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Ken Hensley

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Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Probably the best Ken Hensley´s solo album since his debut in the 70´s. It is a concept work in which he tells us his story with his band Uriah Heep (if I´m not mistaken, a book about it is also coming). The result is a very strong, hard rocking album with some prog overtones, just like UH used to be. For this project Hensley recruited an excellent band (all spanish guys, most of them with a strong prog background) and an all star cast of guest vocalists: Jörn Lande (Ark, MIllenium, The Company Of Snakes, etc), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, TRapeze), Eve Gallegher and even ex Uriah Heep vocalist John Lawton! More than anything is good to know Hensley lost any of his capacity of writing great music after all these years.

The result is one of a hell great rock album: inspired, full of energy, very well played and sung, clearly done by someone who put his heart and soul on this work (plus some great Hammond organ parts!). Hensley brings us his view of the rocky road to stardom and tries to give a complete view of the scene as he saw it, with all the good and bad moments. This is a very poignant work and I think will please all UH fans around the world (and even those who are not). With no fillers and with such players I think this CD is very close to a masterpiece. I won´t rate it five stars since there is little prog on it. Still it´s an excellent release: tracks like We´re On Our Way, You got It (The American Dream), Okay (The House Is Down) and the rerecording of The Last Dance (with a stunning Glenn Hughes interpretation) are some of the best stuff I heard since UH´s classic period. 4,5 stars.

Fans of classic Uriah Heep: rejoyce!

Report this review (#191769)
Posted Thursday, December 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's very hard to find an album by a veteran rocker that is as good and representative as his albums from his glory days. You can find good albums, but if you try to separate your personal feelings about the artist and the "objective" value of this late work (think of Paul McCartney's post-Wings output, David Gilmour and Roger Water's solo albums e.g.) you'll agree with me. The only names (that come to my mind right now) that escape from this general rule are Richard Wright's "Broken China" and Ken Hensley's "Blood on the highway".

Although I'm a true Heepie fan I have some problem with their studio material post-Lawton era. And after a lot of experiences with the last Heep line-up (both live and studio) I believe that, more than David Byron's, it's Hensley's absence that I believe have done the greatest harm to the group. Of course the dynamic within the band was very far from good when Hensley left Uriah Heep but Hystory showed (to me at least) that his "writing dictatorship" was better to the band than democracy. But that's another story.

After a couple of Christian-themed albums (that as usual in Christian-related material sounds too focused on the lyrics) and a good return to live experience with former Heep mate John Lawton, Hensley brings to us one of the very best albums from the late 2000s. Rocking very hard he selected a lot of unknown musicians from Spain, where he lives, some very good guest singers and deliver a solid kind-of-conceptual album that has songs that survive by themselves. It's difficult to quote one or another piece from this very moving album, but the powerful first and second songs sets the emotional and sound level of the whole piece.

I can't recommend this album enough to any rock fan, specially those who are into hard rock. And if you're a Heep fan this is an essential item to your collection. But this is not an "excelent addition to a prog rock collection" because someone that bought it waiting any form of prog rock would be f***ing frustrated. So, that's my warning: a 3 star album from the prog rock point of view, but a solid 5 star album in a free-music genre form evaluation.

Report this review (#222051)
Posted Saturday, June 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have always found difficult to analyse solo albums from artists who were part of one of my beloved bands. This is the reason why I will only review one Peter Gabriel album on this site. The deception was major, and so for lots of great men in rock music.

Ken is part of these persons for whom I have the deepest respect for their work, but while he was one of the key players (without play on words) in the great Heep, I was not really moved with his solo output. Such masterpieces he wrote! Such superb Hammond organ parts he played! While in the Heep, though.

This last album to date is somewhat more rocking than usual (which is a very good news), but the AOR style takes the lead for the majority of the songs; and you might know that this is not my cup of tea, at all.

You can find some good rock songs, some good melodies, some good guitar breaks. Yes. You can find these?But don't expect any masterpiece song on this album. Decent FM rock music ("You've Got It") is not too bad but didn't we expect more from the man? At least, I was; even if I consider this "Blood On The Highway" as one of his best studio albums ever released.

Good rock ballads ("It Won't Last"), weak ones ("Think Twice") or syrupy ones ("There Comes A Time"). These three songs really form a rather weak middle part which is fortunately saved by an excellent and quite dynamic "Okay". Fully in the vein of the great "Easy Livin": this is my preferred song from this offering (but I'm biased). Even some "Highway Star" feel can be noticed at the end.

I was quite excited to listen to the great Glenn Hughes on two tracks from this album, but I have to say that I was not really thrilled by the song writing available druing "What You Gonna Do". His input is much more worth during the excellent remake of "The Last Dance".

I rate this is album with three stars (which is slightly upgraded to be honest). There is no prog relation to be found, but some good good rock moments for sure.

Report this review (#247181)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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.

Report this review (#492640)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Review Permalink

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