The first thing that grabs you is the Bladerunner style cover. Bruce Dickinson mentions the same in his book, “What Does This Button Do?”
Apart from buying the album, the fan is also buying a great piece of art by Derek Riggs, who took 3 months to come up with the painting.
During this 80s era, the UK government decided to tax the entertainment industry over 80% of what they earn so this meant that the band and other UK artists had to go into exile and were caught somewhere, far away from home for nine months of the year. So the album ended up being written and recorded in different places and in different studios.
When the sessions started, Bruce Dickinson wanted to do something different, which made everyone laugh. He wanted Maiden to lead instead of delivering just another Iron Maiden album.
But, the fans got “just another Maiden album”. And we loved it.
Steve Harris contributed “Caught Somewhere In Time”, “Heaven Can Wait”, “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” and “Alexander The Great”. Adrian Smith contributed “Wasted Years”, “Sea Of Madness” and “Stranger In A Strange Land” while Dave Murray brought in “Déjà Vu”.
A chord is strummed, a synth chord rings out and a harmony lead is heard. This repeats for a few times and then a drum groove comes in. Subdued it percolates, changes key and at the fifty two second mark, it explodes.
“Caught Somewhere In Time” had really started. And that exploding intro comes back in the solo section at the 4.50 mark. As Harris once said, it’s about a nightmare trip through time due to a malfunction in the time machine.
The iconic open E pedal point riff starts off “Wasted Years”, Maiden’s contribution to the tales of touring and being on the road for a long time. It’s no surprise that this song was written straight after their biggest and longest tour for the “Powerslave” album which resulted in the “Live After Death” album.
The intro lead riff was rejected by Smith but Harris heard it and told him to work on it.
And the whole solo section is head banging, fists in the air, desk breaking material. Check out the way they build up the intro E pedal point riff into the solo section.
The solo section of “Sea Of Madness” is one of my favourite pieces of music on this album.
“Heaven Can Wait” is the story of a person who is struggling to transition to Heaven. The song just moves along, but when the whole “Take my hand, I’ll lead you to the promised land” section starts off, its pay attention time. Then those “woh oh oh” chants kick in and its desk breaking time. And how good is the clean tone guitar riff under the “woh-oh-oh”.
The guitar intro to “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” is inspiring, There is a film with the same title and Harris once said in an interview something like, “you always have to run in life, move forward, and you do it alone.”
The way Bruce Dickinson carries the vocal melody for the Chorus is excellent, and then the harmony leads kick in while Nicko McBrain is doing double time on the drums.
Then at the 3.30 mark, a blues rock like lead kicks in with pentatonic bends before it morphs into a metal like solo. And the song ends the way it started, with a tonne of memorable harmony leads.
The open E bass shuffle of “Stranger In A Strange Land” gets me interested, but it’s the Adrian Smith riff that seals the deal.
And how good is the lead break.
While the title shares the same name as the Robert Heinlein book, Adrian Smith based it on a story he read about an old sailor John Torrington, a member of the mysterious 1845 Sir John Franklin expedition that attempted to find the Northwest Passage from America to Asia. More than a century later in 1984, he’s perfectly preserved body was found in the ice of the North Pole.
Check out “Déjà Vu” from the 30 second mark, when that harmony lead kicks in. It’s like “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” part 2 and it morphs into a riff that reminds me of “Die With Your Boots On”.
How good is the pre chorus vocal melody when Dickinson starts to sing, “cause you know this happened before”?
And that harmony lead from the 2.50 mark. Brilliant.
There is blowing wind, a slow military march tempo and a clean guitar solo. That is how the album closer, “Alexander The Great” starts, and it percolates musically, until it explodes into the verses.
The lyrics are somewhat like a children’s encyclopaedia article however there is enough detail there line by line.
And that groove and feel change at the 4.50 mark is excellent, with more leads and more harmonies.
Not bad for just another album.
For all its excellence, the tracks on “Somewhere In Time” (apart from “Wasted Years” and “Heaven Can Wait”) are really underplayed when it comes to the set lists.
P.S. This issue of Guitar Legends is one of my favorites with a heap of information. But that will be for another day.