Sanctuary Records has done an amazing job on these Bruce Dickinson reissues. The legendary Iron Maiden belter has released his share of strong solo albums, and Balls to Picasso is one of the best of the bunch. This edition is a 2CD set, with the first disc being the original album, and the second a collection of 16 B-sides, alternative & acoustic takes, and rarities. That's a lot of bang for your buck, plus you get a stellar package containing a booklet with photos and commentary from Mr. Dickinson himself regarding the making of the album and what was going on in his life at the time of the recording.
The Balls to Picasso album, while perhaps not the killer that is Chemical Wedding, does contain quite a few classics. Who can forget first hearing the progressive metal monster "Cyclops" in 1994, or the epic "Tears of the Dragon", both stunners that just happen to bookend the CD? Both songs were a signal that Bruce was starting to write more progressive and adventurous numbers, and his pairing with guitarist Roy Z started a partnership that still exists today. While many of the tracks are fairly Maiden-ish, there's a sense of groove and muscle that differentiates a bit from the galloping power metal style of Iron Maiden, especially on songs like "Hell No", "Laughing in the Hiding Bush", and "Sacred Cowboys". Plus, there are a few commercial anthems here as well, like the catchy "Change of Heart" and "Shoot All the Clowns". Roy Z's guitar work I always found to be filled with tasty leads and crunchy rhythm work, and he does a fine job throughout this album. Of course, Dickinson's vocals were in top form, as they are on all of his solo albums that were released in the 1990's during his hiatus from Maiden.
CD 2 has a multitude of surprises, and will make the decision to re-purchase this CD all over again all the more easy. There are a host of solid metal thumpers here that were either b-sides or part of picture discs, like the rampaging "Fire Child", the humurous but heavy instrumental "Elvis Has Left the Building", and the crunchy "The Breeding House". Bruce's vocals soar on the acoustic version of "Tears of the Dragon" as well as the emotional and rootsy "Winds of Change". Roy Z is pure gold on the funky metal of "Spirit of Joy", a song that will remind you a little of Guns N Roses, especially Bruce's vocals, but Roy Z's squealing guitar fills really make the tune. "Tibet" is a strange dance/techno/prog/metal piece that is nothing that you would expect from Bruce Dickinson, but it's a fun listen nontheless, as is the silly new wave pop rock of "Cadillac Gas Mask".
This reissue will literally keep you busy for hours. After not hearing Balls to Picasso for years, it was great to crank it out loud once again and dig into all the rarities included on the second disc. Kudos to Sanctuary Records for taking the time and effort to release these fine Bruce Dickinson solo-albums in full expanded glory. A very, very solid 4 rating.
2. Hell No
3. Gods of War
4. 1000 Points of Light
5. Laughing in the Hiding Bush
6. Change of Heart
7. Shoot All the Clowns
9. Sacred Cowboys
10. Tears of the Dragon
1. Fire Child
2. Elvis Has Left the Building
3. Breeding House
4. No Way Out...to Be Continued
5. Tears of the Dragon [Acoustic Chillout Version]
6. Winds of Change
7. Spirit of Joy
8. Over and Out [
9. Shoot All the Clowns [12" Extended Remix]
10. Laughing in the Hiding Bush [Live]
11. Post Alternative Seattle Fall Out [Live]
12. Shoot All the Clowns [7" Remix]
14. Tears of the Dragon [First Bit, Long Bit, Last Bit Version]
15. Cadillac Gas Mask
16. No Way Out...Continued