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Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Album info
ReleaseApril 11, 1988
RecordedFebruary-March 1988 at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany
GenreHeavy metal
Length43:57
LabelEMI
ProducerMartin Birch

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is the seventh studio album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released in 1988 by EMI in Europe and its sister label Capitol Records in the US (it was re-released by Sanctuary/Columbia Records in the US in 2002).

It is the first Iron Maiden release to feature keyboards (played by Michael Kenney) and, along with The Number of the Beast and, later, Fear of the Dark and The Final Frontier, debuted at No.1 in the UK charts. It also marks the first appearance of many progressive rock elements, particularly seen in the length and odd-time signatures of the title track "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son," and by the fact that it is a concept album.

BackgroundEdit

The idea to base the album around the folklore concept of the seventh son of a seventh son came to bassist Steve Harris after he read Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son. Harris states, "It was our seventh studio album and I didn't have a title for it or any ideas at all. Then I read the story of the seventh son, this mystical figure that was supposed to have all these paranormal gifts, like second sight and what have you, and it was more, at first, that it was just a good title for the seventh album, you know? But then I rang Bruce [Dickinson, vocalist] and started talking about it and the idea just grew."

After his songwriting contributions were rejected from the band's previous album, 1986's Somewhere in Time, Dickinson felt that his role within the band had diminished, as he "just became the singer," but felt renewed enthusiasm when Harris explained the concept to him; "I thought, 'What a great idea! Brilliant!' And of course I was really chuffed, too, because he'd actually rung me to talk about it and ask me if I had any songs that might fit that sort of theme. I was like, 'Well, no, but give me a minute and I'll see what I can do.'" Speaking about the record in later years, however, Dickinson remarked that "we almost did [something great]," explaining that, "it was only half a concept album. There was no attempt to see it all the way through, like we really should have done. Seventh Son... has no story. It's about good and evil, heaven and hell, but isn't every Iron Maiden record?"

In addition to Dickinson's return to writing, the album was also notable for its number of co-written pieces, in contrast to its predecessor, with five of the eight tracks being collaborative efforts. According to Harris, this was probably because they "spent more time checking up on each other to see what everybody else was up to, just to make sure the story fitted properly and went somewhere." To make sure each song fitted with the record's concept, the band drew up a basic outline for the story, which Harris states "didn't make the actual writing any easier ... I probably took longer over the writing I've done on this album than any I've done before. But the stuff we all started coming up with, once we'd agreed that we were definitely going for a fully fledged 'concept' album, really startled me. It was so much better than anything we'd done in ages..."

Stylistically, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son develops the sounds first heard on Somewhere in Time, although with the synth sounds being created more by keyboards rather than bass or guitar synthesizers. According to Dickinson, the band decided not to hire a keyboard player, with the parts being "mainly one-finger stuff from Adrian [Smith, guitarist], Steve, the engineer or whoever had a finger free at the time." Harris was fond of the development, in spite of the fact that the record did not sell as well as its predecessor in the United States; "I thought it was the best album we did since Piece of Mind. I loved it because it was more progressive—I thought the keyboards really fitted in brilliantly—'cause that's the influences I grew up with, and I was so pissed off with the Americans, because they didn't really seem to accept it. Everyone said afterwards that it was a European-sounding album. I'm not so sure about that. What's a European-sounding album? To me, it's just a Maiden-sounding album."

The album debuted at No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart (their first since The Number of the Beast) as well as No. 12 in the US, while the singles "Can I Play with Madness", "The Evil That Men Do", "The Clairvoyant (live)" and "Infinite Dreams (live)" reached No. 3, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 6 positions respectively in the UK Singles Chart. Smith highlights "Can I Play with Madness" as "our first proper hit single."

To promote the album, the band hosted an evening of television, radio and press interviews at Castle Schnellenberg in Attendorn, Germany prior to the record's release, before holding a small number of "secret" club shows, under the name "Charlotte and the Harlots", at Empire, Cologne and L'Amour, New York. In May, the group set out on a supporting tour which saw them perform to more than two million people worldwide over seven months. In August, the band headlined the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park for the first time before a crowd of 107,000, the largest in Donington's history, and recorded a concert video, entitled Maiden England at the NEC, Birmingham in November. In order to recreate the album's keyboards onstage, the group recruited Michael Kenney, Steve Harris' bass technician, to play the keys throughout the tour, during which he would perform the song "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" on a forklift truck under the alias of "The Count" (for which he would wear a black cape and mask).

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and its supporting tour marked the last appearance of Adrian Smith until he returned to the band in 1999. The guitarist left during the pre-production stages of the band's following album, 1990's No Prayer for the Dying, as he was unhappy with the more "street-level" direction the group were taking, professing that he "thought we were heading in the right direction with the last two albums" and that he "thought we needed to keep going forward, and it just didn't feel like that to me."

Track listingEdit

# Track title Writer(s) Length
1. "Moonchild" Bruce Dickinson, Adrian Smith 5:40
2. "Infinite Dreams" Steve Harris 6:08
3. "Can I Play with Madness" Dickinson, Harris, Smith 3:31
4. "The Evil That Men Do" Dickinson, Harris, Smith 4:33
5. "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" Harris 9:53
6. "The Prophecy" Harris, Dave Murray 5:05
7. "The Clairvoyant" Harris 4:27
8. "Only the Good Die Young" Dickinson, Harris 4:40

PersonnelEdit

with

  • Michael Kenney - keyboards

ProductionEdit

  • Martin Birch – producer, engineer, mixing, tape operator
  • Albert Boekholt – engineer, assistant engineer
  • Ronald Prent – engineer, assistant engineer
  • George Marino – mastering engineer

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