If Def Leppard epitomized the pop-metal/glam side of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal -- which took England by storm in the late '70s and early '80s -- Iron Maiden was NWOBHM's consummate fantasy metal band. Maiden wasn't content to write about sex, drugs, and rock & roll; their heritage was Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Rainbow, and their imaginative, gothic-themed lyrics were all about fantasy and escape. A best-of collection that Sanctuary assembled in 2002, Edward the Great: The Greatest Hits paints a consistently attractive picture of Maiden's contributions to British fantasy metal. Many of the Brits' finest, most essential recordings are provided, and that includes "Run to the Hills," "The Evil That Men Do," "Wasted Years," and "Two Minutes to Midnight" as well as "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter" and "Can I Play with Madness." The material spans 1982-2001, which means that Blaze Bayley and Bruce Dickinson are the only lead singers heard on Edward the Great; Maiden's pre-1982 work with Paul Di'Anno (who Dickinson replaced) is excluded. And while the band's Di'Anno-era releases of 1980 and 1981 are enjoyable and worth hearing, most metal historians won't lament Di'Anno's absence from this collection -- in metal circles, the general consensus is that Maiden's most essential recordings came after Dickinson's arrival in 1982. Edward the Great is far from the last word on Maiden, and some hardcore fans are bound to lament the absence of certain songs (such as "Heaven Can Wait"). But then, Edward the Great wasn't designed for hardcore fans, who already have most or all of Maiden's albums. This 75-minute CD is for the casual listener who needs a concise dose of Introductory Maiden 101, and those who fit that description will find Edward the Great to be an excellent starting point.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson