In case you were not aware, Iron Maiden is set to release another greatest hits compilation on June 7th (June 6th in the UK). This compilation is titled From Fear To Eternity and features the best of Iron Maiden from 1990 to 2010. No doubt conjured up to coincide with their current tour, in which Iron Maiden is performing mostly their latter day material, From Fear To Eternity is a 2-disc best of that spans No Prayer For The Dying through The Final Frontier.
While it’s great to see a compilation of the later material from the band’s storied career, this album still arrives with disappointment. I was saddened to learn that the tracks from The X Factor and Virtual IX will only be the live versions that Bruce Dickinson sang on concert releases. Why is this happening and who made this decision? It’s bad enough that the fans are brutal when it comes to Blaze Bayley, but now to see that Maiden won’t even include Bayley’s vocal version of “The Clansman,” “Man On The Edge,” or “Sign Of The Cross” is just a slap in the face to a great singer.
Why is Iron Maiden completely ignoring Blaze Bayley? Is it because the fans never really warmed to him? Is it that Steve Harris wants to show the songs from both The X Factor and Virtual IX are great songs, but he thinks the fans won’t pay attention unless Bruce sings them? As far as I know, Blaze and Maiden parted ways on amicable terms and it’s a shame that they seem to write him out of the band’s history. It’s almost as if they are trying to fool fans into thinking that Bruce Dickinson never left.
I’ve always felt that Blaze Bayley got a bum rap. This is a talented singer that had to step in and fill the lead vocalist slot for one of the most beloved bands in all of metal history. There is no one that could compete with Bruce Dickinson, and yet Blaze jumped in and rose to the challenge. When Maiden and Dickinson parted ways in 1993, it was not a pretty departure. Dickinson believed that he would do better as a solo artist and Maiden was understandably put off by this. Dickinson clearly suffered from “Lead Singer’s Disease” if he felt that he would be better off without Steve Harris. The fans were upset, the band was disappointed, and the stage was set for failure no matter who took over the lead vocals.
Enter Blaze Bayley. He worked his ass off and tried his hardest to be an exceptional lead singer for one of the world’s greatest heavy metal bands. However, the fans never gave Bayley a chance. Immediately they shunned The X Factor and the new lead singer for no good reason. The fans were just upset that it wasn’t Bruce and the haters couldn’t wait to get their pot shots in. Everything from the artwork to the length of songs was over scrutinized when The X Factor was released.
Personally, I think that both of the Blaze Bayley albums are excellent. Are they some of the best Iron Maiden albums in the catalog? No. Are they two of the worst? No. They are just solid hard rock records that reflect a certain period in Iron Maiden history. Yet, to not include songs from those albums on a retrospective collection is ridiculous. Perhaps the band is trying to eliminate that portion of their history altogether, or they think their fans are naïve. Either way, it’s wrong.
Blaze Bayley is a talented lead singer who had huge shoes to fill. I can’t think of anyone who would have done any better in that situation. He handled the transition like a true professional, gave his all on both studio albums, and delivered as best he could during the live concerts. He certainly wasn’t Bruce Dickinson, but not many are. Should Iron Maiden ever decide to release a box set, I can only hope that not only will they include the Blaze Bayley studio versions of some of these songs, but also his live renditions of other Maiden classics. That would be a real treat to this Iron Maiden lover.