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"Numbers From The Beast" - Iron Maiden Tribute

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Wednesday, November 2, 2005 @ 11:50 AM


Restless Records

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An All Star Salute To Iron Maiden

Tribute records can be a supreme non-event—kinda like a Laker game, but the fact that Bruce Kulick co-produced this record appears to give it at least a modicum of metal credibility from the start. Then, when one looks at the musicians who participated in this effort, it becomes especially evident that this isn’t your typical super low rent effort such as the ones that typically specialize in covers of one band wherein the sticker on the front of the record says, “With performances by members of “Motley Crue, Ratt, Megadeth”---meaning, of course that the musicians listed on the liner notes are bound to look less like full-fledged components of the bands touted and more like scabs who were picked up at some point to fill in for the band during a one off show at a county fair in Topeka or something. A quick glance through the line up for this effort though shows that it features such respected purveyors of metal such as Dee Snider, Paul Di’Anno, Jeff Pilson, Jon Bush, Lemmy Kilmister and Scott Ian. Any time a listener sees this type of collective featuring music as strong as Maiden’s compositions generally are, attention must be paid.

“Run To The Hills” gets the cd slammin’ from the start with an enthusiastic rendition performed by vocalist Robin McAuley albeit in a little higher pitch than the oft-played Dickinson original. Guitarist Michael Schenker of McAuley-Schenker fame as well as Tony Franklin of The Firm lend their assistance on the introductory track as well. One of the cooler vocalist/pairings on Numbers From The Beast comes when Dee Snider turns in a tremendous job crooning “Wasted Years” even though it may not seem like the most obvious selection for him to have done. If the Twisted Sister front man’s superior vocals weren’t enough, the backing band on this Maiden favorite includes George Lynch, Bruce Kulick, Jeff Pilson and Jason Bonham. The third track has Paul Di’Anno rocking “Wrathchild” with as much conviction and verve as he did back when he fronted the band so long ago only this time Alex Skolnick of Testament, Chris Traynor, Frank Bello and John Tempesta are behind him instead of the Maiden boys. Ripper Owens then turns around and nails “Flight of the Icarus” while Doug Aldrich of Whitesnake-Dio turns in what may be the best guitar work on the disc--with George Lynch and Paul Gilbert also involved in this project, that’s no small statement. The first half of the disc concludes nicely with “Fear of the Dark” belted out by gravel-voiced Chuck Billy while guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Ricky Phillips from Styx and Mikkey Dee of Motorhead assist in the festivities.

Lemmy certainly puts a different spin on “The Trooper” as the second half of the disc gets underway with guitarist/band mate Phil Cambell combining with Rocky George to provide the type of guitar theatrics that accentuate the song and make it a classic listen. In contrast, the drumming of Vinnie Appice might just be the most prominent aspect of “Aces High” wherein, Jeff Scott Soto, Nuno Bettencourt and Billy Sheehan do their best to make this cover ascend to the same heights as the original. Following these two standout tracks is Joe Lynn Turner’s version of “2 Minutes To Midnight” where the former Deep Purple and Rainbow vocalist sharply enunciates the lyrics while Kulick and Richie Kotzen go crazy behind him on the six-string. Actually “Can I Play With Madness” may is definitely the weakest track here as Mark Slaughter sings the intro here almost as sloppily as Maiden themselves recently did on the release Death On The Road. If you’re offended because you happen to be a Slaughter fan….well, just go ahead and end it. Think about it, your mom can then use the basement space to store her afgans, and you can just go ahead and get on to a better place. It’s too bad though, because the instrumentation provided by Kulick, Marco Mendoza and Aynsley Dunbar is non-pariel. The last two tracks are very good versions of a couple of very good songs, but the first one shocked me a bit. As I listened to “The Evil That Men Do”, I thought, “those are some good vocals—who is this?” Upon checking the liner notes, I found out that it was none other than Chris Jericho—a WWE Wrestler and member of Fozzy—who was the voice of the track. As cool as his vocals were, Paul Gilbert still threatened to steal the show with his impressive guitar soloing. The final cover here is a strong take on “The Wickerman” with Jon Bush singing while Jeff Duncan does his part on guitar. The combination proves potent and makes for a recording that is…well, better than the original even.

There is only one other disc comprised of covers that I spin constantly, and that would be Rise Above which, although put together and performed on by former band vocalist Henry Rollins, it’s still primarily a collection of musicians like Iggy Pop and Tom Araya performing Black Flag tunes. Aside from that disc, and speaking specifically about metal, this may be the best tribute record out there. What Bob Kulick and Brett Chassen have done with Numbers By The Beast is to produce a tribute record actually worth making. The musicianship here is top notch and the vocals are equally as enjoyable—sure, Steve Harris’ bass playing can’t really be duplicated, but it’s ok that Maiden’s sound is instantly identifiable and the stuff of which legends are made. That reality though doesn’t mean that others can’t take some of the same material and bring a different perspective and attitude to it while making it sound as good or in the case of “The Wickerman” even better than the original. If that type of assessment sounds like heresy to the “Up The Irons” crew, then get ready for this one—if I only had $15 to spend and the choice was between this collection of covered Maiden tunes or the latest live record from the band Death on the Road—Kulick and Chassen’s tribute record would win any day. It’s just that hard to imagine any unbiased listener checking this out and being anything but pleased with the genuine homage and pure listenability of this record. Iron Maiden forever---whoever or wherever you are.

***


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