Although Iron Maiden is known primarily in the U.S. as an album-oriented band, in their native England the band racked up many a hit single, most of which are featured on the 1996 greatest-hits collection, The Best of the Beast. It's available in two formats, either as a 16-track single disc (geared more toward the casual fan) or as a far more extensive 27-track double-disc set, complete with unreleased demos and aimed at the longtime fan. While the single disc contains many of Maiden's best-known songs -- "The Number of the Beast," "The Trooper," "2 Minutes to Midnight," "Running Free," "Wasted Years," "Can I Play With Madness?" -- several prime cuts are left off in favor of subpar Blaze Bayley-era material. It's incomprehensible that such fan favorites as "Flight of Icarus" and "Wrathchild" are left off in favor of "Virus" and "Man on the Edge," but more importantly, the single disc doesn't contain one track that features original vocalist Paul Di'Anno. The double disc is the better of the two, since it includes such non-single classics as "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Phantom of the Opera," "Strange World," and "Where Eagles Dare" (while the two-CD does contain "Wrathchild," "Icarus" is still nowhere to be found). Serious fans are probably better off sticking with the full-length albums.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato