The Hang of Music: Riming Slang
Or, alternatively; I rime, all the time – I am a poet, don’t I know it. Oh, I am so funny…
At any rate, I have been listening to Iron Maiden, and this is their “Powerslave”, feat. Sammy T Coleridge.
I have to say, right off the bat, that I approve of the reappropriation of poems into songs wholeheartedly and unashamedly. There are a few other examples that I can think of – “Innocent’s Song” by Charles Causely/Show of Hands respectively, a number of efforts by Divine Comedy, incuding Noël Coward’s “I’ve Been to a Marvellous Party”, and I’ll be damned if I can find a version of Jenny Joseph’s “Warning, or When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple” on youtube without piano accompaniments – but this version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by the aforementioned Samuel Coleridge is one of the better poem adaptations.
I would say that Coleridge, if he heard the song, should be proud of the song. It may not be entirely faithful, but it goes all over the place (in a good way) with its structure, has a number of really good riffs and feels as creepy as it should, when it should. I just can’t imagine Coleridge rocking out to it. Or at all. Ever.
Ignoring Sam’s dancing habits, the album does the atmosphere of its songs really well. There is an ancient egyptian feel about the eponymous title track*. Mainly in the tail end of the main riff, which just makes me feel like dancing like those guys with their arms at right angles.** I have to wonder if they wrote the song first, then designed the album cover accordingly. AND interestingly, there was a 1990s playstation game called Powerslave, set in a pyramid, where you have to battle what I can only assume are egyptian gods. Coincidence?
All of these songs seem to have an old timey feel, and I wonder if Iron Maiden, I dunno, wish they’d been born in victorian times or something. The focus of their songs seems to be clashing blades*** and duelling pistols at dawn. Presumably when on a boat, I don’t know… They all seem to be somehow set in ye olde times. Which is not a bad thing: they have a recurring theme – I like recurring themes!
I feel bad that it’s taken me this long to come to this conclusion, but upon listening to “Aces High”, track one, I realise that Bruce Dickinson actually has a very nice voice. He’s got a lot of power behind it.
And another guilty confession: It’s been ages since I heard “2 Minutes to Midnight” and that was on Guitar Hero. Unsurprisingly, it sounds a lot better now. Specifically, the bass sounds a lot more impressive than I remember. And after listening to the whole album, I can only say that “2 Minutes” is not alone. The bass on this album is highly underrated.**** Powerslave the Eponymous is a particularly strong example.
Whereas on other songs it’s the drums that stand out. “Flash of the Blade”‘s opening beat sound lovely,***** especially when combined with the guitar.
But the vocals… I’m starting to think that the bombast of the lyrics and the singing are actually my least favourite parts of any of the tracks on here. The music is really well written and put together, whereas the lyrics just seem over the top and cheesy, and the vocals just too trite, if sung by someone with a great range. There seems to be a mismatch here.
Maybe it’s a case of Seinfeld is Unfunny – that Bruce Dickinson’s vocal and lyrical style has been nicked by so many other people that they just sound bland – but they just sound blandish. At least compared to the music. Which, as I feel the need to reiterate, is epic.
** Again, HOW DO WE KNOW THEY DANCED LIKE THAT?
*** No homo.
**** Which makes sense, now that I have discovered that Steve Harris, the bassist, is also the primary songwriter. Well, duh.
***** Not a word many would use to describe Iron Maiden, I’m sure. Maybe I should replace it with something else. How about “AWESOME!”?