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Ken Hensley - Eager To Please CD (album) cover

EAGER TO PLEASE

Ken Hensley

 

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3.09 | 21 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars (Relief from the) Blood, Sweat and Tears

It took Ken Hensley over 2 years to record a follow up solo album to the 1973 release "Proud words on a dusty shelf". During that period, while Uriah Heep continued to enjoy global success, internally they were in turmoil with each band member having his own demons to conquer. Animosity and jealously were rife within the band, fuelled in part by Hensley's domination of the songwriting credits and the consequent discrepancies between the royalty monies earned by the band members. This album, which was released in 1975, fits in around the time of "Return to fantasy" when Gary Thain (who appeared on Hensley's first album) was fired, and John Wetton joined the band.

Hensley was by no means immune to the challenges of stardom, and has subsequently admitted that he made many mistakes along the way himself. Nevertheless, his prolific songwriting continued undiminished, and he had amassed a further catalogue of unused material by the time he came to planning this album. The fact that "Eager to please" includes two songs written or co-written by Hensley's friend and fellow musician Mark Clarke should not be taken as any indication that Hensley was short of material himself. What is significant though is that while Hensley uses a small band of guest musicians, no other members of Uriah Heep appear anywhere on the album.

There is, it seems to me, a fundamental difference between this album and "Proud words.." Ken's first album was very obviously a collection of songs written with Uriah Heep in mind, and the results were naturally an album which sounded like Uriah Heep. The songs on "Eager to please" appear to have been written with a project other than Uriah Heep in mind, resulting in an album which quite different to anything we have heard previously from Hensley. The opening title track certainly has a heavy beat and wailing guitar, but the songs structure is excitingly different.

It is though the second track "Stargazer" (not the Blackmore/Dio song) which catches my imagination. This is the first solo track by Hensley not written by him, one time Heep member Mark Clarke co-writing the song with Susie Bottomley. This superbly ambitious song features a full brass section playing in the Blood Sweat and Tears style. It is quite magnificent, and quite different to anything we would previously have associated with Hensley. All credit must go to Ken for the fine arrangement, which transforms the song from the decent but ordinary version we can hear on Tempest's second album (Clarke was a member of Tempest). It has been suggested that the main riff of the song was picked up by led Zeppelin for "Trampled underfoot".

The four remaining songs on the first side retain a largely reflective mood, with the power ballad "Through the eyes of a child" being one of Ken's most emotive songs. "Part three" is a superbly ambitious three part song (hence the title?) which pieces together three apparently unrelated min-songs in a magnificent trilogy in under 4 minutes.

The second side does not quite have the strength of the first, but nonetheless it contains some fine material. "Winter or summer" is similar to the title track without the killer touch, while the three tracks which sit between the bookends are decent but unremarkable Hensley fare. The third of these, "In the morning" sees Ken not only handing over songwriting duties to Mark Clarke again, but this time letting his sing lead vocal too. The closing "How shall I know" returns us to the power ballad with another uplifting song which benefits from a superb arrangement.

In all, a fine second solo album from Hensley which finds him making a conscious effort to differentiate his solo career from his key position in Uriah Heep. Fans of the band may be a little puzzled by what they hear here, but the album should have brought Ken to a much wider audience.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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