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Uriah Heep - Uriah Heep CD (album) cover

URIAH HEEP

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

3.51 | 130 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

semismart
Prog Reviewer
4 stars It was June of 1970 and a new English band, with the funny name borrowed from one of the unsavory villains in Dicken's classic novel David Copperfield, came on the scene with their new/old sound. Curiously their music seemed to be dichotomy of complex simplicity. Upon analysis, their seemingly intricate music breaks down into uncomplicated hooks and refrains that present day, so called garage bands could learn a few things from.

Another interesting thing about this album is many Prog Heads (Aficionados of the progressive genre of music)consider this album was the seminal progressive rock/metal recording. Though Uriah Heep's debut is obviously a hard rock/heavy metal masterpiece it has progressive elements which sewed the seeds of the future progressive movement. You say, yes but Pink Floyd was around and recording three years prior to to Heep. True but many feel early Floyd music was more psychedelic than progressive. What's the difference? I don't know but that's just one of the many points of discussion in this most ambiguous of musical genres.

The musical signature of Uriah Heep is unmistakable with a throbbing beat of organ and guitars and the capable vocals David Byron and back up vocals of the entire band and dark songs in an almost spooky vein. Many of the songs like "Gypsy, "Bird of Prey" and "Dreammare", even exude a raw sexuality. Something that has been overlooked through the years is just how good and versatile these musicians were.

"Gypsy" "I was only seventeen I fell in love with a gypsy queen She told me: "Hold on" Her father was the leading man Said: "You're not welcome on our land" And then as a foe, he told me to go"

As simple as "Louie Louie" but with an enormously complicated bridge by master keyboardist Ken Hensley, this six and a half minute mostly medium paced number suddenly stops dead in the middle, then continues its swirling organ and guitar virtuosic cacophony to completion, a true gem.

"Walking in Your Shadow" "I'm walking in your shadow Ever since you went away And the clock on the wall Really hasn't very much to say Oh, you left me bleeding And left me needing you"

Another interesting medium paced song, albeit a bit tamer. "Walking in your Shadow" is another very simple song with in this case, the occasional guitar gingerbread.

"Come Away Melinda" "Daddy, daddy, come and look See what I have found A little ways away from here While digging in the ground

Come away Melinda Come in and close the door It's nothing, just a picture-book They had before the war"

It is a rare ballad that can get my attention and "Come Away Melinda" is indeed rare. The instrumentation is minimal on this ethereal melancholy song by Heep which is simply elegant, simply beautiful and Byron does a simply masterful job on the vocals.

"Bird of Prey" "I can see that look that says beware Try to move in closer if you dare So I will sit and play my waiting game And for a while I know She’ll do the same Oh no!"

This medium fast song gives us our first glimpse of a Heep trademark, the soaring background vocals by the band. As the name and lyrics implies the song has an ominous timbre however the melody and background vocals are quite compelling.

"Dreammare" "Grinning demons, smiling sideways Laughing in my face Here within my troubled sleep There’s such a lonely place Running fast but never moving I can’t get away Strange but realistic objects Making me their prey"

Almost like a bookend to "Bird of Prey" "Dreammare" is every bit as ominous though a bit slower. Again we have have great background vocals a reverberated lead vocal and some great wa wa guitars. My personal favorite.

"Real Turned On" "Girl, before you go now There's one thing I wanted to do That's get you to come back Because I wanna make love to you

Got me real turned on Yes, you have"

For me, this is the least impressive song. "Real Turned On" has a nice medium paced beat but is features a discordant guitar throughout, which I found annoying.

"I'll Keep on Trying" "You came to me With all of your lies And I was taken in so well It took me quite a time To see the disguise"

Another goody! This one has a variable tempo with a typical Heep overpowering guitar and organ bridge and of course the signature choir (bandmembers). This five and a half minute number is another gem.

"Wake Up" "Wake up, set your sights For never shall we fail Stand up for your rights And justice will prevail

You're listening Through endless nights And decision is your goal So wake up, set your sights"

On this six minute plus number, I don't care much for the jazzy beginning but the back half makes up for it with a total change of pace to a pace more like track 3, The ethereal ballad "Come Away Melinda", a great ending. Again Byrons vocals are sublime.

CONCLUSION

Probably nothing new for the period but Uriah Heeps's obvious strength is picking out simple melodies and playing with and strengthening them with superb guitar and keyboard playing. Also as I mentioned the soaring harmonic background vocals by the band helped give the band a hook that many others were lacking.

It is a shame that these strengths which I have listed, other than guitar, with minor exceptions are not evident in most bands of today. If a band has keyboard player, which most don't, his or her role has been diminished and the signature background vocals that Heep utilized with such flair, also seem to be de-emphasized.

Uriah Heep were never really a headline band. Yes they had their die hard fans, still do, but they were never close to the big bands of the day. I even saw them live once in a dance bar format. (attendance probably two hundred) That is too bad, for I always felt their early music was very strong and deserved more attention but then again I feel the same about many bands.

In summary, Uriah Heep's self titled debut was certainly an excellent beginning and the good news is the best was yet to come.

semismart | 4/5 |

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