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Uriah Heep - Live in Moscow CD (album) cover

LIVE IN MOSCOW

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

3.10 | 27 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Easy livin', Russian style

Uriah Heep were the first western rock band to perform live in Russia. There had been previous visits by pop artists such as Billy Joel, and Cliff Richard (the great Sir Clifford, for it is he), but not by a rock band.

The band undertook a series of gigs in December 1987 in the Olympiskij Stadium in Moscow playing to 180,000 people over 10 consecutive nights. The gigs came about as "July Morning" had somehow found success in the USSR in the late 1970's. Consequently, with the changing attitudes in that country, Uriah Heep were invited to perform there. "Live in Moscow", the band's third official live album, is a fine record of those concerts.

Since the recording of their "Equator" album, Trevor Boulder had returned to the fold on bass. Bernie Shaw (vocals, ex-Grand Prix, Praying Mantis, Stratus) and Phil Lanzon (keyboards, ex-Grand Prix, Sad Café and Sweet!) had also joined, and thus completed what has gone on to become the most stable line up of this notoriously turbulent band.

The gigs, and indeed this album, came at a rather awkward time for the band since, apart from the line up changes, they had just signed to a new record label. This meant that their first release for Legacy records was to be a live album. They hastily came up with three new songs 'Mr Majestic' (perhaps with Phil singing?!), 'Corina' and 'Pacific Highway', which were included in the concert set list. The band themselves recognise that these are by no means Uriah Heep classics, and there is little doubt that they are the weak points of the album. Those tracks offered little indication of how well this line up would gel together in both song writing and performance terms. What they did do though was offer the reassurance that the band was writing again, with a view to recording new studio material.

The set list otherwise comprises of a mixture of songs from the Byron era and from their then more recent albums. The older tracks are favourites such as "Stealin'", "Easy livin'", "July morning" and "The wizard". It is also good to see a relatively rare airing of the opening track from "Salisbury", "Bird of prey". This song opens the album, offering Shaw the opportunity to exercise his full vocal range, and giving Lanzon the chance to come up with some symphonic keyboard sounds. The performances are pretty much faithful to the original recordings, or at least to the live versions which had developed over the years since their release. The walls of sound, swathes of keyboards, and Box's distinctive wah-wah guitar solos all have a reassuringly familiar presence. It was however the voice of Bernie Shaw which was guaranteed to leave a lump in the throat of every long term fan of the band. Here at last was someone who, while by no means imitating Byron, could sing the best songs from the Byron era in a way they had not been heard since the ultimately tragic Byron moved on to the "other world".

Elsewhere the segued "Wizard/July morning" sounds eerily familiar, being a nearly identical repetition of the "Live 1973" performance. This is immediately followed by the superb song named after myself, "Easy Livin"!

The highlight of the set is undoubtedly the "extra" track, "Gypsy". After the classic riff is belted out in the usual way for the initial verses and choruses, the music is brought to an abrupt halt. At this point, Phil Lanzon goes into one of his finest ever solo spots. He moves his keyboards through classical and operatic sounds, in a virtuoso performance which clearly has the crowd enthralled. The message here was loud and clear. This new line up has the confidence, indeed the audacity, to take the band's signature track and stamp their own identity upon it in no uncertain terms. With this one track, fans of the band received the reassurance they so desperately sought, that the spirit of Uriah Heep was very much alive and indeed thriving.

A fine live album.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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