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Uriah Heep – Look At Yourself/ Magician’s Birthday/ Demons & Wizards

Label: BMG (reissues)
Format: 2-CD
Released: 2017
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
Rating: 9/10


 

70’s English hard rockers Uriah Heep had their start in the beginning of the decade with the debut “...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble”. Since then they have released 25 albums, most recent one in 2015. The band have seen many lineup changes throughout the decades, with lead guitarist Mick Box the lone original member left, with Phil Lanzon – keyboards, backing/ lead vocals and singer Bernie Shaw (lead vocals 1986–present). Uriah Heep are part of the foundation and the roots to heavy metal music, and should be spoken of with the likes of countrymen Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, UFO, to Alice Cooper, Scorpions, Aerosmith, AC/DC and Kiss, as architects. Heep, though, while shared many characteristics to Purple and Sabbath, musically wrote primarily challenging prog rock like Rush.

Look At Yourself (1971)

By their third album, and opening five minute title track, the similarities to countrymen Deep Purple is heard by the jamming between guitars, bass, and keyboards - elements of the time. ‘I Wanna Be Free’ brings in those recognizable high vocals and harmonies they became known for, twin leads, and psychedelic effects on the guitars. At ten minutes, ‘July Morning’ goes through peaks and valleys and the name became the inspiration for a Bulgarian hippie festival tradition. Drums, bass, and guitar begin ‘Shadows of Grief’ like a live show before the interplay of keys and vocals, while ‘What Should Be’ is bluesy and piano based with soulful vocal. Dirty keys and slide guitar give more of the blues to ‘Love Machine’ with a weird dark ride out from the keys. Bonus disc includes several alternate mixes and two tunes not on the original album.

Demons and Wizards (1972)

This album has made its impact on the European (Power) Metal scene…the band of the same name for Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer's side project, also B Guardian also covering ‘The Wizard’. The music is a continuation of the proggy/hard rock guitar riffs from “Look At Yourself”, with more attention to crafting a “song” for radio – see just over two minute single ‘Easy Livin’ and ‘Wizard’, to a singer/songwriter approach to ‘Paradise’. With such an album title, Uriah Heep also continue to explore lyrical creativity and fantasy topics on ‘Rainbow Demon’ and ‘Traveler In Time’. More of the slide guitar heard in ‘All My Life’ , and solo in ‘The Spell’ accompanied by clean piano. Second disc includes fourteen alternate mixes and a couple tracks not on the original album.

The Magician’s Birthday (1973)

Moving forward with what they started on the previous two albums, musically and creatively, ‘Sunrise’ begins the album with a cleaner production on the vocals, still the guitars and keys are unpolished and gritty. Somewhat based on a short story by Ken Hensley (Keyboards), again the Moog synthesizer is used, and more slide guitar. Aside from the ten minute epic title track (with a rather long keyboard and guitar solo section), rest of the seven tracks are under five minutes and more to the point. Acoustic guitars and simple lead melodies are the base to ‘Blind Eye’, and ‘Tales’, with the piano back for ballad ‘Rain’. Metaphorical ‘Spider Women’ and ‘Sweet Loraine’ the straight ahead rockers. Fifteen bonus songs on the second disc - includes alternate mixes and a couple of outtakes from songs not included on the original album.
All three album reissues come with expanded liner notes and band comments on the songs. Only thing missing is some video footage from the 70s.

 

 
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