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Soloworks 1990 – 2005

Bruce Dickinson - "Soloworks 1990 – 2005"

ALBUM TITLE: Soloworks 1990 – 2005

GENRE: Heavy Metal

FORMAT: Vinyl

LABEL: BMG

ARTIST: Bruce Dickinson

COUNTRY: UK

Limited edition box set containing all six of Bruce Dickinson’s solo albums: Tattooed Millionaire, Balls To Picasso, Skunkworks, Accident Of Birth, The Chemical Wedding & A Tyranny Of Souls. These have all been remastered by Andy Pearce & pressed on 180g vinyl for optimum audio.

Singer, songwriter, pilot, author, fencing champ, air raid siren, force of nature: Bruce Dickinson is simply a man for whom many of the normal rules and restrictions of life do not seem to apply. Heavy metal’s premier Renaissance man is, of course, best known as vocalist and frontman with Iron Maiden, the greatest British metal band of all time and, some four decades after they originally formed, still one of the most widely adored bands on the planet. But as anyone that has followed Bruce’s story will tell you, singing with Maiden is just one part of his grand, substantial and fascinating musical life. Remarkably, given that he is just as likely to be found flying an airliner, Bruce has amassed a formidable catalogue as a solo artist, releasing six extraordinary studio albums that, at this point, represent his freewheeling efforts to date.

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Released in the spring of 1990, Bruce’s solo debut “Tattooed Millionaire” came as something of a surprise to Maiden’s global fan-base. A more stripped down and straightforward hard rock album than many had expected, it showcased a more liberated and arguably light-hearted song writing approach, bolstered by a newfound partnership with guitarist Janick Gers, and the sparkling possibilities of a new decade. Songs like the irresistibly catchy title track, the twinkling radio rock of ‘Born In ’58’ and the strutting smut of ‘Dive! Dive! Dive!’ and ‘Lickin’ The Gun’ suggested that Bruce was letting loose, but keeping things simple, while the grandiose thunder of ‘Son Of A Gun’ and rapacious closer ‘No Lies’ hinted at more adventurous and challenging music to come.

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The key moment in Bruce’s evolution as a solo artist unfolded following his departure from Maiden in 1993, after which he joined forces with guitarist and producer Roy Z for 1994’s sophomore triumph “Balls To Picasso”. Backed by Roy’s noted Latino rock crew Tribe Of Gypsies, he began to spread his compositional wings, edging towards a noticeably heavier sound – despite, rumour has it, pressure from Bruce’s label to be more radio-friendly – and flexing those metal muscles with renewed vigour on the likes of ‘Cyclops’, ‘1000 Points Of Light’, the exhilarating ‘Laughing In The Hiding Bush’ and towering prog-tinged power ballad ‘Tears Of The Dragon’, a somewhat oblique, but undeniably affecting paean, to Bruce’s feelings upon leaving Maiden to forge a new path.

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Firmly established as a solo artist, Bruce could easily have settled into a cosy routine of pumping out sparky hard rock albums every couple of years, and keeping his still vast fanbase happy. Instead, he took a far more daring route, embracing the cutting edge alt-rock sound of the mid-’90s and conjuring the dark, gritty “Skunkworks” album in 1996. Named in tribute to the alias used by US aerospace titan Lockheed’s Advanced Development Programs, the source of many legendary aircraft designs, “Skunkworks” was originally to be the name of Bruce’s new band, but after concerns that the absence of the singer’s name would limit the new project’s potential, it became the album’s title. Produced by underground rock legend Jack Endino, “Skunkworks” has stood the test of time incredibly well, Bruce’s harnessing of less traditional heavy tropes, the vibrant performances of his young cohorts, and a generous sprinkling of sci-fi imagery, combining to thrilling effect, particularly on album highlights ‘Space Race’, ‘Back From The Edge’ and ‘Inside The Machine’.

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Barely a year later after his third album, Bruce released his fourth solo album. This time, heavy metal in its most bombastic and destructive sense was firmly back on the agenda. Once again teaming up with Roy Z, Bruce has rarely sounded more powerful than he does on this unsung ’90s metal gem. With the added bonus of a certain Adrian Smith chipping in on lead guitar, “Accident Of Birth” was a flat-out celebration of heavy metal, both past and present, with a sound that was as crushing and timely as anything the younger generation were producing, and songs that soared with the same ageless majesty that fans had long associated with the Dickinson voice. From the rampaging riff-riot of opener ‘Freak’ and the shadowy melodrama of ‘Taking The Queen’, to the insanely catchy twin-lead euphoria of ‘Road To Hell’ and the labyrinthine swell of ‘Omega’, “Accident Of Birth” was much more than a return to metal’s unsullied essence; this was a reclaiming of the throne from the genre’s most unstoppable protagonist.

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Once again re-emerging with new material after little more than 12 months than his fourth album, Bruce’s solo career clicked into yet another higher gear in 1998 upon the release of the frankly monumental “The Chemical Wedding”. Boasting the same line up as “Accident Of Birth”– Bruce, Roy Z, Adrian Smith, bassist Eddie Casillas and drummer David Ingraham – it offered a vicious riposte to those cynics who thought that musicians of Bruce’s generation had lost touch with the way heavy music sounded. Both the heaviest record that Bruce has ever made and the finest set of songs in his illustrious canon, the album received ecstatic reviews, and was widely embraced by fans of both Bruce’s solo career and, of course, Maiden themselves. This was modern heavy metal with a traditional heart, but somehow heavier, smarter and more invigorating than anyone had expected. On top of that, Bruce’s lyrics and the album’s concept offered a depth of substance and intent that cheerfully made a mockery of the idea that metal is a genre with a questionable intellect. Variously inspired by the life and works of William Blake (whose own words formed part of the epic ‘Jerusalem’), the nefarious aspirations of 19th century alchemists, and an assortment of wild, emotional personal observations, “The Chemical Wedding” was widely hailed as a masterpiece, and deservedly so.

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As the 20th century ground to a halt, Bruce was busy reconvening with the Iron Maiden family, and contributing to the most spectacular and undeniable comeback in heavy metal history. As a result, there was a brief pause in the forward grind of his solo work. But even as Maiden returned to the greatest of global heights, Bruce’s idiosyncratic muse was as restless as ever. Seven years on from the glories of “The Chemical Wedding”, the sixth chapter in the great man’s solo journey appeared. A more varied and introspective affair than its predecessor, “Tyranny Of Souls” touched upon balls-out hard rock (‘Devil On A Hog’), gallivanting, state-of-the-art melodic metal (‘Abduction’) and hazy, prog-fuelled psychedelia (the exquisite ‘Navigate The Seas Of The Sun’– a song inspired by cult author Erich von Däniken’s theory of extra-terrestrial life on Earth in the distant past). The album’s title track drew from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with all the pitch-black melodrama that such a conceit demands, while ‘Kill Devil Hill’ paid tribute to aviation pioneers the Wright Brothers’ first triumphant flight in 1903.

 

 

Box

TRACKLIST

Tattooed Millionaire (1990)

Balls to Picasso (1994)

Skunkworks (1996)

Accident of Birth (1997)

The Chemical Wedding (1998)

Tyranny of Souls (2005)