Tuesday, January 24, 2012

15 Years, 15 Records: 1997, Bruce Dickinson returns

It’s the first year in the series, and already there’s a three-way battle for my favorite record between Bruce Dickinson’s comeback album Accident of Birth, Aerosmith’s underrated Nine Lives and Judas Priest’s debut with Tim “Ripper” Owens, Jugulator. In the end, though, Dickinson’s reunion with Adrian Smith and return to a more familiar brand of metal won out.

I quite enjoyed Dickinson’s solo debut, Tattooed Millionaire, even though it was more of a brand of 1970s hard rock than what I was familiar with from his days in Iron Maiden. His second outing, Balls To Picasso, left me a little cold. I loved “Tears of the Dragon” and a few other songs, but didn’t care for most of the record. By the time the strange Skunkworks arrived, I had pretty much written him off.

Then came the news that he was reuniting with former Maiden bandmate Smith and putting together a harder-hitting metal record. The result was Accident of Birth, the beginning of a strong run of solo albums from Dickinson that, I would argue, are better than the Maiden offerings from the same time period.

There’s not a bad song on Accident of Birth from start to finish, but my favorites include the medieval flavored “Taking the Queen,” the melancholy “Man of Sorrows” and the driving “The Magician.”

The rest of the list:
2. Aerosmith, Nine Lives. Since the reunion of the original members in the 1980s, Aerosmith has never, and probably will never, produce anything as powerful as their early 1970s records, but Nine Lives is one of the best efforts of the latter years. There are plenty of great songs here from the exotic sounds of my personal favorite “Taste of India,” to the smoky lounge feel of “Ain’t that a Bitch.” It stands with Pump as the best the Boston bad boys have to offer post-1970s.

3. Judas Priest, Jugulator. I know a lot of people would like to pretend that Rob Halford never left and the albums with Tim Owens don’t exist. That’s a shame, because Jugulator is a really good record. It’s got a harder edge for Priest, and Owens sings his ass off, as always. Highlights include “Blood Stained,” “Burn in Hell’ and “Cathedral Spires.”

4. Iced Earth, Days of Purgatory. Under normal circumstances, I’m not a big fan of bands re-recording earlier songs. This record, however, was my introduction to Iced Earth and I didn’t go back and pick up their earlier stuff until later, so it’s always been near and dear to me.

5. Sevendust, Sevendust. One of the first entries of nu-metal, this record gave a good start to a subgenre that fizzled quickly.

6. Entombed, To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth. Many fans didn’t like the direction of this record, but I liked the hard rock sensibility that the band brought to it.

7. Megadeth, Cryptic Writings. One of Megadeth’s most underrated records in my opinion. There are some great songs here.

8. Alice Cooper, Fistful of Alice. A great live record with plenty of high-profile guest shots that covers most of Alice’s career.

9. Eternity X, The Edge. I’m not sure why this band never made it. They were a great prog metal outfit.

10. Pantera, Official Live 101 Proof. Though I prefer the rawness of the Black Tooth bootleg, this is a solid live album in its own right.

11. WASP, KFD. Blackie Lawless’ experimentation with electronic and industrial sounds wasn’t popular with a lot of fans, but I still like it.

12. In Flames, Whoracle. For many fans, this is the definitive In Flames record, and with good reason.

13. Body Count, Violent Demise. Though Body Count's final record didn’t draw the attention of the first one, it was probably the most well-rounded album for Ice-T’s hard rock experiment.

14. Kiss, Carnival of Souls. The long-delayed album from the final unmasked lineup couldn’t equal Revenge, but was still a good album.

15. Testament, Demonic. Perhaps the strangest of the Testament records, my opinion has changed several times on this one. I think it’s worth checking out, though.

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