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

THE MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

3.83 | 395 ratings

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Gustavo Froes
3 stars Roger Dean beautifully disguises the ganance of record companies with such a cover...

I'm afraid Uriah Heep is a band which will never leave the shadow of the holy trinity of hard rock(Purple,Sabbath and Zeppelin),for me personally.While there best albums are in all great,highly satisfatory heavy rock,the band didn't quite age as well as it's closest relatives,the fathers of rock music as we know it today(though it wouldn't be fair not to mention Cream and the Experience as well).Dated is probaly the word.Sometimes they just sound too generic if compared to constantly refreshing albums from the aforementioned bands in the early 70's such as Led Zep IV or Master of Reality.I'm convinced that Heep will please mostly those who are just arriving to this specific scene:ultimately less demanding listeners,willing to accept consistent and memorable rock music despite of it's relevance or originality.

Magician's Birthday is an album that clearly spots that weakness to my ears.if compared to it's predecessor,these recording presents a much lower level of quality in compositions,even if what is heard as an end result is still good rock and roll.The prog approach of Demons and Wizards is kept here,but unfortunately contribuites to a dreadfull feeling of generic music from time to time.So,what exactly is wrong?There are two main problems I guess:first,Uriah Heep was never a band of virtuosos in the league of Yes or Deep Purple(and references to the former now and then oftenly pass the equally awafull impression that this band is a lower product).So being,their attempts to make vast,ambitious,progressive music was somehow spoiled by an often incoherence,wich leads to the second issue:the omnipresent,killer pression by the record company to make another blockbuster as quick as possible simply ruined everything.Would John Mclaughin be able to dodge that?Arguably.Mick Box and Ken Hensley sadly couldn't,and to think that this album could have been developed into a much more sofisticated and perfect work had it came to life in a natural way is really a shame(and the band has always been the first to aknowledge that).

I don't want to pass the wrong impression that this is a bad album by any means.Now that issues have been numbered,I'll make way to a great collection of hard rock(with hints of prog)numbers,with highlights as well as letdowns.In it's own therms,Sunrise is a great opener where David Byron truly shines with an excellent leading vocal performance(even if the lyrics are quite sub-par),in contrast with a heavy instrumental wall and classic Heep backing vocals all around,forging a very strong and memorable melody. There's also space for priceless old-fashioned and admittedly simplistic rock and roll,Spider Woman of course.Some may claim it as a waste of space on record and a complete filler,but really it's just a harmless song to wich you'll find yourself singing along from time to time.All in all,that is quite the uncompromising mood of the album until it's last minutes.

The centerpiece,which should have been further developed had the album been worked upon for a longer period,is the title and final track,lasting ten minutes with clear prog structures.Indeed it's the strongest moment of the album,and kind of pass the impression that is the only piece of true interest here.That's probably because it's dense,slightly complex and dark mood is the complete opposite of what has been heard so far.The Magician's Birthday is a very good epic,and probably the only song in the album which survived the pass of time in the band's repertoire.

If you're somehow unaware of what was happening in the musical scene by that time (particulary with English bands),this album may have a special place in your heart in years to come,as a passionate introduction to the sheer brilliance of .the early 70's hard rock's best.To seasoned years however,the best to do here is try to enjoy an uncompromising but ultimately satisfatory prog-related album.

Gustavo Froes | 3/5 |

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