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Uriah Heep - Firefly CD (album) cover


Uriah Heep


Heavy Prog

3.55 | 290 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Although still very popular throughout Central and Eastern Europe(especially, for some reason, in the Balkans) and with a large(ish) following in the USA, Uriah Heep have very much been a cult item in their British homeland ever since punk rock came along and pretty much ruined everything. However, during the early part of the 1970s they were actually quite a big deal, issuing some excellent progressive-themed albums('Demons & Wizards', 'Salisbury', 'Look At Yourself', 'The Magicians Birthday') and enjoying brief chart success with this more polished mainstream rock effort from 1976, an album that reached the lofty heights of no.13 on the UK album charts and in the process probably giving the group a collective nosebleed. A hard-working and highly prolific outfit('Firefly' would be their tenth studio release in six years) Uriah Heep had always straddled the chasm between earthy hard-rock and colourful prog, their sound doused in metallic riffs, meaty organs and David Byron's semi-Operatic vocals. With Byron's departure, however, the group could focus on producing more radio-friendly rock, new lead singer John Lawton owning a deeper, more muscular tone. With Lawton backed by most of the group's 'classic' line-up of Mick Box(guitar), Ken Hensley(keyboards), Lee Kerslake(drums) and Trevor Bolder(bass; replacing heroin-addled Kiwi Gary Thain) 'Firefly' was the sound of Uriah Heep with one eye firmly focused on the lucrative American market, the progressive flourishes and fantasy themes of their earlier material replaced by hip-grinding rhythms, thick riffs and shorter, more concise songwriting. Tracks such as the surprisingly catchy opener 'The Hanging Tree' and the galloping title-track emphasize this fresh new approach with slick production values, bouncy melodies and Lawton's direct delivery in stark opposition to the ambitious song-suites found on the orchestra-augmented 1972 'Salisbury' and it's progressive brethren. After initial listens It's easy to see why the album sold so well, carrying as it does a populist, everyman streak designed to appeal to a wide rock audience, though in truth much of 'Firefly' simply fades from memory pretty quickly. Most damningly of all, It's actually pretty difficult to distinguish much of the material on offer here from the rest of their post-progressive output, and whilst occasional nuggets such as 'The Hanging Tree' showcase a rare deft touch, the bulk of 'Firefly' contains precious little beyond the simplistic rhythms and repetitive lyrics. A disposable, progressive-lite offering, 'Firefly' features an overtly-commercial tone that has more in common with American AOR than it does with British prog. By no means dreadful then, yet there are many better Uriah Heep albums to be enjoyed. If it's anthemic hard-rock you're after, try the likes of Journey, Foreigner or Styx instead, groups who cleverly blended fist-pumping rock and arty ingredients and epitomized exactly what it was Uriah Heep were hoping to become.


stefro | 2/5 |


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