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Uriah Heep - Demons and Wizards CD (album) cover

DEMONS AND WIZARDS

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

4.07 | 798 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars 1972 was a great year for Uriah Heep as it saw the release of their two best albums they would create in the many years that the band has been active. "Demons and Wizards" was one of those two albums. Yet with all of it's popularity and love that it receives from progressive music lovers, it took a long time for me to finally get it. I have always been a lover of the other 1972 album "The Magician's Birthday", but often failed to be as enthusiastic about "Demons and Wizards" until just recently, when I started exploring the band again. With these two great albums, I have never understood why the band would soon move to a more pop/hard rock type of sound, but that is what would happen as they moved away from these two albums.

So, Demons and Wizards features the classically known line-up of the band, the one that is the most loved of the fans. Of course, there is Mick Box, the only constant member and lead guitarist through the years. At this time, David Byron was providing the lead vocals, and would until about 1977, and these two created that classic sound. Most of the bass was done by Gary Thain, except for two tracks where it was performed by Mark Clarke, the only tracks to be performed by him as a member of the band, while Gary would remain with the band until 1974 to be replaced by John Wetton. Lee Kerslake was the drummer, and, except for a short break between 1980-82, would be until 2007. Original member Ken Hensley would play everything else, especially all the keys, which at the first and best years of the band, were probably the most important instrument as the band was notoriously keyboard heavy with many synth and organ solos. Ken would remain with the band until 1980.

This classic lineup was responsible for the bands two most important albums, and also for the sound the band is most famous for, the blues based, fantasy inspired, keyboard heavy music that most everyone is familiar with. Demons and Wizards is one of the albums that spotlight this sound the best, and is one of their most popular albums. The music isn't heavy on it's progressive style, meaning that the meters are fairly standard and constant through each individual piece. The thing that makes them considered progressive is more in their choice of lyrical content and their concepts. I usually compare their music to that of Deep Purple and Rare Earth, soulful, with a heavy leaning towards blues-based music, heavy on organs and synths, some tracks with extensive jamming, and just a touch of psychedelic flavor, yet also quite heavy. That is the overall case with this album also. The main thing that separates this from "The Magician's Birthday" is that the songs are a bit less emotional, yet they are more high-energy and upbeat, more rock-oriented yet less pensive and personal.

The album starts off with "The Wizard" which is actually sung by the short-term bassist Mark Clarke. It is also composed by him and Ken. The track is not necessarily the best opening track, though it is an okay song, it doesn't really have the energy or upbeat attitude of the rest of the album and isn't really developed that well. It was released as a single, yet it is a song that is unremarkable and not memorable. "Traveller in Time" however, is the polar opposite of that, bringing in the high energy that will last throughout the rest of the album, especially on the more accessible first side. It is a bit more progressive sounding and brings the band in full force. "Easy Livin'" was the band's most successful and recognizable single, the 2nd released from the album and their only one to break the American Top 40. The melody is simple and has that arena rock style that invites the crowd to sing along to.

From here on out, the album continues with high energy rock, dowsed with some excellent keyboard solos and sprinkled with great guitar work. The real standouts on the album are "Poet's Justice", "Circle of Hands" and "The Spell" which reach masterpiece status, and actually help carry the album. Even the weaker tracks like "Rainbow Demon", "All My Life" (which could have been a single too), and "Paradise" still have enough energy to make them relevant.

Strangely enough, one of the outtakes that later appeared on the 1996 remastered edition and the 2003 expanded deluxe edition is probably the best track from those sessions that created this album. Why it wasn't originally included on this album is a puzzle because it is one of the strongest. That track is simply called "Why", and the best version of it is on the 2003 edition since it is in an extended 10 minute version. This version has one of the best jamming tracks recorded in studio by the band, that will definitely conjure up memories of some of the best blues-based rock jams from Rare Earth and early Grand Funk Railroad. It also showcases that talent of the band, and can give you an idea of what their live show jams were like. This 2003 expanded edition is the best of the re-releases of the album. It also includes and unnecessary single edit of "Rainbow Demon", but also has a decent outtake called "Proud Words on a Dust Shelf" that unfortunately repeats itself too much, but also the excellent track "Home Again to You" which also should have been included on the main album as it is better than some of the weaker tracks. "Green Eye" is another demo, but it sounds a bit unpolished and unfinished, not quite as interesting. However, overall, this expanded edition is worth it and with the two excellent tracks, actually elevate the album to a 4 star affair.

Demons and Wizards is a great album that I finally appreciate, however, I still don't consider it quite as good as The Magician's Birthday, I at least finally appreciate it for what it is. There are some great tracks here and show the band at it's best.

TCat | 4/5 |

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