Uriah Heep

2022

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Renowned British Hard Rockers Uriah Heep’s first two albums ‘…Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble’ (1970) and ‘Salisbury’ (1971) were released as limited-edition vinyl picture discs by BMG on Friday 28th January 2022. These beautifully presented albums begin a series of collector picture disc releases from the Uriah Heep catalogue. The artwork for each picture disc has been meticulously worked on, retouching the original art and creating a true visual feast. BMG are set to release further limited-edition vinyl album picture discs on Friday 25th February, this time their fourth album ‘Demons and Wizards’ (May 1972) and fifth album, ‘The Magician’s Birthday’ (November 1972). Both albums feature the original and reimagined artwork of Roger Dean, who is widely seen as one of the masters of 12" album cover art from this time.

Uriah Heep's eclectic debut album '...Very 'Eavy…Very 'Umble' was originally released on 19th June 1970 on Vertigo Records. The original vinyl release was a gatefold sleeve, featuring front man David Byron on the front sleeve, almost unrecognizable beneath cobwebs. The album was reissued by Bronze Records in 1971 after the band signed to that label. The album features David Byron - lead vocals, Ken Hensley - piano, organ, mellotron, slide guitar, vocals (except ‘Come Away Melinda’ and ‘Wake Up (Set Your Sights)’), Mick Box - lead and acoustic guitars, vocals, Paul Newton - bass guitar, vocals, Alex Napier - drums (except ‘Lucy Blues’, ‘Dreammare’ and ‘Bird of Prey’), Nigel Olsson - drums on ‘Lucy Blues’ and ‘Dreammare’, Keith Baker - drums on ‘Bird of Prey’ and Colin Wood - keyboards and vocals on ‘Come Away Melinda’ and ‘Wake Up (Set Your Sights)’. Produced by Gerry Bron, engineered by Peter Gallen and mixed by Peter Olliff.

Side one opens with the monstrous ‘Gypsy’ (Box, Byron). Full of intense Hammond organ stabbing and wailing guitars! One of Heep's finest songs and a highlight of their live set to this day. ‘Walking in Your Shadow’ (Byron, Newton) is a deliciously steady riff driven track. The atmospheric ballad ‘Come Away Melinda’ (Fred Hellerman, Fran Minkoff) shows their mellower side. Concluding side one ‘Lucy Blues’ (Box, Byron) is, as the title suggest, a Blues based Rock song and probably the weakest track on the album. Side two opens with ‘Dreammare’(Newton), a hard driving track with dark and dramatic twists and turns. ‘Real Turned On’ (Box, Byron, Newton) is a tasty groove laden boogie. The Hammond heavy ‘I'll Keep on Trying’ (Box, Byron) is vibrantly intense with inventively eccentric guitar work from Box! The album closes with the opulent and pulsating ‘Wake Up (Set Your Sights)’" (Box, Byron). Although the album was initially met with muted reviews, it’s now widely heralded as a seminal classic of the Hard Rock genre.

Their second album, ‘Salisbury’, was originally released in January 1971 by Vertigo Records. Unlike their first album, songwriting credits for fully half of the record were attributed to Ken Hensley alone, as opposed to the debut's collaborative partnership of frontman David Byron and guitarist Mick Box. Soon after the release, drummer Keith Baker left the band, replaced by Ian Clark (Cressida). With Clark, the band embarked on their first US tour, supporting Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf.

Salisbury’s epic 16-minute Prog Rock infused title track features a 24-piece orchestra and ultimately proved significant for Hensley's instant rise to a position as main composer of the group's music. The front cover of the album depicted a British Chieftain tank, which connects to the title, as Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, is a military training area. The original LP release was a gatefold sleeve, with a black-and-white image of the underside of a Chieftain tank on the inside with the turret facing the rear, over which were printed Hensley's comments on each track. The album was reissued by Bronze Records later in 1971 after the band signed to that label for their third album. Salisbury was remastered and reissued by Castle Communications in 1996 with two bonus tracks, and again in 2003 in an expanded deluxe edition. In 2016, Sanctuary Records released a two-disc deluxe edition.
The album features David Byron - lead vocals (except ‘Lady in Black’ and ‘High Priestess’), Ken Hensley - slide and acoustic guitars, organ, piano, harpsichord, vibraphone, mellotron, vocals, lead vocals on ‘Lady in Black’ and ‘High Priestess’, Mick Box - lead and acoustic guitar, vocals, Paul Newton - bass guitar, vocals, Keith Baker - drums and John Fiddy - brass and woodwind arrangement on ‘Salisbury’. Produced by Gerry Bron, engineered and mixed by Peter Gallen and mastered by Tom Coyne.

Side one opens with the strickingly elegant ‘Bird of Prey’ (Box, Byron, Hensley, Newton), a tightly confident performance by the band with effective musical arrangement and immaculate vocals from Byron. The atmospheric ‘The Park’ (Hensley) is tantalisingly exquisite with stunning vocals from Byron. ‘Time to Live’ (Box, Byron, Hensley) is loud and intense! The enchantingly ethereal ‘Lady in Black’ (Hensley) beguiles. Opening side two, ‘High Priestess’ (Hensley) is an intoxicatingly bombastic behemoth! The epic 16-minute closing title track ‘Salisbury’ (Hensley) is a monumental Prog Rock masterpiece that features a 24-piece orchestra. Byron shines with his over-the-top theatrical vocals and the band impress with dramatically intense musical movements that weave, wind, dip and soar with ever changing moods and tempos.

The bands fourth album, ‘Demons and Wizards’, was released on 19th May 1972 by Bronze Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. The original vinyl release was a gatefold sleeve, the front of which was designed by Roger Dean. The inner sleeve had pictures of the band and notes by Ken Hensley, while the liner featured printed lyrics. In June 1972 it reached No. 20 in the UK album charts. The songs ‘The Wizard’ and ‘Easy Livin' were released as singles in the UK and North America. The latter reached No. 39 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart making it Heep's first and only American Top 40 hit. ‘Easy Livin' was also a huge hit in the Netherlands and Germany. The album was remastered and reissued by Castle Communications in 1996 with three bonus tracks, and again in 2003 in an expanded deluxe edition. In 2017, Sanctuary Records released a two-disc deluxe edition. The album features David Byron - lead vocals, co-lead vocals on tracks 1, 8 and 9, Mick Box - lead guitar, Ken Hensley - keyboards, backing, co-lead vocals on tracks 8 and 9, guitars, percussion, Gary Thain - bass (except on tracks 1, 10 and 11), Mark Clarke - bass on tracks 1, 10 and 11, co-lead vocals on track 1 and Lee Kerslake - drums, backing vocals, percussion. Produced by Gerry Bron, engineered by Peter Gallen and Ashley Howe.

Often cited as the band's best album, ‘Demons and Wizards’, is definitely a Rock classic. Side one opens with the fantasy infused ‘The Wizard’ (Clarke, Hensley). An ostentatiously glorious track that leads into the intensely earnest ‘Traveller in Time’ (Box, Byron, Kerslake) which has a fervent locked in groove. The exhilarating and spiritous ‘Easy Livin' (Hensley) is probably one of Heep's best known songs and a mainstay of the live set to this day. ‘Poet's Justice’ (Box, Hensley, Kerslake) is a mid-paced rocker with Byron dominating with his expressive vocals. The Hammond heavy ‘Circle of Hands’ (Hensley) is tenaciously opulent. Side two opens with ‘Rainbow Demon’ (Hensley), another of Heep's greatest songs with its herculean Hammond riff insistently undulating with brooding foreboding. The menacing ‘All My Life’ (Box, Byron, Kerslake) shows off Byron’s wild and resplendent vocals before the mellow acoustic ‘Paradise’ (Hensley) segues into the monumental bombast of ‘The Spell’ (Hensley) to close the album.

‘The Magician's Birthday’ was released in November 1972 by Bronze Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. The concept was "based loosely on a short story" written by keyboardist Ken Hensley. The original vinyl release was a gatefold sleeve, the front designed again by Roger Dean. The inner fold had pictures of the band, with the album itself housed in a liner on which were printed the lyrics. The album reached No. 28 on the UK Album Charts. The single ‘Sweet Lorraine’/’Blind Eye’ reached No. 91 in the US Hot 100 chart. The single ‘Spider Woman’ reached No. 14 in Germany. The album was remastered and reissued by Castle Communications in 1996 with two bonus tracks, and again in 2003 in an expanded deluxe edition. In 2017, Sanctuary Records released a two-disc version. The album features David Byron - lead vocals, Mick Box - guitars, Ken Hensley - keyboards, guitars, Moog synthesizer, kazoo, Gary Thain - bass, Lee Kerslake - drums, percussion, and Brian Cole - pedal steel guitar on ‘Tales’. Produced by Gerry Bron, engineered by Peter Gallen and Ashley Howe, and mastered by Gilbert Kong.

Side one opens with the invogorating and stellar ‘Sunrise’ (Hensley), a potent song and another of Heep's best tracks. ‘Spider Woman’ (Box, Byron, Kerslake, Thain) is a short but irresistible chugging boogie. ‘Blind Eye’ (Hensley) is an efficacious track with some fine acoustic guitar strumming and tight rhythms. The sublime ‘Echoes in the Dark’ (Hensley) is entrancing with gloriously trippy guitar work from Box. Side one closes with the beautiful and melancholic piano ballad ‘Rain’ (Hensley). The atmosphere lightens up with the opening track on side two, the rousingly popular crowd pleaser ‘Sweet Lorraine’ (Box, Byron, Thain) before the quaint ‘Tales’ (Hensley) hypnotises with its bewitching atmosphere and seductive elegance. Closing side two is the ten minute Prog Rock epic title track ‘The Magician's Birthday’ (Box, Hensley, Kerslake). An exciting and enrapturing song, with intoxicatingly dramatic twists and turns. One of their finest tracks.

Steven C. Gilbert