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Various Artists
Numbers From The Beast: An All-Star Salute to Iron Maiden
Restless Records


In general, I think that tribute albums are a good thing. They allow fans to reminisce over a band's glory days and hear different interpretations of their old favorites. They also provide a "safe buy" to younger listeners when the bands that they are familiar with get to play the songs that influenced their own musical careers. Numbers From The Beast though, is a little different in that most of the contributing bands were either Iron Maiden contemporaries, or from the following decade. This is almost exclusively an "old fan" record that will have a hard time marketing itself to a newer audience, and that's too bad.

One of the other elements making for a good tribute album is that the contributors have to do a good job with their re-interpretation of the source material. Assembling a record of cover tunes from a multitude of sources can be an even more daunting task than assembling the originals. Fans can be fickle with their regard of bands they hold sacred; deviate too far and you lose their interest because they don't recognize the song anymore, but if all you offer is an exact copy of the original song, they wonder why they don't just listen to the real thing.

But, someone(s) took their time with this album and it shows. Some of Iron Maiden's best songs are showcased here, and even the odd combinations of band members assembled for each song, some of which look so wrong on paper, (Testament / Styx / Dio / Motörhead on "Fear of the Dark") still come out sounding pretty good. Or at least, very interesting, as is the case with Lemmy's vocals on "The Trooper", which still sounds great even if it is funny to think of Kilmister trying to sing like Dickinson before a befuddled producer finally tells him to sing in the same octave he's always sung in.

The end result is that this is a must-have for every old metalhead out there, even those that aren't terribly familiar with IM (I'd only heard a handful of their songs before, but I'm definitely going to look for more of their stuff now). Or, if you just want to re-live the tense moments of the Reagan-era Cold War, these songs will resurrect the memories of that paranoid dread that could only be experienced by the omni-present barrage of terms like "nuclear winter", "ground zero", and "fallout shelter."

-JD

Track Listing:
1. Run To The Hills
2. Wasted Years
3. Wrathchild
4. Flight Of Icarus
5. Fear Of The Dark
6. The Trooper
7. Aces High
8. 2 Minutes To Midnight
9. Can I Play With Madness?
10. The Evil That Men Do
11. The Wickerman


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Mike Doughty



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