(released 31 March 2017 via BMG)
British prog rock legends Uriah Heep are getting another catalogue revamp (yet again), but it is always worth it, as albums three, four and five from 1971 and 1972 show. Led by the ever present (and constantly grinning) guitarist Mick Box, the band’s sound was originally centred around the guitar with Ken Hensley’s organ and David Byron’s operatic vocals.
Formed in the late 60s, Uriah Heep have had more line-ups than Scotland Yard, but are still going strong and continue to release fantastic and energetic hard rock music that’s pulling crowds young and old. Box himself, the band’s constant member, is also very underrated as a guitarist (with peers including Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, he is often overlooked) but his skills should not be overlooked.
The Heep catalogue is a mine field and has been flogged more than all the donkey’s on Blackpool sea front, but don’t let that overshadow the music, even if more and more previously unreleased alternate versions and bonus tracks keep coming out of the woodwork.
1971’s Look At Yourself, with its mirror sleeve. Kicks off with the title track and it’s a blistering rocker, plenty of hooks, a catchy riff and solid vocals. There is some fantastic keyboard work in the powerful rock ballad ‘July Morning’, which also features Manfred Mann on Moog. Organ grinding indeed. Tracks like ‘Shadows Of Grief’ take the Heep prog in a more heavy metal direction. The album also has some more laid back moments – but a great album beginning to end
With Gary Thain replacing Mark Clarke on bass for Demons & Wizards, also introducing drummer Lee Kerslake, the band’s chemistry cemented and the 1972 album featured the classic and surprise hit ‘Easy Livin’’. It’s an up tempo blast still in the set-list to this day. ‘The Wizard’, a semi acoustic ballad, was also a single. Fast and slow tracks, there are many vocal keyboard and guitar harmonies, the solo work in each case is standout.
Also recorded in 1972, The Magician’s Birthday followed suit nicely but is not as consistent. ‘Sunrise’ is a great track and there’s a great mix of guitar and keyboards throughout. ‘Sweet Lorraine’ is mind blowingly good, and the 10 minute title track is worth the cost of the album alone.
Early 70s British hard prog rock at it’s very best. The expansion to two discs in each case adds many (to the point of superfluous) alternate versions, all previously unreleased. Previous bonus tracks are not included but the extensive liner notes, like the deluxe packaging, really do add value to the release.
Fans will love the packages, bonus tracks aside, and a good opportunity to re familiarise yourselves with these classic albums.
Look At Yourself 9/10
Demons & Wizards 9/10
The Magician’s Birthday 7.5/10