Friday, 29 July 2011

CD Review: Balls To Picasso, by Bruce Dickinson (1994)

After the misfire of Tattooed Millionaire, Bruce Dickinson pulls up his socks and delivers a much better second solo effort. Landing just inches on the slightly less heavy side of Iron Maiden, Balls To Picasso is filled with confident, rich and often spectacular metal.

Much of the credit goes to the supporting band. In Roy Z Dickinson found an ace guitarist capable of matching his vocal range and power, and the best material on Balls To Picasso, including album opener Cyclops, features Roy and Bruce complementing each other with the familiarity that usually requires a lifetime of collaboration. Eddie Casillas on bass and David Ingraham on drums prove to be much more than typical session musicians, and add substantial depth to the foundation of the album.

Cyclops is one of the finest metal songs from the 1990s, a crunching epic with brilliant contributions from all the band members. Casillas and Ingraham build a massive sub-structure, onto which Dickinson and Roy Z just soar with a mesmerizingly spooky and heavy tale of surveillance cameras taking over society. Dickinson unloads the chorus of Where are you going? / What are you doing? / Why are you looking at the camera's eye? / Where are you staying? / Why are you leaving? / We watch you breathing / Through the camera's eye, as London is indeed overrun with one-eyed observers, Roy matching him with compelling guitar wizardry, including a most Maidenesque solo.

It would be difficult for any album to match that opening, but Balls To Picasso gives it a good go. Shoot All The Clowns, a hair-down dance metal track that brings fun back to music, is plain irresistible. Laughing In The Hiding Bush is more ambitious, Roy's soulful guitar stretching it's legs and matching one of Dickinson's more emotive vocals. Fire is straightforward crunchy metal, a moderately slow pace demanding a widows-down, high-volume blast while cruising on Main Street. Sacred Cowboys attempts to channel Run To The Hills, and almost succeeds with an up-tempo, beat-heavy structure that peaks with another Roy solo.

Hell No and 1000 Points Of Light are other strong tracks, and the album maintains a uniformly strong quality content, avoiding selections that feel like filler.

Balls To Picasso is a solo artist finding his feet, and proving to himself that there is life after breaking away from a mega-successful and legendary band.


Bruce Dickinson - Vocals

with supporting musicians:
Roy Z - Guitars
Eddie Casillas - Bass
Dave Ingraham - Drums
Doug Van Booven - Percussion

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Cyclops - 10 *see below*
2. Hell No - 8
3. Gods Of War - 7
4. 1000 Points Of Light - 8
5. Laughing In The Hiding Bush - 8
6. Change Of Heart - 7
7. Shoot All The Clowns - 9
8. Fire - 8
9. Sacred Cowboys - 8
10. Tears Of The Dragon - 7

Average: 8.00

Produced and Mixed by Shay Baby.
Mastered by Greg Fulginiti and Andy Van Dett.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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