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Ken Hensley - Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf CD (album) cover

PROUD WORDS ON A DUSTY SHELF

Ken Hensley

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Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars First solo album by Uriah Heep´s main songwriter/keyboardist/guitarrist Ken Hensley. It was released when his band was at the peak of its rising to fame. Certainly it was a prolific period for him, for he wrote most of UH´s material and still had time to produce some interesting effords under his own name. It seems that Hensley had a wide range of influences and wanted to put out some tunes that somehow wouldn´t fit his group´s sound.

The first thing you notice when you put the record on is the fact that he is also a very good vocalist, with a voice that is quite similar to Uriah Heep´s David Byron. Hensley´s not as strong, of course, but it works very well here. Recorded with the help of UH´s rhythm session (Lee Kerslake on drums and the brilliant Gary Thain on bass) it is no wonder the LP often sounded like his main band on some tracks: the opener When Evening Comes and Fortune could be in any UH album of that period. But the majority of the songs show Hensley´s more introspective, acoustic side (with some strong blues and country influences). Oddly, one of the tunes ended up on the Magician´s Birthday album, but it was the piano ballad Rain. Comparing those two versions, I see they are quite similar, but I tend to think UH´s interpretation is the best.

Overall the feeling of this solo venture is very good. Pround Words In A Dusty shelf is not as strong as Hensley´s better work with Uriah Heep: sometimes you really think some of the tracks would be great under the group´s banner, but that´s just especulation. Nor there is much prog here either. But most of all it confirms that Ken Hensley is a very talented, gifted and sensitive songwriter.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#191870)
Posted Friday, December 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "It was then I took to thinking, and my hands took to writing, and my dreams came in answer to the call"

By 1972, Uriah Heep were enjoying the most successful period in their entire career. "Demons and Wizards" and "The Magician's birthday" had both brought the band to the attention of a vast audience, and their solid fanbase was desperately seeking new material by them. The following year, Uriah Heep released one of the finest live albums ever made, further cementing the respect they were garnering the world over.

Keyboard player, second guitarist and second vocalist Ken Hensley was a major influence on this success, writing virtually all the material on their most recent albums. Such was the prolific nature of Hensley's writing though, that he found he had a growing collection of songs which were gathering dust. Some of these songs had been rejected by Uriah Heep while others Ken himself felt would not be suitable, and were thus not offered to the band. Demo versions recorded by the band of some of Hensley's songs which did not make it onto band albums (such as the title track of this album) have subsequently appeared as bonus tracks on Heep albums from the period.

By and large, this is a true solo album by Hensley, the only additional contributors being the Uriah Heep powerhouse of Gary Thain and Lee Kerslake on base and drums respectively, plus bass on some tracks by Dave Paul. Hensley took about a year to record the album, working on it when he had the opportunity during gaps in the hectic touring and recording schedule of Heep.

Each side of the LP opens with a wonderful piece of heavy prog. "When evening comes" has a lead guitar motif similar to that on the Beatles "She's so heavy", Hensley immediately demonstrating that while his singing talents did not quite match those of David Byron, he was not far behind. "Fortune", which opens side two swims on organ like the soon to come "Sweet freedom"; the song lyrically sounds like an outtake from "Demons and wizards" with autobiographical overtones. These two songs alone are to all intents and purposes Uriah Heep masterpieces.

My personal favourite song from any Hensley solo album is "From time to time", a haunting synthesiser fuelled piece with a superb instrumental conclusion. Structurally, the song reminds me of Genesis "Entangled", the atmosphere being similarly effective. "King without a throne" is really the only prosaic number on the album, this mid-paced blues based number being adequate but unexciting.

"Rain" is something of an exception on the album, as it is the only song to also appear on a Uriah Heep album. When the band originally recorded the song, it was a simple vocals (Byron) and piano (Hensley) ballad. Hensley told the band he wanted to make the final verse, which is a repeat of the penultimate verse, a much louder, organ backed crescendo. The band disagreed, and democracy dictated that the song remain a gentle ballad. Here, Hensley demonstrates how he wanted the song to be arranged, the final verse being suitably majestic. In reality, both versions bring out the beauty of what is a fine composition, which only goes to prove that both were right!

The title track might have made a decent Uriah Heep single, the positive lyrics being complemented by a sing-a-long toe-tapping melody. The song probably lacks a strong enough hook, but there's no doubt it is good fun.

Another personal favourite is "Black-hearted lady", where Hensley gives an impressive vocal performance. It would probably have been a ballad too many for Heep, but it makes for a superb addition to this album. If one was being cynical, it could be suggested that the weaker tracks have been placed in the middle of each side, and "Go down", while better than "The king.." on side one, is similarly OK but no more.

The epic "Cold autumn Sunday" takes a basic three verses and bridge and transforms them into a compelling 5½ minute piece of descriptive art. Here again, Ken shows the versatility of his voice, with a performance of startling emotion and beauty. The album closes with a delightful ballad "The last time", which once again is of a quality which would grace any Uriah Heep album.

At the time of this album's release, both Uriah Heep and Ken Hensley could do no wrong. "Proud words on a dusty shelf" is simultaneously a lost Uriah Heep album and a solo statement by Ken Hensley which offers something a bit different yet totally familiar. The album therefore slots neatly into the band's catalogue at the time. Recommended.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#200768)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The Heep was a band dear to me in the early seventies (and still is). The first album I purchased at the time of release was ''Magician Birthday''. But to be honest, I never entered in Ken's repertoire until recently.

I quite liked the band and he was the driving force: he is a brilliant song writer and an exceptional keyboard player. He has influenced an awful lot of musicians (even if his style in the early days was nder the influence of Lord (Jon I mean).

This debut solo album was released while the Heep was at a climax of their history. I don't fancy that much the ballads featured here (''From Time To Time'' or the cover of ''Rain'') nor the sloppy ''King Without ?'' but the opener is a damned good rock song fully reminiscent of the Heep.

This album is also a friend reunion (maybe comparable to Hackett's debut): another half of the band is helping (Thain and Kerslake). This could have supposed a more ''heeper'' sound (whatever it might mean) than the final result.

But I guess that if a musician wants to release a solo effort, he won't necessarily look to reproduce the material of the ''mother'' band. Still, after the excellent opener, I had to wait for ''Fortune'' (the sixth number) to feel some great emotion. The instrumental intro (keys and guitar) is a real jewel. Probably the most related to prog from this ''Proud Words'' and my second fave.

Vocals are quite acceptable and by far superior to other great musicians who decided to release solo albums. But in terms of compositions, there are several weaknesses: ''Black- Hearted Lady'' just adds to the mellowish atmosphere. And to be honest is a quite dull song. The country oriented ''Go Down'' is probably the weakest of the whole (even if the closing ''Last Time'' could share the bill.

Heep fans should know that this album is far from being a band's substitution: the music played has a much more tranquil and country mood. It can't be compared to their work. It is a decent album but one could have expected some more.

Three stars is the maximum rating I can provide. I would even say that five out of ten is more accurate.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#220598)
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars For those who were there in the glory days of rock music : the seventies, it's hard to understand if this album was not well known. At least there were two songs that were major hits at that time: When Evening Comes and Rain (played by Uriah Heep as well). Some people mention that this was originally intended as Uriah Heep album. Well, I don't blame them as in some ways it has similarities with Uriah Heep.

One thing I was impressed with this legendary album was the fact that Hensley could paly guitar very well - at least during the opening track When Evening Comes. This track was really well known at that time and it became major hit in local radio. One thing I like about this song was the bluesy style it has and of course it has solid memorable melody through the voice of Hensley. The next track "From Time to Time (Hensley)" (3:37) is like Heep music; the vocal is powerful. This one lays the rhythm section on acoustic guitar and keyboards. "A King Without a Throne (Hensley)" serves like a ballad with a straightforward composition. Another hit "Rain" is a very nice one to enjoy. In some ways I prefer the one played by Heep but this one is also very enjoyable. The combination of piano and vocal line is really excellent. "Proud Words (Hensley)" is a straight rocker with nice vocal line. Well, Hensley voice is really excellent. Overall, I recommend this album to those who love straight forward rock combined with good vocal harmonies. If you are Heepmania, you must have this album. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#1060058)
Posted Monday, October 14, 2013 | Review Permalink

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