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Uriah Heep - Salisbury CD (album) cover

SALISBURY

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

4.19 | 824 ratings

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Vibrationbaby
5 stars An Unlikely Command Performance Of Progressive Rock

Given the choice of Uriah Heep records to bring along for an extended sojourn to a desert island most connoiseurs would invariably choose either the mystical Demons and Wizards or the enchanting Magaician's Birthday adorned in all their splendour with glorious artwork from artiste extraordinaire Roger Dean. Meanwhile I would take this gem, their second recording from the autumn of 1970, on my tropical furlough.

If you lived in the UK in early 1971 and bought Uriah Heep's new album, Salisbury, you would be confronted by an angry British Army Chieftain main battle tank emerging from an orange haze with the words Uriah Heep Salisbury lovingly written in hippie lettering on back of the gatefold cover. On the other hand if you happened to live on the other side of the Atlantic you would exposed to an etching of an LSD anatomy experiment gone horribly wrong resulting in some sort of horrific man/frog/bat mutation with the words URIAH HEEP/SALISBURY splotched on in grey paint on the upper left hand side of the cover. This throwback hippie art even confused the band in an era when record companies and artists were separated by vast chasms between artistic endeavours and corporate intentions. Both cover concepts could be construed as anti-war statements as the flower power movement was still in bloom, suggesting the long haired freaky music that awaited on the grooves of the enclosed vinyl disc. The British audiences would have probably no difficulty in discerning a possible anti-war theme as Salisbury Plain is a rather well known live firing area used by the British Army which occupies roughly 100,000 acres of the Wiltshire countryside which has oddly enough also become a tourist attraction of sorts. Perhaps in order not to confuse North American audiences more than necessary an executive decision was taken to change the cover to the demented etching. Even though there is much more to be read into the latter cover, kids buying the album on both sides of the pond were hoodwinked into thinking that this was going to be another album of unpredecented heaviness and ant-war sentiments.

Fortunately, the music speaks for itself and although there is an underlying heavy aspect which was established on the band's debut album Very 'Eavy Very 'Umble and any delusions that one might have divested from the ambiguous album art are quickly dispelled. In actuality the album unfolds into a collection of fantasial love songs with the exception of two tracks with darker motifs that have nothing to do with any peace movement or the doom and gloom heavines of bands like Black Sabbath or Black Widow which were beginning to surface in the UK at the time. The work is exquisitely coloured with spacious wordless harmonies, folky acoustic guitars, stately harpsichord accompaniements and tight jazzy instrumental passages contrasted with some mean guitar freaking by Mick Box. The depth achieved on this work could be attributed in large to multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ken Hensley's increased involvement in the composing department. He could also play keys and guitar as well as singing both harmony and lead vocal parts which gave Uriah Heep another dimension on this second album.

For sake of clarity I used the superb 2004 CD re-issue from the Sanctuary Records Group which faithfully reproduces both album covers in their entirety, albeit in reduced form including enlarged original liner notes by Ken Hensley and the inner sleeve of the original UK vinyl edition which features yet another menacing tank.

This re-issue adheres to the running sequence of the UK edition which, besides the cover, differs from it's North American counterpart in that a UK B side is substituted on the American and Canadian albums for the opening track Bird Of Prey which had previously been released in North America on the debut, Very 'Eavy Very 'Umble. The striking feature of this opening track are David Byron's multi-octave vocals, screams and harmonizations which pre-date later stratospheric vovalizations by the likes of Rob Halford of Judas Priest as well as Ian Gillian's braying with Deep Purple. Byron and Hensley extend themselves creating lofty harmonies throughout the work and integrate their voices more like instruments which is most apparent on the second track, The Park, which is a ballad built around a Harpsichord backdrop that also manages to incorporate some jazzy passages as well. Bitter tones prevail on the heavier Time To Live which tells a story of a convict who is just released from prison who has no regrets which suggests that his crime was perhaps one of passion.

The final track on side one is perchance one of the best loved and oft played Uriah Heep songs of all time which won a German music award in 1977 and has been covered by numerous bands in several languages. An acoustic guitar led folky song, the imaginary poetic lyrics were concieved by Hensley after witnessing a wintry ethereal image of a woman walking down a lane in real life. With a catchy wordless chorus the song, which is often used as a concert opener to this day, almost always turns into an audience singalong. If anything the album should have been named after this track with provocative artwork depicting the evocative imagery conveyed therein instead of a main battle tank or a cheap ripoff of symbolist painter Gustav Klimt on a bad acid trip. Que sera, that was the nature of the beast of the music business in the heady days of the early seventies when album covers that actually depicted the likeness of the artists were on the wane. High Priestess which begins side 2 captures a similar mood but in a heavier way and more upbeat.

The origin of the title of the superb title track, a 16 minute long love-suite complete with a 24 piece Woodwind/brass orchestral ensemble has something to do with a gig the band performed in the town of Salisbury where the band's fans helped them out of a sticky situation helping them move their equipment when things turned nasty with the venue's management. Lyrically it seems to be an exrension of Lady In Black and more of a musical experiment in large scale composing than anything. It succeded where others were doomed to catastrophe such as Deep Purple's Concerto for Group & Orchestra by virtue of bringing in an outside arranger who appreciated the dynamics of a rock band. The result here could be considered a rationalization of all the ingredients found on the previous shorter tracks that just flows marvelously with orchestral accents ( which were mostly added after the individual musicians themselves had laid down their tracks ) allowing the band to carry the brunt of the piece with Byron and Hensley's spacious vocal harmonies , guitarist Mick Box's masterful wah wahed out guitar inserts and metrical bass lines by Paul Newton carrying the piece with outstanding forward momentum. Brilliantly executed and not as ostenatious as other rock bands' forays with orchestral ensembles , the band probably didn't even realize what they had stumbled into at the time as it was never played live in it's entirety although parts of it could be seen as foreshadows of layered material which would appear on subsequent albums such as Demons and Wizards an The Magaician's Birthday.

With an original running time of a mere 38 minutes, seven bonus tracks are available on the Sanctuary CD re-issue which are not just thrown on to fill up time. Versions of Lady In Black, High Priestess, The Park and Time To Live are hauled out of the vaults and are actually better in many respects to the originals particularily the more fluid rendition of Lady In Black. A cut down edit of the title track with Box's guitar sections is also presented along with a gem that time forgot a dreamy piece entitled Here Am I that for some weird reason was omitted from both the North American and UK pressings. To make everything complete the UK B side, a depressing number with bluesy piano cadences that was substituted on the US release in place of Bird Of Prey, is included.

A timeles early seventies jewel from a band who fell victim to many a music critic for blowing everything out of proportion, ironically come through here with one of the more tasteful, balanced and well executed prog rock albums of that period save for the bamboozling cover art.

Vibrationbaby | 5/5 |

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