Saturday 7 July 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - U: Uriah Heep - The Best Of Uriah Heep

1977 was considered as Year Zero - the moment when all the new Punk bands swept aside the lumbering dinosaurs of the 70s.
Deep Purple were bestowed a career spanning (or 7 years of it) compilation by EMI with 'Deepest Purple', Black Sabbath were on the downward with the disappointing 'Technical Ecstasy; followed by Ozzy Osbourne's departure after 'Never Say Die' in 1978, Led Zeppelin breathed their last in the same year) - although the loss of John Bonham probably had more to do with it than the Punk movement - Yes became No, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer's highfalutin musical w*nkery was widely mocked.
But roll forward 5 years, and all these bands were still selling in high numbers and selling out concert venues.
One such band which either saw what was coming and ducked out early, or had perhaps reached the end of their natural life was Uriah Heep, whose sales and reputation seemed to drop quite quickly after the release of this compilation in 1976.

Uriah Heep - were they Prog?  were the Heavy Rock?  did they have a bit of psychadelia going on?
Yes, yes, and the answer ins in the ear of the beholder (although probably not).

Uriah Heep were formed in 1967, but didn't get their name until a couple of years later when they decided original name Spice just wan't right, and chose something more proggy-rocky and Dickensian.
Their first couple of albums sold in "cultish" numbers (ie small amounts), but their third album ('Look At Yourself', complete with mirrored cover (get it?) took them into the album charts and lifted them up the Festival bills.
1972 brought the release of 'Demons and Wizards' and 'The Magician's Birthday'.
Both albums had the Prog-regulation Roger Dean album covers, and both nestled in the Top 20 album charts.
Three more albums of hard-riffing Prog-styled Rock followed ('Sweet Freedom', 'Wonderworld', 'Return to Fantasy', plus the regulation Live album which captures the band at their loud, raucous best.
Their reward was this 1976 compilation pulling the best bits from their previous albums, but the denoument was falling sales and dwindling audiences.
They kept trudging on, and by 1982s 'Abominog' very nearly crept back into the big(ish) time.

With this compilation there is no danger of the Trade Descriptions Act - this really is the best stuff.
The opening track is perhaps the one song that Uriah Heep will forever be linked with ("Easy Livin").  But when a song is this good, I'm sure they won't mind.  The album is bookended by another burst of power in the shape of "Gypsy" - Prog and Heavy Metal combine (Mick Box's guitar riff and Ken Hensley's keyboards matching Keith Emerson's histrionics).  And in between is a batch of songs the equal of their early 70s contemporaries - "Bird of Prey", "Sunrise", "The Wizard", "Sweet Lorraine" - all mighty fine.

Punk was supposed to sweep away the dinosuars of the past, but Uriah Heep are still going and may well be visitiing a concert venue near you soon (if you live in Geramny or Scandanavia, or visit the Butlins Alternative Weekend thingys).

Easy Livin'


(it's not on this compilation, but is a pretty good cover version from 1982s 'Abominog')
Tin Soldier

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