BMG are set to release British hard rocker’s Uriah Heep’s seventh studio album ‘Wonderworld’ as a limited edition vinyl picture disc this Friday 26th May 2023, the seventh in a series of vinyl picture discs to mark fifty years of the band’s existence.
‘Wonderworld’ was originally released in June 1974 by Bronze Records in the UK, reaching twenty-three in the UK Album charts, and Warner Bros. Records in the US, where it reached thirty-eight in the US Billboard charts. The album was re-mastered and reissued by Castle Communications in 1996 with four bonus tracks, and again in 2004 in an expanded deluxe edition.
‘Wonderworld’ was recorded in Munich's Musicland Studios, their first to be recorded abroad. Produced by Gerry Bron, engineered by Peter Gallen and Hans Menzel Macki, with the album’s cover concept and photography by Graham Hughes. This album was the last to feature the classic lineup of David Byron - vocals, Mick Box - guitars, Ken Hensley - keyboards, guitars, backing vocals, Lee Kerslake - drums, percussion, backing vocals and Gary Thain - bass guitar. Sadly, Thain died of a heroin overdose in December 1975, exactly one year after he was fired from the band.
This album follows a similar pattern as their previous album, ‘Sweet Freedom’, in that it explores a more commercial sound, but retaining some of the grandiose trademark elements that they were known for such as heavy organ, wah-wah drenched guitar solos and David Byron’s operatic vocal approach.
Side one opens with the Hensley penned title track ‘Wonderworld’. Infectiously sci-fi sounding keyboard squelches dominate. The track moves through various moods, rising and dipping in tempo with superfluously dramatic vocals from Byron adding the glue that keeps it all together.
Second track in, ‘Suicidal Man’, was written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain, and is a heavy guitar riffing juggernaut with entrancingly wicked Hammond organ stabs. Byron emotes the lyrics in his own uniquely inimitable way. Some tasty guitar soloing from Box adds gravitas.
The Hensley penned ‘The Shadows and the Wind’ comes in at number three with a slow mellow start and delicate keyboard flourishes to the fore. The track builds to a steady four-on-the-floor plod. Lots of “la la las” filling in for lyrics towards the end!
‘So Tired’ written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain is a full throttle rocker with some compellingly busy Hammond organ phrasing, commanding the space. Byron's expressively agile vocals carry the song along nicely. Some cool bass work from Thain and piercingly acute guitar from Box peppers the cacophony.
Hensley's ‘The Easy Road’ concludes side one. A pleasantly drifting ballad, with a delicate piano and sweeping string intro. Congenially seraphic vocals from Byron, gives the track character. More “la la las” padding out the lyrics on this one!
Side two opens with the high octane, ‘Something or Nothing’, written by Box, Hensley and Thain. An insistently steady beat holds the whole racket together. Sounding a bit like The Sweet here. Doesn't really go anywhere though and is a bit underwhelming overall.
‘I Won't Mind’, written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain, is a slow groove laden track with some tasty slide guitar from Box and blissfully elysian vocals from Byron. An intensely adept guitar solo from Box gives the tune added character and charm.
‘We Got We’, written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain, enters with insistent swagger. Harmony vocals wash over, before Byron's histrionic vocals dominate proceedings. Consummate guitar from Box weaves and pulsates giving the track distinction. Once again a lot of “la la las” in the lyrics towards the tracks conclusion, which, to me, are not really necessary!
‘Dreams’ written by Box, Byron and Hensley concludes side two. Another discernibly, dramatic slice of Heep here. Byron's remarkably emotive vocals gives the track intriguing layers of delectation with Box's strikingly unusual guitar interplay being gratifyingly inventive.
Steven C. Gilbert.