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Ken Hensley - Blood On The Highway CD (album) cover

BLOOD ON THE HIGHWAY

Ken Hensley

 

Prog Related

3.54 | 19 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I remember

Sub-titled "When too many dreams come true", "Blood on the highway" is the musical autobiography of Ken Hensley in his role of keyboard player, second guitarist, second vocalist, and principle songwriter with Uriah Heep. Often written very literally, the album is paradoxically intensely personal, while generously sharing the performance duties more than on any other solo Hensley album. It seems that this time around, Ken wanted to ensure that the album quality would not be compromised through him trying to do everything himself. Consequently we have a succession of gifted vocalists, including Glenn Hughes, Jorn Lande, Eve Gallagher and former Uriah Heep lead singer John Lawton. Instrumentally, while Ken's multiple talents are well utilised, a fine array of guest musicians appear throughout.

It would have been tempting for Hensley to simply try to make another Uriah Heep album, and tracks such as "You've Got It (The American Dream)", which covers the band's rapid success in the US, and "Okay (This House Is Down)" certainly feel like Heep songs. There is though a fine diversity to the music which, while generally upbeat, explores a diversity of styles, with fine melodies being the common denominator.

At times, Hensley delves into his own songbook, borrowing themes from songs such as "July Morning" and "Free me" (both on " We're On Our Way"), but such indulgences are done with admirable subtlety, complementing rather than forming the main melody. The main lead guitar refrain in "It Won't Last" sounds similar to that on the fine "Come back to me", a song Ken co-wrote with Lee Kerslake, both being sung by John Lawton.

Personal favourites include the superb opening song "(This Is) Just The Beginning", and the prog leaning "The Last Dance (El Gitano Viejo)", a track which first appeared on Hensley's 2003 album of that name. Eve Gallagher's fine vocals on "It Won't Last", a song which I took to pay tribute to the late David Byron, are Tina Turner like.

"There comes a time" is a first rate Hensley ballad, complete with sax and ah-ah vocals. "I did it all" is touchingly reminiscent of David Byron's "I remember", where Byron also reflected on his time in the band. Here, "I did it all" is a wonderful ballad with orchestration and one of Hensley's finest vocal performances. Poignantly, the song ends with the lyric "I did it all, and now at last I'm doing fine".

The version of "The last dance" here is different to that on the album of that name, with Glenn Hughes taking over lead vocal. This epic piece features a slide guitar solo similar to that on "The spell" before building to its mighty crescendo.

Overall, a remarkable album from one of rock's genuine talents. Hensley has been through a lot in his life, often as he readily admits of his own making. He is though a survivor who has come to terms with his past. This rites of passage lays out the story of his time in one of the world's great bands, telling the story with admirable frankness. The fact that he does so through a bunch of songs which are melodically excellent, and musically rewarding results in an album of great courage and credibility. It's also a damn good listen.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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