Live At Reading '81


Sanctuary Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It could be said that when Live At Reading '81, the 1991 release from British metallers Samson, it was meant to capitalize on the success their former singer Bruce Dickinson was having with Iron Maiden. If memory serves me correctly, this particular show proved to be the last that Dickinson (then known as Bruce Bruce) performed with Samson before being hired away by Steve Harris and crew.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yes, you could say that this disc was meant to ride on the waves of Dickinson's popularity... but the fact is that this has proven to be the best Samson disc I've listened to yet, and it captures the essence of the band that could not be harnessed in the studio.

In a performance not featuring original drummer Thunderstick (Dickinson names the drummer, but I could not decipher the name), Samson plows through a catalog of songs that had become standards for the band back then, when they were one of the leading forces behind the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. (Whether it was fair or not, the band would fade into the background after Dickinson's departure.) What's also interesting is that Dickinson is able to inject all these songs with new energy on stage - the same songs I criticized for sounding sluggish in the studio.

Take tracks like "Nice Girls" and "Earth Mother," both from their then-current album Shock Tactics. Dickinson sounds energized performing these, and he does manage to breathe new life into the songs. Even on some of the older standards like "Big Brother" and "Walking Out On You" (though the latter takes a little too long to build up steam), there is a level of energy that I personally didn't feel on the original studio versions.

This is as much of a credit to Dickinson as it is to the rest of Samson; each member is able to make Live At Reading '81 a special disc to listen to. They were at the absolute top of their game - as well as their career as a band, though they most likely didn't know this at the time.

Fans of Dickinson's work have probably gone back to check out the early Samson discs, especially seeing they were re-released a year or so ago. If someone asked me where they should start in their education on Samson, I'd easily steer them to Live At Reading '81, knowing that this beginning for one person also signified the end of a chapter for others.

Rating: B

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.