Tattooed Millionare(EMI - 1990)
So Bruce decides to experiment on his own, perhaps feeling out the world of larger billing and creative control before actually considering leaving Iron Maiden. However, the level of commercial drivel and trite material on this release is shocking. It's as if he decided to dump all of his rejected material from the years with Maiden into this release. The music ranges from mostly Bon Jovi hard rock, to British pop-rock, to some horribly dull material that sounds like b-sides off No Prayer for the Dying. Badly used, hackneyed AC/DC riffs, plenty of cheese, and instantly forgettable rock 'n' roll fill this album, and Bruce's strong and varied vocals can do nothing to save the music. I wish he had flushed this down the toilet instead of dumping it on the public.
Balls to Picasso(EMI - 1994)
With a final departure from Iron Maiden, Bruce turns much more seriously to his solo project. Balls to Picasso, its title notwithstanding, is a serious and eclectic release that feels like Bruce is feeling his way around yet. The songs include various elements such as Queensryche-ish dark operatics and moods, a pinch of grunge, echoes of Bruce's later strong choruses, a touch of fusion, plenty of mellow passages, lots of good guitar lines and Bruce's vocals that change from plain singing to his usual operatics. The slight lack of focus and tightness detract from the album yet at the same time, together with the mild production and music, it makes me feel like I'm experiencing a live bar band in a more intimate and loose setting. The music is mature heavy metal with mellow moments however, and is enjoyable and usually interesting. Standouts include the now famous Tears of the Dragon epic beauty, and the heavy and dark Cyclops. In the end, this album won me over as it did many others. A unique good release with only a couple of weak tracks, but it will appeal only to some.
Alive in Studio A(CMC - 1995)
A very surprisingly self-indulgent release considering the fact that Bruce has only released two albums so far, and also that this is actually two cds, each containing practically the same tracklisting. The first cd is a looser 'live' studio re-recording of songs, most of which are from Balls to Picasso, only without the advantages of an energetic real live setting. The result is a slightly different, more energetic but sloppier 'jam' with lower production that lacks the magic of BtP as well as that of a concert. I don't get it. As for the second live cd (at the Marquee), I am not a fan of live cds and this one has nothing special worth praising. The songs sound much better in a calmer setting. A pointless release in my opinion.
Skunkworks(Castle - 1996)
Attempting to boost sales, Bruce tries his hand at more radio friendly and modern rock/heavy metal. That in itself may make fans wary, but that doesn't happen to be my problem with this release. The music is much more focused and consistent this time, opting for a lighter 90's heavy metal sound with its echoes of grunge and alternative music. Some songs still bring latter day Queensryche to mind for some reason, although many may not see the connection. Bruce uses a normal singing voice almost exclusively, and often uses separate vocal lines from the music. The grunge sound is quite obvious at times, and many of the guitar lines are actually cool, but the cardinal sin of this album is mediocrity. I find myself waiting for something exciting or interesting to happen, receiving instead safe and insipid bites of rock or heavy metal with the occasional good morsel in between. There is nothing really wrong with this release and some may enjoy it more than others, but there isn't much good here either except for a few individual songs.
Accident of Birth(Castle - 1997)
Bruce seems to have a knack for dropping unsuccessful musical stints and moving on quickly, which is good, but which crowd is he really trying to please and does he care? This time he seems to go for the more serious metal masses and hordes of Maiden fans that are anxiously following his solo career. Recruiting Adrian Smith from Maiden years past, Bruce pens down a couple Maidenesque metal songs (the whole album rumored as such before it's release), but still with a strong modern sound and plenty of new material and other sounds. This is showcased by the crunchy guitars and riffs, the return of metal guitar solos, and some fast melodic lines and strong choruses. Songs like Darkside of Aquarius sound spookily like something out of the early Maiden era, but there is mostly variety here in the form of crunchy heavy metal, grungesque romps and good ballads. Bruce's voice is obviously much more restrained than in his Maiden years, and almost without a trace of the wild 'operatics', but still very good. Half of the tracks are very memorable and superb, and most of the rest are enjoyable as well. An over-hyped album with a few weak moments, but still quite good because of its inspired sound. Recommended.
Chemical Wedding(CMC - 1998)
Wisely, Bruce sticks to the winning sound from Accident of Birth and expands on it, this time improving on the composition, dark moods, and heavy guitar sound. Sounding almost like a death metal roar at times, the rhythm guitar lends a lot more oomph and low-end to the music this time, creating a delicious sound. The Maiden sound is much less widespread this time, probably because Bruce wants to disassociate his past and emphasize his solo talent. But songs like The Tower have definite echoes of Maiden in the bass and lead guitar lines and the great solo. Otherwise, there is both variety in tempo and composition as well as consistency in the overall effect of the album. Adrian and Roy Z really shine here, with noticable feats of shredding and some great solos. There are four long dark epics over 6 minutes long, one ballad that builds up wonderfully, and all in all there is a full hour of great material to chew on. This is a successful blend of all of Bruce's past influences and elements and a great 90's sound. If asked what albums define the heavy metal sound of the 90's, the first that spring to my mind would be Bruce's last two together with Ozzy's Ozzmosis and Queensryche's Promised Land. Solid recommendations.
Scream For Me Brazil(Sanctuary - 1999)
A pretty decent live album with a tad too much emphasis on Chemical Wedding songs. The sound is good and warm though, as is the energy and performance on all the instruments. The guitar solos scream and vibrate, Bruce is in great form, and the crowd is exuberant. If you really love Bruce's music then you should find this release indispensable and very good, but seeing that it's not my favorite style and I don't usually like live albums, I skipped this one. There are live renditions (with the new guitar sound) of Tears of the Dragon and 4 hits off Accident of Birth, but the rest are from the Chemical Wedding album. A good release for fans.