’s drums and Harris’ bass play are out of this world as well. All metal songs since and in the future should be measured against it and THAT alone is the deciding factor in making this the greatest metal album of all time. It would still be considered an all time classic without Hallowed, but its presence elevates it to the #1 slot in my not so humble opinion.

Cheers and Happy Birthday to The Number of the Beast.

Rock in peace; July 2021 in memoriam

A brutal July has come and gone in regards to the untimely passing of several members of some of rock’s biggest bands.

On back to back days, July 14/15, bluesy hard rock band Cinderella lost two members of their band family. On the 14th, guitarist Jeff LaBar was found deceased. Unfortunately, hours later on the 15th they were made aware of the passing of long time touring member Gary Corbett had also passed away from lung cancer. LaBar played on each of Cinderella’s records and Corbett had been their long time live keyboard player. I’ve long maintained that Cinderella was the best and simultaneously most under rated of the “hair” era bands. I was fortunate to see the band perform live twice before their long time hiatus.

Days later on the 17th, long time Kansas violinist Robby Steinhardt passed away from pancreatitis. He hadn’t been a performing member of the band in quite some time, but during the band’s hey dey was credited for his violin work and being the co-lead singer of the band. Their frequent use of violins in rock songs, gave Kansas a sound that was fairly unique to them.

One of Steinhardt’s vocals was for the song Cheyenne Anthem

Unfortunately, on July 26th the losses would continue, and this time would hit the metal world hard. Former drummer of and co-founder of Slipknot Joey Jordison would pass on. He had been ill for awhile and it appears that he died in his sleep. Jordison, who cited Keith Moon (The Who) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) as influences of his, had won many awards for his drumming talents. These included being named the greatest drummer by the following publications: Rhythym magazine and Loudwire. He also won the Drummies Award for Best Metal drummer in 2010.

Jordison featured on Slipknot track Duality

That same day, metal vocalist Mike Howe, of Metal Church took his life at age 55. He was the bands second vocalist, manning the microphone from 1988-1996 and again from 2015 until the time of his death. At the time of his passing, the band had been working on a new album.

One day later, the rock world would lose a true titan in ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill. Hill, had recently left the road with some hip issues and had asked their long time guitar tech to cover for him. It appears, at least for the time being, that the band will continue on with this lineup as Billy Gibbons has said Hill asked for the band to carry on. Top’s most impressive feat had been that the Texas three piece had never had any lineup changes since their formation in 1969. As one of the longest running and stable rock bands in history, tributes and condolences poured in from throughout the rock world. ZZ Top, with Hill holding down the bottom end, were able to maneuver as a blues band, a southern rock band and in the eighties as one of the most commercially successful pop-rock bands with a slew of iconic music videos during the rise of MTV.

I was fortunate to be able to see ZZ Top twice. They were the first band to headline the Rock on the Range festival in 2007. The festival would go on to become the biggest rock festival in the United States before becoming the Sonic Temple festival in 2019. That first year ZZ Top closed the night and I recall being impressed as I was close enough and could see members from several of the newer bands of that time (Evanescence, Buckcherry, Hinder) standing to the side of the stage in awe of the icons performing in front of them. Icons.

ZZ Top performing their biggest “Hill” song, Tush.

Rock in peace to them all.

First gig, post apocalypse

Still Life performing Iron Maiden’s Aces High

Prior to last Saturday night, the last show I’d been able to attend in person was KORN and Breaking Benjamin in January 2020. Those of you that know me, know that going over a year in between concerts is not really a thing. Alas, that is the world that we’ve been left with after the ongoing pandemic.

Much to my delight, some smaller venues are starting to host socially distanced events again, and I was quite pleased to be able to catch a band that’s been on my radar for a few years. Still Life, an Iron Maiden tribute band based out of Columbus, and their friends from Sanitarium (a local Metallica tribute) were booked to play a gig in Dublin. I had previously caught Sanitarium once before at the Al Rosa Villa as one of the opening acts for The Iron Maidens a few years back. On that same bill was a local Judas Priest cover band which is how I heard about Still Life. For whatever reason, I hadn’t been able to catch them until now.

And how fitting would it be, that my first live show since the pandemic, would be two tribute acts playing songs from two of my favorite bands; Metallica and Iron Maiden.

Sanitarium kicked off the night with a set that primarily focused on the 80’s thrash era of Metallica’s catalog. While their set was shorter than I’d have liked and I would have liked to hear some songs from each of the bands albums (minus St. Anger), time was limited and they kept it to the classics. The band sounded great, played the songs true to form, and had the packed crowd headbanging and singing along throughout the entirety of the set.

Sanitarium performing Metallica’s Ride The Lightning

Before moving on to the evening’s headlining act, I’d like to shout out the venue. It was the first time my wife and I had ventured to Last Call Music Bar and Grill and we were quite impressed. The women that made up the wait staff that night were fantastic to us. Our table was visited at least every fifteen minutes throughout the evening. Drinks and food were served with a smile and the hospitality was fantastic.

After briefly sound checking with 1982’s The Prisoner or Invaders (I don’t recall, just was surprised either way), the stage appeared to be set for the main event. Now, and this is being picky, the person controlling the house music has to know that it’s criminal to play anything other than U.F.O.’s Doctor Doctor as the last song before Maiden or its tribute brothers and sisters take the stage. But I digress.

As far as Maiden tribute bands go, I’ve seen three, this quintet might have been my favorite. From song choice and musicianship they were top notch. Post-gig we were able to mingle a little with lead singer, Rachl Raxx Quinn, who admitted to having to shake off some rust as the band hadn’t been able to play out in quite some time. Metalheads may also recognize her from her work in Graveshadow, a self described symphonic metal band from Sacramento that I’ve been listening to since speaking with her.

As stated, after brushing off some early rust, she and the rest of the band were on fire for the entirety of the night. Maiden is not an easy band to play or sing. The musicians sounded flawless and Quinn’s vocals hit the high notes of the Air Raid Siren himself. They raced through a set that almost entirely consisted of the 1982-1988 Bruce Dickinson era of Iron Maiden. This was a popular choice, as that era had a run of five albums that are essential to all Maiden fans. They completely ignored the Blaze Bayley era of the band in 90’s and only played one song since the “classic” lineup returned in 1999. If they do venture into any of the 90’s material, I think Quinn’s pipes could do a monster rendition of Lord of the Flies (the Bruce version from Death on the Road of course) as well as a great many of their post-reunion songs. Alas, this is the struggle of trying to contain a band with Maiden’s catalog into one concert set. You, quite literally, can’t please everyone.

Even so, the set had a great pace and the song choice was varied enough between staples and deep cuts that surely everyone left happy. I know that I was certainly stoked. I got to take in some live music. Iron Maiden music at that. It was a great night! Concerts are back! As a proper Maiden concert always ends: “Always look on the bright side of life….

Still Life Set List 4/3/2021 Dublin, OH

  1. The Ides of March (1981)
  2. Wrathchild (1981)
  3. The Wicker Man (2000)
  4. 2 Minutes to Midnight (1984)
  5. The Trooper (1983)
  6. Revelations (1983)
  7. Flight of Icarus (1983)
  8. Still Life (1983)
  9. Aces High (1984)
  10. Wasted Years (1986)
  11. Powerslave (1984)
  12. The Number of the Beast (1982)
  13. Run to the Hills (1982)
  14. 22 Acacia Avenue (1982)
  15. The Evil That Men Do (1988)
  16. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
  17. Hallowed Be Thy Name (1982)
Still Life performing Iron Maiden’s Wasted Years

The 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees

After a 2020 that was devastating to music lovers around the world, perhaps it’s time to look forward a little bit. 2020 saw live music come to a screeching halt. We lost rock legends like Neil Peart and Eddie Van Halen. I don’t think anybody knows with any certainty what will happen when it comes to live music; but some gigs are being scheduled and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has released it’s annual list of nominees. These will ultimately be cut down to a group of five or so for induction.

If diversity is what you’re looking for, we’ve got quite the list of nominees to choose from this year. My lack of faith in the powers that be at the R&RHOF is no secret. For crying out loud, Ted Nugent is not in there. Styx is not in there. And I could go on and on. For the sake, however, of this list; let’s assume that “rock & roll” does in fact encompass all genres of popular music and that all genres matter. Who should make the cut? Who should not? Outside of my favorite band, Iron Maiden, finally getting a nomination; this list is not real awe inspiring. It’s also not really a list that is friendly to what can traditionally be defined as rock music for an institution that is supposed to cater to rock music. After having a few weeks to ponder on the nominees; these are my thoughts.

Iron Maiden performing Aces High in Japan

The no-brainer is the aforementioned Iron Maiden. The metal legends have been eligible since 2004 and are just now being nominated for the first time. Getting Metallica and Black Sabbath in as the only metal bands inducted thus far has to help. However, the recent failure of the deserving Judas Priest twice in the past five years also gives reason to not trust the Hall to do the right thing. Iron Maiden is one of the pioneering bands of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” from the early 80’s that helped pave the way for bands like Saxon and were a direct influence on classic metal bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Iced Earth as well as more modern ones like Sabaton and Amon Amarth. Outside of KISS, there is probably no other band that is as marketable as Iron Maiden. Their live shows are a spectacle to behold and the 85 million albums they’ve sold with little to no radio or TV support make them the grassroots heavy metal champions of all time. This band is bigger now than they were in their 80’s heyday. Do the right thing R&RHOF. I know you haven’t been historically kind to including metal bands but this one should not even be up for debate. Although, with their denial of Judas Priest recently, I won’t hold my breath.

Iron Maiden performing Phantom of the Opera in England

Tina Turner comes in next. She’s already in the Hall of Fame for earlier work, while this nomination focuses on her as a solo artist. She has had a hit song in seven different decades. Few artists, past or present, have the stage presence that she does as a performer as well. Her solo music is kind of all over the place, but her roots are in rock & roll, rhythm & blues and at the end of the day she has sold over 100 million records. She once held a record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist at over 180,000 fans. She should join Stevie Nicks as the next woman to be inducted a second time.

Tina Turner covering The Who

The Foo Fighters are an intriguing candidate for induction. Front man Dave Grohl is like the biggest rock nerd in rock history, even bigger than myself. Even with his outspoken politics aside he seems like one of the most down to earth guys as well. A common man’s rock star perhaps. Is his band groundbreaking? Probably not. Can you definitively say they have changed rock music? No, not really. However, over the scope of their careers, they have maintained their status as one of the biggest rock bands in the world. There hasn’t really been a dip in their popularity. They still fill stadiums to this day. Their live performances are phenomenal. The ability to replicate what you are selling live should matter and they absolutely are a better live band than they are a radio band. The album sales are there. The live show is there. The staying power is there. I would include Foo Fighters and Dave gets in for the second time after previously being inducted with Nirvana.

Up next is Fela Kuti. While his music is not rock & roll, per se, he was a pioneer of the Afrobeats genre; blending jazz, funk, psychedelic and traditional Nigerian music to create his sound. His legacy to this music is second to none on this list of nominees. For that alone, he should be on the shortlist to be inducted.

Carole King has written 118 songs that have made the Billboard Charts. But, she is already in the Hall of Fame as a songwriter. Should she get in, this time, as a performer? That’s where the debate comes in. She is considered a soft rock artist and she’s got the career to back it up. It may not be my cup of tea, but you’ll get no argument here if she is inducted.

Dionne Warwick isn’t really a rock singer either, but the woman has charted 56 Hot 100 pop singles on the Billboard Charts.But her very early music contains a lot of the same elements that became rock music later on. She meets that credential as well as her staying power. If being exclusive to rock is not a prerequisite for inclusion, it’d be hard to argue against her.

Rage Against the Machine are another tricky candidate. They are relatively newer for induction. Their blending of metal and elements of rap and hip hop would pave the way for the future genre that became nu-metal and featured bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn. This is the third time they’ve been nominated, but their outspoken politics that carry weight in the music community could finally carry them over the threshold this year. I’m not convinced that the music does that for them. While they made some impact, they were a band for a relatively short period of time and their album sales aren’t overly impressive. I’d be fine with them getting in and completely indifferent if they don’t. Artists like Ted Nugent and even Kid Rock have been much more impactful for a longer stretch of time and won’t be nominated, simply because they have the wrong politics. Bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were bigger than Rage but will likely not ever be nominated either. My beef isn’t really with RATM, it’s with the fact that they are largely only being force fed as a nominee due to their “message”.

Since the precedent has been set with rap artists being inducted into the Hall of Fame with the two kings of rap 2-Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. both recently being inducted, I’m inclined to hear arguments for Jay-Z. While, nowadays, he’s more well known for riding the coattails of his wife and kissing Barack Obama’s butt, Jay-Z was one of the next wave of rappers that ushered in the post-Biggie and Pac era of rap. His album The Life and Times of Shawn Carter: Volume 2 was a huge success and spawned several hit tracks. He has sold nearly 40 million records, which puts him higher than most of the people on this list. I’m a staunch anti-rap in the R&RHOF guy, but since we’re already doing it, this is one that makes sense.

The Go-Go’s were a new wave rock band formed in the late 1970’s. They were the first all-female band to top the Billboard charts. Rare and groundbreaking, check. Outside of a few years of popularity, though, they miss the mark as far as staying power and their album sales aren’t huge. I won’t protest their induction, unless it comes at the expense of Iron Maiden, but they would be a borderline inductee for me.

Todd Rundgren has also been nominated twice before. His biggest influence has been as a music producer. His solo career has been very long and experimental, but not necessarily groundbreaking. Thankfully, he’s not bothered by the Hall of Fame, because I’m not sure that the third time for induction is a charm for him either.

The New York Dolls were an early underground band that were heavily influential on early glam bands like Twisted Sister. One of the first punk bands on the scene, their time was fairly short lived and really achieved no success commercially. Their biggest impact is more likely to have come from the bands that they influenced. I won’t complain if they get in, but also won’t cry if they don’t.

Rapper LL Cool J gets nominated, seemingly, every year. Every year he doesn’t get in. While he was cool when I was a kid, and I actually prefer him as an actor, I don’t think he makes it. I’m still not convinced that rap should be included in this Hall of Fame and if it does he doesn’t quite make my very short list of those who should.

R&B artist Mary J. Blige has been nominated as well. Dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul with her ability to blend rap and R&B, you’d be hard pressed to find another female artist that has been as instrumental to modern day rap music than Blige. Ultimately, I don’t believe she should be inducted into the rock hall of fame, but an R&B one without hesitation.

Akron, Ohio’s Devo were another new wave type rock band that had some radio success but are a fringe candidate for induction. They’ve been around since 1973 but are largely known for one song. I do not anticipate them making the cut.

Oh, Chaka Khan. I feel like she’s been nominated like eight times and never gotten in. While she may be the Queen of Funk, and funk is much more related to rock than some of the other stuff in the Hall of Fame, there aren’t many artists that I could be more indifferent to. She doesn’t move the meter for me. Maybe she’ll get a lifetime achievement award or something.

Pop star Kate Bush rounds out the group of this year’s nominees. She’s a pretty big deal on the other side of the pond in England, her home country, with many charting songs but isn’t necessarily a household name here. That doesn’t disqualify her, necessarily, as it isn’t the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With that said, however, I do not anticipate her being inducted. To each their own, but, no.

Sound off in the comments! Let me know what you do or don’t agree with. Who’s too high? Who’s too low?

Iron Maiden performing in Cincinnati, 2019. Photo by Chad J. Hobbs

Remembering Dio

It’s been ten years since the heavy metal world lost one of it’s greatest icons. By all accounts from those who knew him, Ronnie James Dio was one of the “good guys” of rock & roll. When I first began my journey into discovering heavy music, I was well aware of “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver” from my VH1 Classic video binges. And I certainly knew of the kickass “Man On The Silver Mountain” from all of the classic rock radio that I listened to.

It took Ronnie’s passing for me to dig deeper into his career. I knew that at one point he fronted Black Sabbath, but wasn’t familiar with that incarnation of the band at all. The day that Dio died, a friend of mine that was a big fan, had a memorial style bonfire/celebration of music with myself and a couple other friends. It was that night that I heard “Heaven and Hell” for the first time.

In the following weeks I was able to start piecing together the rest of his career and found a lot of amazing music. But more importantly, I began to see how much he meant to so many other bands and the metal community in general. One of my favorite memories of seeing Iron Maiden that summer was when they dedicated “Blood Brothers” to Dio’s memory.

On the Mount Rushmore of heavy metal vocalists, Dio is firmly on there with Dickinson, Halford, and Ozzy. Fully aware, now, of his legacy on heavy music; I present to you my ten favorite tracks in the Dio catalog.

#10. The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath – 1981)

 

#9. Stand Up and Shout (Dio – 1983)

 

#8. Neon Knights (Black Sabbath – 1980)

 

#7. Last In Line (Dio – 1984)

 

#6. Children of the Sea (Black Sabbath – 1980)

 

#5. Stargazer (Rainbow – 1976)

 

#4. We Rock (Dio – 1984)

 

#3. Holy Diver (Dio – 1983)

 

#2. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath – 1980)

 

#1. Man on the Silver Mountain (Rainbow – 1975)

 

And there it is. While it was hard to leave off songs like “I” and “Rainbow in the Dark”; this was ultimately what I narrowed it down to. Share your thoughts in the comments if you agree or disagree. More importantly, add these iconic tracks to your playlist!

Iron Maiden turns 40

Today, April 14, 2020 sees the self titled debut album from metal legends Iron Maiden turn forty years old. We’ll examine the record track by track to see how it measures up.

As a debut goes, the record does its primary job right off the bat. One look at the cover probably did exactly what it was intended to. Circa 1980, one look at Eddie probably either scared you away or piqued your interest. Relatively unknown outside of England at the time, this was their first real chance to make an impression to the rest of the world.

Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, it’s a pretty standard length record for the times, although it’s a much more frantic pace than their recent releases. While I disagree with many assessments that liken early Maiden to punk, their sound on the first two albums with Paul Di’Anno on vocals is much different than the sound they’d become famous for years later.

The opening track is “Prowler” and is a smack to the face. It features elements that will later become their feature sound, albeit with Di’Anno’s more gruff voice. As for being the introductory song for the group, it’s a classic. It’s meant for Di’Anno’s vocals though, so sadly it’s time of being played live is probably over.

“Remember Tomorrow” follows and is quite honestly one of the most underrated songs in Maiden’s illustrious catalog of music. It very well could be Di’Anno’s greatest performance with the band before he was replaced by Bruce Dickinson. Seldom played live, it’s an absolute treat when it is. It is so unique when compared to the rest of their stuff.

The first hit off the record is the third track. “Running Free” is about as essential to their catalog of music as it gets. The single charted at 34 in the UK. The live version from 1985’s “Live After Death” recording is the absolute best with crowd participation. This fun song still gets played regularly when the group is touring.

The fourth track is without question the defining song of the Di’Anno era of the band. “Phantom of the Opera” is in your face from the opening get go and doesn’t let up for over 7 minutes. The musicianship on this one is phenomenal and is the first “epic” in a long line of “epics” that the band would go on to be known for. The entire band is at their absolute best on this one. It still gets played live regularly and for good reason. This one simply captures everything that they do well and is a precursor to where they’d end up fifteen records later. Turn this one up all the way!

All of that concludes the first side of the record. Side 2 opens up with an iconic jam that is entirely an instrumental piece. “Transylvania” is another one that has the vintage Maiden sound, and I’d love for it to be played live. That won’t happen, but the song is just the first of a few great instrumentals that they band would go on to release over the years.

“Strange World” follows and is another underrated Di’Anno gem. The song has a mellow opening, followed by a brief wailing guitar solo, and along with the aforementioned “Remember Tomorrow”, one of Di’Anno’s greatest vocal achievements. The track also foreshadows the progressive rock elements that would later become staple but in the early years were not as common for them. An absolute killer that I’ve yet to see performed live, but would love to.

The second single from the album follows, and as is usually the case with me and this band, it’s not one of my favorites. It’s not that the song is bad by any means. However, the first six tracks are what I’d call definitive Maiden songs. This one doesn’t meet that bar for me. What do I know though? It charted at 29 in the UK as the better performer of the two singles. It jams, but “Sanctuary” falls short for me of the six songs before it.

The next song is also one that I could do without. It has a fun opening and has some good rhythm work. Songs about ladies of the night are a tough sell for me I suppose. “Charlotte the Harlot” is a good play on words and the breakdown midway through is quite enjoyable and has some good vocals. Once again, it just doesn’t measure up to tracks 1-6. However, it would spawn a sequel a couple albums later that is flat out brilliant. So, I’ll give credit where credit is due.

The self titled album ends quite fittingly with the self titled track, “Iron Maiden”. In a sense the song may be a tad overrated. Simply because if you go to an Iron Maiden show you two things are for certain. One of them is that this song will be the closer to their main set. The second is that is when we will get an appearance on stage from the infamous Eddie that adorns each of their record covers. He will either be in classic Eddie form or reimagined to fit whatever “new” album the band is touring on. It is an absolute essential song to the band and as mentioned before is forever locked in to the live set. Watch the crowd reaction to this one!

Overall, this record is an iconic debut for an iconic band. Tracks 7 & 8 are the weakest in my opinion and one of those is the highest rated single from the album. That means it’s in pretty good shape. The overall grade for 1980’s Iron Maiden is a solid A! It is one of the early records that would shape heavy metal for the next four decades and counting.

My RUSH story

RUSH. Man, this unique band played such an integral role in my journey with the greatest music ever made. Neil Peart’s devastating passing last week was a cruel way to make me reflect on what that band has meant to me and rock music in general. I’ve seen hundreds of the biggest rock bands to ever exist. Bar none, “The Professor” was the greatest drummer I’ve ever heard or seen live. Non-RUSH fans may also not realize that he was often the chief lyricist, as well, to some of the greatest songs ever composed.

My journey with RUSH truly began on my parents back porch. This is probably circa 2000 or 2001. Sure, like anyone with a pulse, I knew “Tom Sawyer“. But, my familiarity with them pretty much ended there. You see, at around the turn of the century, rural teens like myself who knew nothing about anything sought our rebellion in rap; for reasons that are still unknown. At that time my CD collection consisted of such embarrassing things like Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, and Eminem. Now, I know, I know even in my old age; if I get the rap itch, I still go back to these hip-hop gems. But I say embarrassing because when I compare it to what my collection consists of now, it’s tragic what I was missing out on.

Back to the porch. It’s probably July 2000. I’m in my bedroom “bumping” some Bone, Thugs ‘n’ Harmony or some nonsense like that. The Old Man is firing up the grill and has had it with my choice of music. It was at that time that I was beckoned to the back porch where the Old Man was waiting with his cassette player and a cold Rolling Rock in hand. It was at this time that he put on the band’s greatest album, Moving Pictures. I know the hard core RUSH fans may disagree due to this album being the most mainstream one, but the bottom line is that it’s a flawless album. From that moment, I was intrigued. RUSH wasn’t the first rock band I’d gotten in to. By that time I’d already gone through a pretty heavy AC/DC phase as well as KISS and Pink Floyd. So, while they weren’t my first rock band, they were the one that sent me into a genre that I’ve never left. My rock loyalty would never fade again.

My friends and I would spend our high school years with many Choina family garage hangouts and Hobbs QFM 96 Memorial Day 500 countdown bonfires jamming to our favorite bands, including RUSH. Most kids our age were not listening to the same music that we were. My high school wardrobe consisted of Maiden, Zeppelin, Floyd, and AC/DC band tees before it became a fashion statement (sadly, depending on who you ask, my wardrobe remains the same in my thirties!) A lot of our classmates probably thought we were weird with our shirts and CD’s of bands from fifteen to twenty years before we were even born. We didn’t care, however, and just continued to dive deeper and deeper into the world of rock music.

Our first opportunity to witness RUSH came on June 2, 2004. Freshly graduated from high school, my buddy Nick scored four box seats to see the band at Germain Amphitheater (RIP) in Columbus. RUSH was in town on their R30 Tour celebrating their 30 years of rock & roll magic. That night was the first time I’d seen a band that plays with such bad-assery that they had to split the gig into two performances. Of the five times that I saw them, there was never an opening act. Just a mind blowing evening with RUSH. They played thirty two songs. For starters, nobody does that. Secondly, those who do, aren’t playing stuff as technically advanced as RUSH. That night ended with my favorite “hit” of theirs; “Limelight“. A song that was near and dear to my group of friends, The Random White Guys. I know, I know. To that point, that was the biggest and most electric crowd I’d ever seen.

Days later, I would meet the girl I’d eventually marry. She overheard me bragging about the RUSH show I’d just seen. She entered the conversation claiming that she loved the band. As kind of a dork, I was highly skeptical of this hot chick stating to like a band that girls traditionally despised. She put me in my place. As she still does from time to time to this day.

I rode the momentum of that first show all the way to September 2, 2007. The band returned to Germain Amphitheater (seriously, RIP) in support of their new record, Snakes and Arrows.  Most of the bands that I’m into stopped making good music thirty years ago. RUSH was one of the few exceptions that continued to make great albums until they stopped. Not only did Nick and I go to this show, but I made sure that my wife, Old Man, brother and brother in law tagged along as well. We packed the six of us into the truck and made the trek down I-71 to that venue for the last time. Less than a month later Germain Amphitheater would close its doors. RUSH was our last gig there. Some of my favorite RUSH live moments came that night. While the last show ended with “Limelight“, this show began with it. They followed that with the deep cut, “Digital Man“. This event sent the aforementioned Nick into a reaction unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I guess you had to be there.

The Old Man’s high school classmate, Mike, who happens to be a huge RUSH fan found us on the lawn just in time for my favorite obscure track, “Witch Hunt“. He knew the song was being played and wanted to enjoy it with us. Solid move, my friend. I include all of these people in this story, because they were part of my RUSH journey and I know they are in some way feeling something with the news of Peart’s passing. “Working Them Angels“, from the new record would wind up being my favorite song of the night for its relevance to the world in 2007, regardless of your political leanings. That evening ended my run of joy at Germain Amphitheater. The type of venue that Columbus still sorely misses to this day.

It would be another three years before Nick and I would get our third chance to see the band. August 29, 2010 was going to be an epic evening with RUSH though when they came to Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus. They were touring on somewhat of a “greatest hits” type of concept and were playing Moving Pictures in it’s entirety. We went down to the arena district early and stopped in a pub for a few beers. In my excitement for this tour, I definitely looked up the set list in advance and kept a little secret from Nick for this gig. When they played “Presto“, another one of his obscure favorites, it set off another reaction from him that definitely rivaled his “Digital Man” celebration from the previous tour. The tour did, however, feature a pair of new songs for a future album and the first of those was my favorite of the night. The song was titled “BU2B“, meaning brought up to believe. By this point in my musical journey, I was well into my discovery of metal. “BU2B” was about as metal as RUSH would get and they did it well.

Nick and I enjoyed the gig so much that he would see it again in Toledo. When it was announced that the Cleveland date was going to be the show that would be used for making the live album and DVD of the tour, we knew that we simply had to be there. So, on April 15, 2011 we headed north on I-71 for the first time to go see the trio from Canada. Cleveland was electric. The Indians were in town for a home game against the Baltimore Orioles at the same time as the concert across the street in the former Quickens Loans Arena. As we had already seen the tour, and in Nick’s case twice, I felt we were really able to soak in the Cleveland show more than any RUSH show we ever saw together and really just enjoy it. And enjoy it we did. The “2112” stuff was my favorite that night because of the crowd’s energy, but as usual the whole show was phenomenal. This was also the night that we learned that Clevelanders pronounce Cuyahoga County as “kee-a-hoga” when Nick was pulled over for speeding on the way home. Who knew?

Two of the 20,000 or so screaming fans in this video were my friend and I.

About a year and half later the band returned to Columbus for what would be my final time seeing them. Again at Nationwide Arena, and again with Nick, we watched them for the final time as they toured in support of their new, stellar album: Clockwork Angels. September 20, 2012. I really loved the new album, and the new music was phenomenal that night. But I remember wondering what the future of RUSH might be. They were approaching forty years of being a band and it was no secret that the physical toll that Peart’s drumming was taking on him. At that time, though, talks of it being the end were just rumors, but it was a conversation that Nick and I had had about the future of the band. For that reason, Peart’s drum solo (something that blew me away every time I saw them), was something that I really soaked in and enjoyed more than my prior RUSH shows. It was the first time that retirement whispers really started to pick up steam and I wanted to enjoy it. He didn’t disappoint.

The band would only return one more time. In 2015, they toured on R40 a celebration of 40 years of rock that actually occurred in their 41st year as a band. They made one more Columbus visit to Nationwide Arena. Regretfully, for reasons I don’t remember, neither Nick or I made that show. I wish I had. That would end up being the group’s last tour.

While we all knew that that tour was the end of RUSH as a touring band, as Peart made very clear, I think most of us held out hope that there may have still been the occasional one-off show or new music release. It simply wasn’t meant to be. As disappointing as that is, I’ve been reflecting with enthusiasm on the joy that that music has brought and continues to bring to me. I put the “A Farewell to Kings” album on my record player last night as and ode to and a giant thank you for the music that Peart and his bandmates brought to me and the tens of millions of RUSH fans around the world. They were simply the best.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Tom Keifer Band brings new tunes and classics to Akron

Saturday night in Akron saw former Cinderella vocalist Tom Keifer and his band bring a headlining set to the historic Goodyear Theater. While it isn’t official that Keifer will never rejoin Cinderella, it certainly appears that way with each passing year and each excellent new record that he puts out with his current band.

And so it was in Ohio’s Rubber City as the band weaved their way through a set that featured most of Cinderella’s greatest tunes and a handful of well placed songs from their latest studio effort; Rise. Their previous record, The Way Life Goes, is solid in its own right; but the new stuff is even better and sounded great live.

For decades Keifer has been one of rock music’s biggest underdogs. It’s a role he appears comfortable in and one that maybe he secretly relishes. It’s kept him at the top of his game, after all, when many of his contemporaries have succumbed to excess or a lack of creativity. Cinderella was pigeonholed as a hair band because of the era that they came from. Sure, they rocked the look, but musically they were always more Bon Scott era AC/DC and The Rolling Stones than they were Poison. Of the “hair” era bands, I put Cinderella at the very top of the mountain when it comes to the quality of their songs. Unfortunately, they were lumped in to a group that really can’t hold a candle to them.

Keifer’s unique vocal style put constant strain on his voice and led to multiple surgeries on his vocal chords over the years. It’s safe to say that some doubted whether he’d be able to sing again. Post-Cinderella, both the old and the new, sound just as powerful and fresh as ever.

While his voice is the iconic sound to the Cinderella material, this stuff can’t be good without the musicians behind it also. As expected, Keifer put together a badass band to apparently fulfill his vision for what his musical legacy will be; both past and present. The current lineup features Keifer’s wife Savannah on vocals and piano, Tony Higbee on guitar, Billy Mercer on bass, Kendra Chantelle on vocals, Jarred Pope on drums, and Kory Myers on the keyboards. The whole band is on fire on the album and most especially live.

Tom Keifer Band Setlist 10/19/2019 Akron, OH

1. Touching The Divine

 2. Night Songs*

3. Coming Home*

4. It’s Not Enough

5. Somebody Save Me*

6. Rise

7. Nobody’s Fool*

8. Solid Ground

9. The Last Mile*

10. Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone)*

11. Shake Me*

12. Shelter Me*

Encore

13. Long Cold Winter*

14. The Death Of Me

15. Gypsy Road*

*Cinderella songs

 

Ted Nugent rocks Columbus

Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman himself, made a return visit to Columbus, OH last night. As usual, the smelly hippies and keyboard warriors that threatened to shut the show down, were nowhere to be seen. Not that they were really a threat anyway.

In an absolute shock, The Nuge opened the show with his greatest achievement. The self-proclaimed #1 guitar lick in the history of the world, a claim that I can’t argue, “Stranglehold” was a very odd choice to open the set. With that said, the song is so good that I suppose it doesn’t matter where it is in the set. Uncle Ted just threw us all for a surprise as the song has been the main set closer for years. Well played.

Nugent, in his 71st year on Earth, still plays with a fervor and intensity that bands in their 20’s and 30’s can’t match. He credits his ability to still perform at such a high level to clean and sober living; which includes no large women! Or something like that. There is something to be said though for his lifetime of living off the land and no dependency on substance. Many a rockstar have died in a cloud of drug and drink while Nugent has continued on a lifelong cycle of tour/hunt/tour/hunt/new record/hunt/tour/hunt with great success. Throw on top of that an absolute killer drummer in Jason Hartless and long time bad-ass bassist Greg Smith and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty successful unit.

Picking the Nugent set list is no small feat. The man has been releasing music since the 1960’s and over the course of that time has been out front on some of rock music’s biggest and essential hits. Consider that live staples like “Dog Eat Dog“; “Snakeskin Cowboys“; “Stormtroopin’“; and “Just What The Doctor Ordereddid not make the cut this year!

This, however, gave the crowd the chance to hear some lesser played classics. Of course he also brought out the big boys. Tongue-in-cheek love songs like “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” as well as one of the most underrated live songs, “Free-For-All” were crowd favorites. Of course closing out the main set with the iconic hunting song “Fred Bear” and “Cat Scratch Fever” had the rowdy crowd begging for an encore.

Nugent didn’t disappoint. He encored with his usual choice of “The Great White Buffalo” and our national anthem.

“Along came the democrats, with their thick and empty heads…”

Using the “Great White Buffalo” as a metaphor for America, a metaphor for our current POTUS, and a metaphor for basically anyone in the asset column of life is always the appropriate way to close a Nugent show. The Great White Buffalo. A mythical beast that has to come and save the day and undo the failures of mankind. In a crowd that was full of military heroes, farmers, hunters and fishermen (real conservation advocates); the great white buffalo is still here, well and alive, making this country great again every single day.

Ted Nugent Set List “The Music Made Me Do It Again! 2019 U.S. Tour

  1. Stranglehold
  2. Gonzo
  3. Motor City Madhouse
  4. Paralyzed
  5. Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
  6. A Thousand Knives
  7. Queen of the Forest
  8. Free-For-All
  9. Hey Baby
  10. Need You Bad
  11. Good Friends and a Bottle of Wine
  12. Fred Bear
  13. Cat Scratch Fever
  14. The Great White Buffalo
  15. The Star-Spangled Banner

 

Iron Maiden make triumphant return to Cincinnati

Twenty three years. Twenty three years had passed since the last time that Iron Maiden played in Cincinnati, Ohio. A lot has changed since 1996. Bill Clinton was president. Jeff Blake was playing quarterback for the Bengals. I was a ten year old boy that had not yet discovered Iron Maiden. That was a long time ago.

Like a lot of their classic metal brethren, the mid nineties were not kind to Maiden. Lead singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith had long left the band to focus on other projects, certainly fatigued by the demands of being in Iron Maiden in the 1980’s had put on them. The version of the band without Dickinson or Smith played in a small club in Cincinnati. My, oh my, how times have changed since then.

A couple years later, the classic Maiden members would rejoin the band, write a modern metal masterpiece in Brave New World, and reclaim their throne at the top of the heavy metal mountain. The rest is history as the band has released several more fantastic albums and embarked on absolutely legendary world tours.

As we fast forward to Thursday night in the Queen City, the buzz surrounding the Legacy of the Beast World Tour has been the talk of the rock and metal community. The reviews have been phenomenal. Coming from publications and radio stations that have never paid any mind to this band and sound like fools as they are just now discovering the band that has absolutely set the standard for live metal music for the past four decades. This point has not been lost on Dickinson, who made sure to have some fun at Rolling Stone’s expense.

Over 15,000 Ohio metalheads descended onto Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati to celebrate the Legacy of the Beast with Eddie and the boys. As is custom, UFO’s “Doctor, Doctor” blared over the PA system, alerting all in attendance to get back to their seats in earnest. When the lights dimmed and the familiar sound of Churchill’s Speech began, there was no doubt that “Aces High” would be the song to get the show going. That wasn’t a big shocker, as the band uses the song to open fairly frequently on non-album tours. However, while the song choice wasn’t surprising, the airplane that ascended over the stage during the song about warfare from the skies would be only the first awe-striking moment of the performance.

For the next two hours, the band would take the massive crowd on a journey through war, good and evil, and a whole lot of pyro. All of the big “hits” were present which is fun for the fans. The set list chosen for this tour featured plenty of rarely played gold as well for the true diehards. The first of those rarer songs was the second song of the night. “Where Eagles Dare” is perhaps Maiden’s greatest percussion piece that they’ve created and even as he creeps towards 70 years of age, Nicko McBrain absolutely owned the stage during the song behind his drum kit.

 

Everything about the show was Maiden at it’s absolute best. And while Dickinson assured the crowd that they’d be back soon with new music, I honestly have no clue how the six piece band will ever be able to top this tour. The band sounded even better than they did on any of the previous six times I’ve seen them perform. Dickinson in particular seems to have found new life on his legendary voice. The Air Raid Siren is back and better than ever.

Of course Eddie made his two expected appearances, but it was the backdrops and other effects that make this the absolute must see tour of the year. During “Flight of Icarus”, which they notoriously haven’t played live since the 80’s, the stage was enhanced with a giant Icarus while Dickinson ran around with flame throwers. The stained-glass themed back drop during the religion portion of the show is the greatest imagery I’ve ever seen at a concert. There was lots of pyro. There were fireworks. Dickinson had countless costume changes. This was a vintage Iron Maiden concert times ten. I’ve seen them with a tank on stage during the A Matter of Life and Death Tour. I’ve seen the ship during “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I’ve seen the epic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son themed “big” Eddie. Those were all great and a spectacle to behold. THIS BLEW EVERYONE OF THOSE AWAY.

None of that would matter though if the music sucked. Thankfully, it didn’t. From the chug, chug-a-chug of “Icarus” to the long Maiden epics and everything in between, this band has always been about the music first. That’s how a band with no airplay has been able to build the empire that it has. The connection that the band has with its fans is second to none. All three guitar players (Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers) traded off flawless solos all night. Bass player Steve Harris’ right hand seemingly never was any slower than 100 mph and Dickinson beckoned the crowd to “Scream for me Cincinn-at-iiiiiiii!” no fewer than twenty times. It was glorious. As expected.

What wasn’t expected was songs like “Sign of the Cross”; “The Clansman”; and “For the Greater Good of God”. Absolute epics that mandate crowd participation took this setlist to a whole new level. Then you throw in gems like “Where Eagles Dare” and “Revelations”? Unbelievable. Of course, the greatest metal song ever written (“Hallowed Be Thy Name” duh…) being back in the set always helps as well.

Now that Cincinnati has been treated, let’s hope Columbus will get a visit for the first time in 15 years in 2020?

Iron Maiden Setlist Cincinnati, OH 8/15/2019

  1. Churchill’s Speech/Aces High
  2. Where Eagles Dare
  3. 2 Minutes 2 Midnight
  4. The Clansman
  5. The Trooper
  6. Revelations
  7. For the Greater Good of God
  8. The Wicker Man
  9. The Sign of the Cross
  10. Flight of Icarus
  11. Fear of the Dark
  12. The Number of the Beast
  13. Iron Maiden

        *Encore*

    14. The Evil That Men Do

    15. Hallowed Be Thy Name

    16. Run to the Hills