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Uriah Heep - Acoustically Driven (DVD) CD (album) cover


Uriah Heep

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Like you've never heard them before

In December 2000, Uriah Heep switched off the power, and for one night only became an acoustic combo. Per Neil Young's unplugged, the Hammond organ (such an integral part of Uriah Heep's sound) was retained, but even then piano also features heavily. Given their reputation built up over many years as one of the loudest bands on tour, this was a brave, but ultimately inspired move.

The band members were joined on stage by a string quartet, a female backing trio, and a few other "surprises". Mick Box plays acoustic guitar throughout, and Trevor Boulder acoustic bass. The set list comprises of a wonderful cross section of tracks ranging from "Lady in black" ("Salisbury") through to "The golden palace" ("Sonic origami"). I have to say that the results are nothing short of SENSATIONAL.

I must admit, I had some reservations about whether this was a wise move by the band, but as with Yes touring with a full orchestra, I am delighted to say my concerns were totally unfounded. The tracks are generally from the softer end of the Uriah Heep spectrum, and for those who have only come across the band briefly, there are a surprisingly large number of such songs. Vocalist Bernie Shaw is the prime beneficiary of the softer sound, his immense vocal talents shining brightly throughout. Early songs like "Why did you go", "Wonderworld", and "Echoes in the dark" are all dusted down for the first time in years. While they are instantly recognisable, being faithful to Ken Hensley's writing, at the same time they sound completely refreshed and new.

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson joins the band for two songs, adding his distinctive flute to them, one of the many highlights of the show. As well as adding a wonderful vocal accompaniment, the three female backing singers also bring some welcome glamour to the occasion. One of the three, Kim Chandler, also proves to be a superb flautist, especially on "The easy road" and "The Golden Palace". The latter is one of the band's newest songs It is surprising how well these sit alongside the classics, far more so perhaps than at their "electric" gigs. Throughout the string quartet, while seldom to the fore, lay a wonderful carpet of sound for the band to build upon.

I must admit I went through many emotions listening to and watching this DVD. To hear many of my old favourites transformed by these interpretations was simply wonderful. The most emotional moment however was saved for last. I will admit to at least a lump in the throat, when the uillean pipes took the main theme on "Circle of hands". Uriah Heep and uillean pipes, I would never have believed it, but it sounds magnificent! As the last note of the pipes fades, Mick Box sits transfixed, clearly moved by the whole occasion. What's more, when you consider the bombastic ending to that track on the "live '73" album, the contrast with the unaccompanied pipes which end the song here could not be starker. Both though constitute absolute highlights of their respective albums.

A truly awesome DVD, which shows Uriah Heep at their very best. If you know the music of Uriah Heep, these interpretations will stun you. If you do not, there's never been a better way to discover the band.

Report this review (#106628)
Posted Monday, January 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I worship Uriah Heep… and I’ve always dreamt to hear their songs in acoustic interpretation. I’ve even tried to rearrange them in my head many times. Then I heard about this release but couldn’t get it for a long time.

When I finally got it and pushed play, I got puzzled. I’ve been waiting for some thing different. It didn’t sound like “my own” acoustic versions! But when my ears got used to it, amazement changed my puzzling.

I remember how I felt after the disc ended… I was sitting in my with my elbows on the table, completely stunned, with an open mouth. I was unable to close it after “The Golden Palace”. This song sounds far better than on Sonic Origami, because it has no unnecessary synthetic feel. It is the prime highlight of this album. It’s a masterpiece. No, THE masterpiece. I think it can show why I praise this band a lot more than another Hard Rock/Prog outfits: They can do magic.

The rest of album is no less amazing and reviewing all songs could take me a lifetime. So much highlights, so much beauty… Ian Anderson’s guests on Circus and Blind Eye and it adds very much to these songs. But I wonder what would he think and how would he rate Kim Chandlers playing on “The Golden Palace”? Uncle Ian has got some concurrents :)

Classic material blends one with new one and some forgotten songs get new life… There’s only one improvement to this album: If it was up to me I would make double or even triple album. There are so much more songs that could be played unplugged…

But Let’s judge what is and not what is not. This disc is essential for all music lovers. And of course it’s a Holy Grail of a Heepster.

Magic, Magic and Magic again!

Report this review (#135061)
Posted Monday, August 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Ok, I have to admit I approached this DVD with a not too opened mind, or even much good will. I don't really like these 'unplugged' formats. Every band in the world seems to be doing that kind of thing these days, mostly for money. And when I saw the long list of guest muscians (specially the 3 female backing singers, another plus everybody seems to be using to beef up their live vocal performances) my prejudice soured even more.

Of course all that was gone by the time I finished watching this DVD. Although I still think that I'd rather hear those guys doing their own backing vocals like they do so well and I think some of the black and white rehearsal footage coming in the way of the songs too much was a bit annoying, everything else is perfect. The set list is one of the most impeccable I've ever seen, the arrangements are wonderfully balanced (while respecting the originals they actually added something more to every song) and the perfomances are flawless.

To me , Bernie Shaw is the star of the show: the man is really Uriah Heep's best singer since the late David Byron. He has a tremendous stage persona besides his fine voice, plus sometimes he really seems to be possessed by the spirit of Byron himself, so amazing are his interpretations of some classics of that time. I also admired a lot of Trevor Bolder bass playing, he could emulate all the marvelous Gary Thain's runs note by note. But credit must be given to all band members, they were realy terrific that night!

Everything works here (yes, even the female backing vocalists I dreaded so much!) and I loved to see the band playing tunes like Echoes In The Dark, The Easy Road, Circus and Blind Eye. Wonderworld (excellent arrangement!) and The Shadow And The Wind were another great choices. Even the newer stuff are shining here and they sit well with the classics, believe or not.

Conclusion: one of the best, - if not the best - acoustic DVD done by a major band. A must have for any UH fan and an excellent addittion to any prog fan colletion. 4,5 stars at least. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#176112)
Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars On one of my walls hangs a promotional poster for Uriah Heep's Acoustically Driven tour. I got the poster from the entrance hall of the small club in Copenhagen were me and my girlfriend saw the band play in November 2006. The poster features the same beautiful Roger Dean artwork that also prides this excellent DVD. Before the gig we ate at a small junk food restaurant across the street from the club. Bernie Shaw, the singer, was there too, he ordered a kebab.

By the time of this concert experience I had already seen this DVD that was recorded several years earlier. And my expectations for the show were huge. They didn't disappoint! However, on the Copenhagen show it was just the band. On this DVD that was recorded in London, on the other hand, they had three female backup singers, a small string section, a slide guitarist, a flautist and a guy playing assorted percussion instruments and also Uillean pipes! In addition, Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull comes on stage with them to perform two songs. The band had never done anything like it before. Indeed, this is so different from what the band had done in the past that even people who don't like Uriah Heep might still love this! And in my opinion this is the best thing the band had ever done, before or since.

Almost all of the songs sound better here than they did in their original versions. It is not just that the concert is perfectly recorded and produced; the songs are given new and interesting arrangements and instrumentation. Strings, flutes, exotic percussion and other interesting instruments really add to these songs.

Hearing Mick Box play acoustic guitar on the whole show makes you think that he has hidden his talent behind a wall of wah-wah and distortion before. He plays better then ever, especially on the short solos. The acoustic bass guitar by Trevor Bolder also deserves special mention. He is easily the best bass player Uriah Heep ever had. Indeed, in my opinion this is the ultimate Uriah Heep line up. They might not be virtuosos but there are no mistakes on this show, everything flows perfectly. Bernie Shaw is also in my opinion a much better vocalist than David Byron ever was and Shaw's distinctive vocals fit the music perfectly.

I should say something about the set list. The show starts with a very good version of Echoes In The Dark, a perfect way to open the show. Right from the start it is evident that this is no regular Uriah Heep concert. Strings, piano and steel guitar dominates the song. After this follows a song called Why Did You Go? Thanks to the heavy use of steel guitar here, this song, together with Come Back To Me, have a significant country feel that was wholly absent on the original versions of these songs. This fact, coupled with the cheesy and unimaginative lyrics on these songs will perhaps turn off many prog fans. And these two songs are indeed the low points on this concert that might be skipped on a first listen. But hold on please, it gets a lot better.

The Golden Palace is altogether more progressive with lots of flute and an excellent haunting melody. This version far outshines the studio version of this song. Shadows And The Wind is a surprising choice and I've always liked this song. The original version features an extended Queen-like a cappella section that is a bit shortened here. But this version is still great.

Circus is another surprise. What is even more surprising is that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull plays flute on it giving it a folky feel. Blind Eye is the other song that features Ian Anderson, and this song is drenched in his flute. The original version now sounds tame compared to this amazing live version. This is the way it should have sounded from the beginning.

Traveller In Time runs into More Fool You which features a short but great acoustic guitar solo by Mick Box. They end the show with the classic sing a long folk song Lady In Black, before returning for an encore consisting of a medley of The Wizard, Paradise and Circle Of Hands. This version of Circle Of Hands is interesting because it heavily features Uillean pipes!

Uriah Heep never made any masterpieces of progressive music. They did a couple of good albums in the early 70's, but since then their studio output has been average or even mediocre. But since Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon joined the band in the late 80's they have developed into a better live band than they ever were and this DVD is excellent proof. This DVD should silence all those who think that Uriah Heep is a poor man's Deep Purple. Deep Purple could never have done anything like this. Deep Purple doesn't even have songs like these.

I consider this DVD the ultimate Uriah Heep product and even if it might appeal more to prog folk fans than heavy prog fans, I think that any prog fan could enjoy this. And together with one of the band's recent electric live concert DVDs, this might be all the Uriah Heep many prog fans will ever need.

I could give this five stars but there are a couple of cheesy songs at the beginning that weights this show down a little bit.

Report this review (#177788)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink

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