Uriah Heep

2021

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British Hard Rock stalwarts Uriah Heep are set to release a 6 CD 'Choices' box set this Friday 24th September through BMG. This compilation features a personal selection of Uriah Heep hits and deep cuts from across the band’s fifty two year and twenty four album career. Created with the full collaboration of Uriah Heep themselves and curated by guitarist and founder member Mick Box, the six discs include personal selections from original keyboards/guitar/songwriter Ken Hensley and classic era drummer Lee Kerslake, who both sadly passed away in 2020, original bass player Paul Newton, current keyboard player Phil Lanzon and current lead vocalist Bernie Shaw, who have both been with the band for thirty five years. This collection of seventy seven tracks is completed with six art cards which carry personal notations from each band member and their reproduced signature.

The first CD was compiled by original member Ken Hensley. Hensley was with Uriah Heep from 1969 - 1980 and appears on thirteen studio albums, sadly he passed away in November 2020. His fourteen selections are all from the albums he features on from 1971 - 1979. Kicking off with the slow burn of 'Paradise' before segueing into the monumental bombast of ‘The Spell', both from one of Heep's best loved albums ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972). The sweet ballad 'Weep In Silence' is from original vocalist David Byron’s last album with Heep, ‘High and Mighty’ (1976). This is a more commercial sounding album, but with less great songs, probably due to the strained atmosphere within the band at the time, not one of their best. Byron was sacked soon after for his excessive drug and alcohol usage which was affecting his performance on stage and unreliability in the studio. 'Rain' is a beautiful piano ballad from the classic ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) album. The powerful Hammond heavy 'Circle of Hands' is another great track from the classic ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972) album. The sensational 'July Morning' from the third album ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) is one of Heep’s best-loved songs, with some exquisite vocals from Byron and dexterous Hammond from Hensley. The atmospheric 'The Park' from the second album ‘Salisbury’ (1971) tantalises the senses before the dramatic 'Echoes in the Dark' from the ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) startles with its majestic grandeur! On a lighter note, 'Misty Eyes' is another bright ballad from the ‘High and Mighty’ (1976) album. Proceedings take a further smooth turn with 'Fallen Angel', the title track from the ‘Fallen Angel’ (1979) album. This was the last of three albums to feature vocalist John Lawton (Lucifer’s Friend). The smoothness continues with the piano lead ballad 'The Easy Road' from the ‘Wonderworld’ (1974) album, before the pace rises with the chugging 'Falling in Love', another pick from ‘Fallen Angel’ (1979). The temperature rises even further with the mesmerising 'Sunrise' from the magnificent ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) album before the infectious 'Sweet Freedom', the title track from the ‘Sweet Freedom’ (1973) album concludes Hensley's selections.

The second CD was compiled by drummer Lee Kerslake. Kerslake joined Heep in 1971 and stayed with them until 2007, he features on sixteen studio albums. Sadly, he passed away in September 2020. His fourteen selections are picked from 1971 - 1982. Kicking things off is the classic 'July Morning' from ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) before the ten minute Prog Rock epic title track 'The Magician's Birthday' from the ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) album. An exciting and enrapturing song with intoxicating and dramatic twists and turns. One of their finest tracks. Equally exciting is the riff heavy 'Traveller in Time' from ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972). Back to the ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) album for the popular crowd pleaser 'Sweet Lorraine'. 'Circus' from ‘Sweet Freedom’ (1973) is a quiet atmospheric acoustic guitar and tambourine driven ballad. The herculean riff heavy 'Rainbow Demon' from the ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972) album is another of Heep's greatest songs, definitely in my top ten! 'Come Back To Me' from the ‘Fallen Angel’ (1979) album is a lush AOR type song with muscular vocals from John Lawton. 'Shady Lady' from the ‘Return to Fantasy’ (1975) album rocks along with mischievous attitude! 'All My Life' is a short tune from the classic ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972), with some crazy high falsetto vocals from Byron! 'The Other Side of Midnight' from the ‘Head First’ (1983) album is heading in a more commercial direction with full on glossy production and anthemic choruses. This track is from the second of three albums to feature vocalist Peter Goalby (Trapeze). Onto to the ‘Firefly’ (1977) album for the vibrant 'Who Needs Me', the first of three albums to feature the flexible vocals of the late great John Lawton. 'That's The Way That It Is' from the ‘Abominog’ (1982) album is a sprightly pulsating, heavy commercial sounding track. ‘Abominog’ is the first album to feature the valiant vocals of Peter Goalby. A good strong album much loved by fans. 'Free Me' from the ‘Innocent Victim’ (1978) album is a lighter mid-paced tune with acoustic guitar strumming and a passionate vocal delivery from Lawton. Finally, another fan favorite, the pulsating 'Stealin' from the ‘Sweet Freedom’ (1973) album.

The third CD was compiled by founding member and guitarist Mick Box. Box is the only original member left in the lineup and has played on all Uriah Heep recordings. His fifteen selections span 1971 - 2018, starting with the gloriously lush 'The Park' from the second album ‘Salisbury’ (1971), stunning ethereal vocals from Byron. 'Tears in my Eyes' from the hefty third album ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) is a hard hitting riff heavy stomper with thrilling interludes! 'Sweet Lorraine' gets another airing here from the irresistible ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) album. 'Circus' from ‘Sweet Freedom’ (1973) is an infectious song with zesty acoustic guitar strumming and lively tambourine bashing. 'Free N' Easy' from ‘Innocent Victim’ (1978) is a fantastic fast paced heavy hitter! A formidable vocal performance from Lawton - one of the finest songs from the Lawton era and definitely in my top ten! 'Woman of the Night' from ‘Fallen Angel’ (1979) is another top quality heavy track from the Lawton era. 'Hot Persuasion' from the ‘Abominog’ (1982) album is a groove laden track with a rousing chorus and glossy commercial sounding production. 'The Other Side Of Midnight' and 'Straight Through The Heart' are both from the ‘Head First’ (1983) album, the second of three to feature Peter Goalby on vocals. These tracks are very AOR and commercial sounding along the lines of Foreigner and Bon Jovi! 'Cross That Line' from ‘Different World’ (1991) is another slice of lush AOR. This is the second album to feature vocalist Bernie Shaw. 'Love in Silence' from ‘Sea of Light’ (1995) is a mid-paced track with some tasty vocals from Shaw, and sounds a bit like 90s Yes! 'What Kind Of God' from ‘Wake the Sleeper’ (2008) is a drama filled six-minute meandering track with some astute guitar playing. This was the comeback album after a ten year break from recording. 'Trail Of Diamonds' from ‘Into the Wild’ (2011) rocks good and hard! Quality track. 'The Outsider' from ‘Outsider’ (2014) is a lively fast paced monster of a song with some outstanding vocals from Shaw and incredible guitar from Box. Last but not least, is 'Falling Under Your Spell' from the latest studio album ‘Living The Dream’ (2018), a high quality vibrant rocker. Nice choice!

The fourth CD was compiled by original bass player Paul Newton. Newton features on the first three studio albums ‘…Very 'Eavy…Very 'Umble’ (1970), ‘Salisbury’ (1971) and ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971). His fourteen track selection spans 1970 - 2018. He is the only member to pick tracks from the debut album. Kicking off his selections is the ethereal and beguiling 'Lady In Black' from the second album ‘Salisbury’ (1971) and the superlative 'Tales' from ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972), an atmospherically spacey sounding track. 'Easy Livin' from the ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972) album is probably Heep’s most recognisable and much loved song. The wild 'Tears In My Eyes' from ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) has a deep groove with some crazy menacing slide guitar from Box. 'If I Had the Time' from ‘Sweet Freedom’ (1973) is a wonderfully strange song! The hard rocking 'Real Turned On' and the sweet ballad 'Come Away Melinda' are both from the amazing debut album ‘…Very 'Eavy…Very 'Umble’ (1970). One of the finest debut albums by any Rock band! 'What Should Be Done' from ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) is a rather pleasant piano lead track with lush vocals from Byron. 'Why' (Alternate Version) is an outtake track from the ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) album sessions. It is an ok track but unusual choice. 'Sympathy' from ‘Firefly’ (1977) is a vigorously feisty and powerfully hefty song. Lawton’s vocals shine throughout. One of Lawton’s best vocal performances is on the colossal 'Free N' Easy' from ‘Innocent Victim’ (1978). 'I'm Alive' from ‘Fallen Angel’ (1979) is another intense and gratifying song from the Lawton era. 'One Minute' from the ‘Outsider’ (2014) album has all the ingredients of a classic Heep song. Completing Newton’s picks is the heavy 'Grazed by Heaven' from the ‘Living The Dream’ (2018) album. A dynamic performance and one of the finest tracks from latter day Heep.

The fifth CD was compiled by current keyboard player Phil Lanzon. Lanzon joined in 1986 and features on eight studio albums so far. His ten song selection spans 1972 - 2018. First up is the undulating 'A Year Or A Day' from ‘Return to Fantasy’ (1975), before the return of the spellbinding epic title track 'The Magician's Birthday' from ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972). The jaunty 'Wonderworld', title track from ‘Wonderworld’ (1974), makes another appearance as does the delicate acoustically driven 'Circus' from ‘Sweet Freedom’ (1973). 'Bad Bad Man' from ‘Raging Silence’ (1989) is a hard drivin' boogie and the first album to feature both Lanzon and vocalist Bernie Shaw. 'Question' and 'Between Two Worlds' are two grand epics from ‘Sonic Origami’ (1998), a good balanced sounding album and the last studio album for ten years. 'Voice on my TV' from ‘Raging Silence’ (1989) has a very 80s sounding bombast! The dramatic 'Universal Wheels' from ‘Sea of Light’ (1995) is a quality track from a well-loved album amongst fans. Lastly, the lavish ballad 'Waters Flowin' from ‘Living The Dream’ (2018) closes Lanzon's choices.

The sixth CD was compiled by current vocalist Bernie Shaw. Shaw joined in 1986 and features on eight studio albums to date. His ten-song selection covers 1971 - 2018. Starting with the classic 'July Morning' from ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) and 'What Kind Of God' from ‘Wake the Sleeper’ (2008) - a six-minute intense drama filled song with some fine performances. 'Mistress of all Time' from ‘Sea of Light’ (1995) is another lush sounding ballad. 'Wise Man' from ‘Firefly’ (1977) is another fine Lawton era ballad. 'One Minute' from ‘Outsider’ (2014) romps along with confidence. 'Corridors of Madness' from 'Celebration' (2009) is a vibrant stomping track with some insistent bubbling bass and inventive guitar soloing. The quaint 'Tales' from ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (1972) is entrancing. 'Take Away My Soul' from ‘Living The Dream’ (2018) thunders along with precision and intent, great performances from all. The penultimate track 'Heaven's Rain' from ‘Wake the Sleeper’ (2008) exudes spirited jubilation, before the breezy ballad 'Heartless Land' from ‘Sonic Origami’ (1998) completes Shaw's choices.

Inevitably there are several songs that were picked by more than one band member and so are repeated over the 6 discs. The most picked song was 'July Morning' from the album ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971). The most tracks were picked from the 'The Magician's Birthday' (1972) album, with ‘Look At Yourself’ (1971) and ‘Demons and Wizards’ (1972) not far behind. Surprisingly nobody picked the defining Uriah Heep song 'Gypsy' from the debut album ‘…Very 'Eavy...Very 'Umble’ (1970). This track would definitely be in my top ten Uriah Heep tracks of all time! Interestingly, there were no selections from the 1980 album ‘Conquest’, the only album to feature vocalist John Sloman, or the 1985 album ‘Equator’, the last album to feature vocalist Peter Goalby. Overall a compelling collection of wondrous Uriah Heep songs.

Steven C. Gilbert