Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind, Powerslave, and Live After Death



Saying Iron Maiden's original vinyl issues sound better than their 1998 CD remasters would be an understatement. Even chock full of dust, these records emit a glorious, uncompressed racket, and each instrument breathes as it should, sounding positively organic. Seeking out these worn but charming first pressings isn't necessarily a bad idea; in fact, it's just about the greatest thing one can do as a budding heavy metal vinyl enthusiast. 

Merch order form included with Piece of Mind
From my collection, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, and Live After Death are my favorite examples of Martin Birch's dexterous production work, a quality the remasters sadly tend to mask. While all three records were found pre-owned, I can't speak highly enough of their warmth and openness, even with minor crackles and, in Powerslave's case, a scratch on one side that reveals the fragility of the medium. 

Being a double album, Live After Death is a gatefold, while the other two are the tried-and-true slipcases that nearly all 12" vinyl call home. Especially neat is Powerslave--its textured, almost cracked-looking cover is far from the norm, which is quite tough to capture on photograph. Piece of Mind is closer to standard fare, but the release's inner sleeve showcases a young Iron Maiden, with a clever play on the album's title (check out that brain served up on a platter!), as well as an order form for vintage merchandise.

All three were released by a division of EMI, making the trio plentiful, though good examples command a healthy wad of cash. If you're not overly concerned with sound quality, and don't mind a few hissy pops, your money is best spent on well-used copies. There's a reason these records are played to death--the music is excellent and from smack dab in the middle of Maiden's golden years. 

When found at the right price, each release is practically a no-brainer. Live After Death is perhaps the definitive Iron Maiden live album, Powerslave is relentless all the way through, and Piece of Mind proudly introduces McBrain to the line-up. Don't get me started on the cover art, either. Derek Riggs is a genius.

-TMA

Live After Death gatefold

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