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Ken Hensley - Free Spirit CD (album) cover

FREE SPIRIT

Ken Hensley

 

Prog Related

2.59 | 11 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Sweet freedom

Having arguably been the key member of Uriah Heep throughout the 1970's, Ken Hensley decided in 1980 that he had gone as far as he could with the band. Internal battles fuelled by drink, drugs and the trappings of success had taken their toll on all the band members, and Hensley was by no means immune to such issues. Given that he had almost single-handedly carried the band in the song writing department for a decade, he was also understandably showing signs of running low on inspiration (Uriah Heep's "Conquest" was poor), while perhaps holding songs back from the band for his own use.

The title of Ken's third solo album is a clear reference to his departure, and his intention to pursue a solo career. "Free spirit" is his most individual effort to date, with Hensley calling for assistance only in the rhythm department. A variety of guests are used there, including current and former Heep bandmates Trevor Boulder and Mark Clarke plus Ian Paice of Deep Purple and Kenny Jones.

In terms of content, "Free spirit" is a natural successor to "Eager to please", offering a clear distinction between Hensley's solo work his contribution to his now former band. The album opens with its best song, "Inside the mystery". The piece is a fine mix of funk, prog and power ballad written by Hensley's writing partner around the time, Jack Williams. Ken's arrangement and production of the song is superb, bringing out the fine melody well.

"When" is reminiscent of the title track on "Proud words..", with much more of a Uriah Heep feel than most of the material here. The strong beat and falsetto vocals combine with some good old Hammond organ in a great three part composition. The power ballad "No more" reminds me of Lee Kerslake's "Come back to me", although the lyrics here may well be directed towards a work related acquaintance rather than a former lover. Ken adds some appealing lead guitar to another album highlight. "Brown eyed boy" sees Ken going all out for some straight rock and roll, with line such as "So I said what's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like here". Bizarrely, but very effectively, the centre part of the track slows things down for an ah-ah's backed guitar solo rather like that on "The spell".

Overall though, there are a couple too many songs here do which not have the appeal of those on the first two solo albums. Tracks such as "New York", "Woman" and "Do you feel alright" have the taste of someone who is going through the motions without any great effort to challenge themselves.

There is the occasional minor surprise such as "The system", a decidedly fluffy pop song with a simple tune and rather prosaic lyrics. The song should not be taken too seriously, indeed it is good to see Ken having a bit of fun.

Two of the songs, "Telephone" and "New routine" date from 1976. The former is a decidedly average rock song which was probably written with Heep in mind (and may even have been rejected by them). "New routine" is a decent but unremarkable rock song with a Status Quo type rhythm.

The brevity of both the tracks and the album as a whole serve to suggest that Ken's wish to get something out as quickly as possible after leaving Uriah Heep may have clouded his judgement in terms of quality control. There are enough good songs on "Free spirit" to make it most definitely worthy of investigation. It seems to me though that some of these songs could have been developed more fully, while others would probably have been overlooked had time not been a factor.

Incidentally, there was a track called "Free spirit" which was recorded for the album but omitted. It can be heard on the "From time to time" compilation.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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