Live at Reading ’81 (Sanctuary)
by Martin Popoff
Part of a welcome Sanctuary Music reissue frenzy (which includes classics from Marillion, Helloween, and the seminal Metal For Muthas NWOBHM comps), these Samsons comprise the high quality core of Bruce Dickinson’s happy-go-stumbly years with one of the NWOBHM’s great underrated acts. Survivors is a little loose-bolted but the songs were strong, if a little pubby (Bruce was just joining the band, so lead vocals are by a more than capable Paul Samson). Shock Tactics is a friggin’ monster of an album, pretty much one of the best of the genre, Bruce caterwauling up to the level of any Maiden spread, axeman Samson turning in choice traditional riffs which straddle the blues to ’70s American metal, an approach more or less unique to him within the rapidly Maiden-cloning scene at the time. Live At Reading ’81 is Bruce’s last gig with the band and trots out the old chestnuts in the band’s celebrated devil-may-care style. One non-LPer makes the grade, an uneventful Kiss-like blue collar track called “Gravy Train.” It is of note that these particular reissues are not up to expected reissue status, especially that of the label’s Marillion spreads, which are pretty much the most resplendent I’ve ever seen. Here however, no bonus tracks (and this from a band with gorgeous, heavy, highly composed b-sides), no booklets, save for the Bruce interview that accompanied Live At Reading in previous issues. Rushed to market it seems, much like Metal For Muthas, which could have at least offered the rare Mutha’s Pride EP as additional enticement.
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