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Uriah Heep - The Magician's Birthday CD (album) cover


Uriah Heep


Heavy Prog

3.84 | 539 ratings

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4 stars This was my entry album to the Heep in 1973. Before this, I only knew " Easy Livin' " (the single I mean...). Again, we have a fantastic opener : "Sunrise". As usual should I say. Great keys and vocals, powerful and melodious. I guess that this is what the Heep is all about, right ?

"Spider Woman" is a short average rocky song while "Blind Eye" is more structured and has nice accoustic guitar in the background. But the last two tracks don't leave an indelible mark on me. I had the same feeling some thirty-three years ago.

"Echoes in the Dark" is a wonderful and melodious track (yes, I love melodious tunes ...) with a passionate Byron again. A bit opera-rock oriented (like the fantastic "The Spell" on "Demons"). Bass and guitar play (almost Floydian, really) are fantastic. The second highlight of this work.

"Rain" is a mellow, piano-based little tune. Not bad vocal arrangments but not a great song to be honest. One of the weak moments on the album.

"Sweet Lorraine" on the contrary is more in the Heep's tradition : hard-rocking song, catchy chorus and spacey passages. There won't be sufficient moment like this on this album, unfortunately.

"Tales" is a track that could be labelled "prog" on this album. This type of song was already initiated on"Salisbury". Quiet and nice music. Drastically different of what the Heep has delivered so far.

About the closing (and longest) track, my feeling are quite mixed : very good sections for ost of the song but the chorus is frankly boring (Happy Birthday to You ...bla bla bla). The song seems to end around 3'30" or so when a long jamming session starts which is quite unusual on a studio album. It features a wild guitar solo with crazy drumming. Pure hard-rock with no concession during four minutes after which the song returns to a more "normal" mood. This is the highlight of the album, but again the horrible chorus weakens it substantially.

The remastered version features a hell of bonus tracks (but this is a good habit of the Heep). In this case : almost thirty-one additional minutes of music. But are they fillers or valuable pieces of music ?

"Crystal Ball" starts as a heavy song, but has wonderful and sweet passage during the middle section. It should have make this album. It is honestly superior to several original tracks. Next one "Silver White Man" is a pleasant rock song : strong band, heavy background keys. I wouldn't have complained if it had replaced "Rain".

The good surprise of the bonuses keeps on with "Proud Words". This is really a very good track. One of my preferred from this whole album. Sounds a bit like a demo when it starts. It rocks alright and its melody is on par with the best songs featured on the original album. It is very strange that it was not featured, but it has been repaired with this remastering. A fantastic added value. It will be featured on Hensley debut solo album "Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf".

The edited version of "Echoes" is just as nice as the original one (only thirty seconds shorter). "Happy Birthday" is an excerpts of "The Magician's Birthday" (the first part). In terms of edit, we'll get the single version for "Sunrise" : I really wonder why they edited this one. The three minutes format maybe (but the original was just over four, so) ? The good bonuses continue with "Gary's Song". Rocking at times, melodious as well. But that's the essence of the Heep.

My global feeling at that time (and still is) was a bit of a disappointment. I think that the peak of their creative work is behind them. Of course, we will still get the fantastic "Uriah Heep Live" in 1973. The sleeve design from Dean (the second one) is of course superb. My recommendation is of course to get hold of the remastered version (but that'a a general remark valid for each Heep's album available in that format). Bonus really add value. Not only fillers. Four stars (but only three for the original version).

ZowieZiggy | 4/5 |


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