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

THE MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

3.82 | 375 ratings

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Starette
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'm pleased to say...that this album that was released the same year as Demons and Wizards, contains the song that was my VERY FIRST TASTE of prog rock. But more about that later...

Sunrise: The beginning of this certainly sets the atmosphere. Hensley's hammond organ adds a note each time the drums start their slow beat and then we're straight into the characteristic Uriah Heep seventies seemingly-castrated "AAAAH!" s. (For the record, I'm not putting the band down with that expression- I just use it cos I find it amusing.) This starts a up-and-down 'chanting' for the start. Then David Byron sings with his overwhelmingly *gorgeous* perfect masculine voice. "...except the sunrise, the sunrise and YOU." Because this song is so simple but the rockin' power of it makes it GREAT- you want to sing along. Especially at the bridge. Mick really picks up with the guitar by the third verse- totally showing off. The bridge melody repeats a number of times with the word "SUNRISE!" being sung/yelled and again the hammond makes it fantastic.

Spider Woman: This song is another cutie-song (think All My Life from D&W) which is about...well...sex. yes the melody is simple but the beat is a funky one (thanks to Lee the drummer) "Spider Woman. She was good to me. She went DOWN..." ooh- naughty! Again, Mick plays a few fancy riffs throughout the song.

Blind Eye: This is my favourite short song from the album. The drums and guitar play a tune which instantly reminds one of country-and-western style music- but its a complex riff. An electric guitar plays an adrenaline-punping riff over the top of that and Byron sings. With passion. "I ran to a place.."- here the chord-progression changes to a major key (a 'happier' tone) and then back to the starting riff. It certainly adds a nice touch. At the end= the starting riff repeats plenty of times and fades out. Byrons last words are "So what of my leaving? I'm a man- anyway. I'm a man anyway." Yes- we KNOW you're man!! Gah...this is a recurring lyric in Byron-era Uriah Heep and it completely evades me. Singing to confirm that they're men. I *would* say: "if you're afraid of loosing your testosterone then perhaps you ought to stop singing so high" but I won't say that. Because I think the high-up seventies singing is completely sexy. :)

Echoes in the Dark: Banging, scary, spooky start with the drums, piano and guitar- this riff repeats till the electric guitar picks up with its main riff. Seems like its for a B-grade horror film. For children that is. Then Ken pays the piano alone while Byron sings sweetly over the top. The synth backs him up a bit later. Mind you- the melody is actually quite beautiful and the lyrics are melancholy and almost tragic. But I'm not going to go all depressing on you. In the second verse, Byron's voice grows stronger. And then a Change: "Though I'd love to...say "hello" to you..you might have to wait a while to say "goodbye"." The mellotron and other voices sing in the background. Then back to the riff- which is expemplified with the drums start crashing to the last verse- which is the most passionate. The last lyrics are "a friend!" and this repeats for the apocalyptic ending.

Rain: This is very sweet. :) It's just a piano (ooh ooh! I know how to play some of it! *jumps up and down like the little girl that I am*) and some echoing effects and Byron's lovely voice. It's not a hard piece to play- believe me. The piano is a simple chordal backup for his voice. And the melody may be simple, but its the way it's done that makes it wonderful. (That seems to be the story for all of this album doesn't it.) "Away from your days and iiiinto mine..." it sounds as if he's crying but he giggles before "It's kind of a shame.." Still he sounds like he's emotionally involved. Intensely. "Rain rain Rain- through my tears."

Sweet Lorraine: At the time that I am writing this review- I am working in a property management firm and one of the people I work with is a dear little good-natured English lady called Lorraine. And I can't help but think of this song when I thank her for something! Thats rather silly isn't it. Yet another cutie song but no wonder-it's about a woman. (Is it about sex again? That can be debated.) The mellotron (or is it a moog?) makes a great start and features before each verse. Apart from that, the guitars, with fancy distortions, feature along with drums and the hammon organ. "SO!...Sweet Lorraine let the party carry on!" At the bridge- the synth plays an ear-ripping solo. I have to admit that, despite the sad melody, the tone of the instrument is such that it is unpleasant to hear! :/ But then the chorus repeats and we're all a happy family again. :)

Tales: This is another one of the first U.H songs I ever heard. It reminds me, kind of, of cowboys sitting round a campfire in the desert. Echoing electric guitars, country-song style, start for Byron's singing. Not a sad melody- but a mysterious one. Especially the riff after the drums pick up. In a way- you could say this is another version of 'The Wizard' from D&W. A weirder version. Seems a bit preachy actually. "And if you ask then you will know..." and that the Byron even does a slight man-grunt on the note of "before!" How nicely-surprising is that. :)

The Magician's Birthday: Note to the world= THIS IS THE FIRST PROG ROCK SONG I EVER HEARD!!! :D Hence why it's completely close to my heart. In 2005, a friend gave me a mix of prog rock and this was the first track on it. Please consider the fact that I had no idea what prog was or when this music was played. The guitar riff at the start with the banging drums made me think "Is this 80s?" After the riff develops to arpeggios going downa dn drums start smashing, I then thought "70s?" Then after David sang "In the magic garden some were singing, some were dancing" I immediately thought "Well this is far far too CUTE. 60s?" The melody constantly changes and you can tell Byron loves it. Now comes the legendary guitar solo. Watch Micks fingers dance over the frets! This is PURE rock n' roll!- ROCK the way it SHOULD be!! And then it just gets silly in an adorable way. Hehe- whistle. Happy birthday...to you. Happy Birthday...to you." and the piano thumps away. Very comical. Then the strings on the piano strum slowly. "The fire died, the music faded. Filled with fear of DEATH we waiting, for now we knew some evil was to playyyy..." yep- this song tells a story. The synth plays a spooky ditty before the electric guitar crashes down on us again in all its sexy glory! Words cannot explain the AWESOMENESS with which this solo is played! Backed up by a very fast drum improvisation. This guitar shows off with plenty of distortions. Again and again the synth threatens to enter back into it but no- the guitar dominates everything. Sure there's no melody- but this improvisation is VERY impressive musicianship. Then it melts into a different song: "I challenge you- I challenge you all..." with a jumpy- thumping guitar and hammon organ. Duet! Byron and Hensley sing together- bit by bit. 'But one thing you can't see- the answer is simply an impenetrable fortress of LOVE!" The while bands sings on this last word for a long time. But that's still not the end... The chords change and go up high suddenly: "The fear went as quickly as it came." Characteristic falsetto of Uriah Heep again. "Love will find love will find Love!" ...and the track fades out. :) This is a masterpiece! And it marks a historical turning point in my music taste.

The psychedelic album cover can also be talked about. The friend who got me into prog had the chance to paint the cover on his wall. Dunno if he has yet. The songs here are so fun! Some of the melodies are simple but always impressive. Full of energy. Rock n' Proggy roll.

Starette | 4/5 |

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