Logo on album "Accident Of Birth".
|The name of Bruce Dickinsons requires absolutely no introduction to rock fans of any age. One of the most imitated vocalists of all time, the Worksop-born, adopted Londoner has played a significant role in around 50 million record sales and performed thousands of sold-out concerts across the globe during a career that began at the tail end of the 1970s and shows no sign whatsoever of running out of steam quite the opposite, in fact.
Dickinson is still the proverbial human whirlwind of activity, having made his mark both as the frontman of the legendary Iron Maiden and as a longstanding solo artist, with a catalogue that includes six studio albums of his own plus several concert releases. And away from being an artist, Bruce is also well known as a BBC deejay, broadcaster, airline pilot, sword-fencing expert, novelist, family man and voice of modern music.
In 2005 some six years, two studio albums and several world tours after his Iron Maiden homecoming Dickinson took a hard-earned vacation to release Tyranny Of Souls, a robust, thoughtful and warmly-received solo set that Britains Classic Rock magazine called superbly consistent metal with a modern twist. Kerrang! magazine went one further by hailing the 10-song disc as the glorious sound of a heavy metal master in full flight.
Now comes Bruce Dickinson, Anthology, a triple-DVD anthology summation of a rich, varied and fulsome solo career. It unites 1991s Dive Dive Live and 1997s Skunkworks Live live sets with Scream For Me Brazil, a previously unreleased hour-long film shot in Sao Paulo in 2000. Also included are all 14 of the singers promotional videos (including Tattooed Millionaire, Tears Of The Dragon, Shoot All The Clowns, Back From The Edge, Killing Floor, The Tower, Chemical Wedding and The Road To Hell), most of which the singer storyboarded or produced himself. Other extras include the long-deleted and now extremely rare movie Biceps Of Steel, filmed with the band Samson in 1981 by Sex Pistols director Julien Temple, making this thorough and comprehensive visual collection nothing less than a treasure trove for Dickinson devotees everywhere.
Bruces aversion to clichés and love of fun makes the three-DVD set well worth investigating. One of the first hard rockers to cut his hair, he has always expressed horror at the idea of simply regurgitating the past at every turn. Dickinson refuses to be trotted out on TV chat shows as one of metals token intellectuals (Thats just demeaning to everybody else, he explains. All I can do is try to be me), but he has nevertheless emerged as one of the genres few genuine forward-thinkers.
Having joined his first group of real note, Samson, during the summer of 1979 following a spell at Londons Queen Mary College, he remained with them for two albums until presented with the opportunity to replace Paul DiAnno in New Wave Of British Heavy Metal rivals Iron Maiden. Then, taking a break from a string of huge-selling albums, Bruce grabbed at an offer to write a song for the soundtrack to the fifth Nightmare On Elm Street movie, The Dream Child, in 1990.
The song concerned was Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter, which later became a UK No.1 single for Iron Maiden. Enthused by this achievement, Dickinson wondered he could maintain this impact. A full-length solo album called Tattooed Millionaire offered an unequivocal yes to that question; the debut spawned not only three Top 50 singles but also a tour that reached both sides of the Atlantic.
Dickinson would not choose to depart Iron Maiden until four years later, by which time he had made the first of three attempts to record a second solo set, the avant-garde Balls To Picasso. First Chris Tsangarides (the man behind the console for Tattooed Millionaire) and then Keith Olsen of Whitesnake and Foreigner fame had been hired to produce the sessions, though eventually Bruce opted to scrap just everything that had been put down on tape.
At this point, having taken what he has since called a leap of faith to quit one of the worlds biggest bands, Dickinsons solo fortunes looked bleak. I went to the accountant to see how many pennies were left in the piggy bank, he later recalled, the answer was not many at all. Meeting guitarist/producer Roy Z proved to be a stroke of incredible good fortune, the newcomer and his Los Angeles-based band Tribe Of Gypsies helping with a third and definitive take of Balls To Picasso. Fusing together Bruces fascination with Peter Gabriel and the Tribes Latino-based rhythms, the albums dark and sinister eeriness challenged the parameters of what could be done with metal in the year of 1994. It was too experimental for mass appeal but became a cult favourite.
Still set on ruffling feathers, Dickinson assembled an entirely new band of hungry young musicians around him for his third solo album, Skunkworks in 1996. Firmly opposed to trading on his past, this four-piece unit adopted the same name (Skunkworks being a top secret research and development vision of Lockheed Aviation that had developed the Stealth Bomber plane) and after carving out an identity on the road a visit was even made to war-torn Bosnia Skunkworks took the shocking step of flying in Nirvana producer Jack Endino from Seattle for the sessions.
I wanted to know where I still fitted in or whether I was just come old fossil, Bruce explained, with his usual honesty. It was really brutal stuff. So I took a flamethrower to my life and started again. Welcomed as a tour de force of modern metal, Kerrang! likened the contents of Skunkworks to Soundgarden, Therapy? and Rush.
With hard rock hitting the doldrums in 1997, the wheel of fortune was drawing Bruce back to where hed begun. I realise it would have been completely politically incorrect of me to do a totally balls-out record again, he laughs. That had to be a good thing so I went ahead and did it. Persuading his former Iron Maiden colleague Adrian Smith to join him on guitar, the pair hooked up with producer Roy Z for Accident Of Birth, an incendiary back-to-roots album that tapped into all the pairs original strengths, but also demonstrated fluency, melody and power not to mention lyrical flair of its own.
On an incredible creative upsurge, 1998s The Chemical Wedding continued Dickinson and Smiths renaissance, outselling its predecessor by two to one and pulling in yet more rave reviews. The albums unusual subject matter of occult science, alchemy and the mystical poems of William Blake was accentuated by the narration skills of legendary singer Arthur Brown, Adrian and Roy Z using bass strings on their guitars to achieve optimum low-end thud-factor.
His path once again aligned with that of Iron Maiden, Dickinson rejoined the band along with Adrian Smith in 1999, following a string of six sold-out solo concerts before a total of 25,000 vociferous South American fans. Originally shot as a bootleg, the footage of the Sao Paolo date is a must-see feature of the Bruce Dickinson, Anthology DVD package.
Equally revealing is a special filmed press kit interview from the aforemtnioned Tyranny Of Souls album, which represented Dickinsons first solo release in seven years when released in May 2005. It sees Bruce discussing the records concept and birth, plus his pivotal working relationship with Roy Z, who by now had also become Judas Priests producer. Filmed in Dickinsons early performing days with the band Samson at the Rainbow Theatre in London, the Biceps Of Steel segment is a tongue in cheek adaptation of the story of Samson And Delilah. It was originally shown in cinemas as a support feature to Hazel OConnors Breaking Glass movie in 1980, and has rarely been seen since.