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Uriah Heep - The Magician's Birthday CD (album) cover


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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Listen to the "Orchid Orchestra" play

The second album by the "classic" line up is a natural follow on to the magnificent "Demons and Wizards". All the elements are still in place, the Roger Dean Sleeve, the fantasy themes, and of course the great music. "Sunrise", which became the opener for the live set, sets the scene immediately, with Byron's first appearance being in the form of a controlled scream.

The track are generally short and straight forward, with only the title track having a more complex structure. "The Magician's Birthday" (track) picks up the fantasy theme, and weaves a tale around the battle between good and evil. This is interrupted by a lengthy guitar solo from Mick Box, accompanied only by Lee Kerslake on drums, and the occasional spooky theme from Hensley's keyboards. The track climaxes in the battle itself, played out with stereo effects, before Byron ascends to ethereal bliss and fades.

There are softer numbers on the album such as the lovely Hensley ballad "Rain". Apparently Hensley wanted to make the final chorus much louder and more powerful, but the rest of the band pushed back. He took the opportunity to record his preferred version on his solo album "Proud words on a dusty shelf".

The tracks are generally marginally less strong than those on "Demons and Wizards" but, "The Magician's Birthday is still a superb album with many fine moments.

The deluxe expanded remastered CD has 9 bonus tracks, including unreleased songs, edited versions, and the band's working versions of tracks from Hensley and Byron's solo albums.

Report this review (#31301)
Posted Saturday, June 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Never mind the wizards - here's some great rock!!!

Sounds a lot like early Rainbow - without Blackmore's legendary fretwork, but with the bonus of the "Heep choir".

Uriah Heep follow "Demons and Wizards" with a more concerted attempt to break through into prog territory by continuing with the Roger Dean artwork and Wizards theme, making the songs longer and opening with a plodding chunker of a song which does not have the huge stadium appeal or technical virtuosity of early Queen, but has a quirky charm of its own.

Spider Woman is a wierd kind of love song with bottleneck guitar and rock 'n' roll riffs that put me slighty in mind of Juicy Lucy. I find it fortunate that this is quite short, however...

Again, simple chord structures with the odd wierd synth noise thrown in, combined with those walkie basslines, breakbeats and the Heep choir (less in evidence here, sadly) comprise the majority of this album.

There is another pop song here in Sweet Lorraine. Like Easy Living, it's hard, driving and wonderful - but a pop song.

If orchestration and arrangement is your thing, with sumptuous vocal choirs and guitar pyrotechnics, you'd be better off with the first two Queen albums, Deep Purple or Rainbow. However, the melody writing is strong here, and this album is definitely worth a listen if you appreciate great classic rock music.

"Tales" is somewhat repetitive and dirge-like, but Byron's voice is pleasing enough to carry it, and the drums and bass are mildly engaging.

"The Magician's Birthday" is the track I was really looking forward to, clocking in at over 10 minutes - surely some prog here?

Sorry, but no. A repeating Zep-type riff leads to simple chord progressions (but the bells from "Easy Living" are back!) and a cheesy chorus, which, frankly, is dire. The quirky "Happy Birthday" section with Beatles-esque piano and Kazoo, reminiscent of Corporal Clegg is interesting. However, despite the plectrum drawn across the inside of the piano, we're soon back to the original dirge and horrible chorus. There are Pepper- esque overlays - a simple loop which is re-introduced a few times over the next few minutes, and very atmospheric on the first couple of hearings, but Box subjects us to 3 minutes or so of bluff presented as a Nigel Tuffnell style guitar solo with some partially orchestrated drums and spoils any prog pretensions this track might otherwise have had. This solo practically drawls "My solos are my trademark..." and "This goes to 11".

Move along please! No prog to look at here!

One for you classic rockers though! ENJOY!!!

Report this review (#31302)
Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Also over-rated but better than its predecessor so it earns 3.5 stars. This is the preiod when Heep did this fantasy thing that pleases so many of us ( also me to a certain extant ) but this was a mask in Heep's case. Sunrise , Blind Eye , Echoes and Tales made it on my compilation of their first six albums . The recent celebration of heep regarding this album is a balloon of warm air but full of emptyness. Sorry for the fans ( i was one too - loooong time ago). This is the classic line-up creative peak and the live album comes next , than the long slide downhill starts. Worth a listen but definitely on the extreme limits of this site .
Report this review (#31303)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another ' Good' album from Uriah Heep and I would say on a par with Demons and Wizards.Again Roger Dean's coverwork is a masterpiece. Songs of mention are the glorious ' Sunrise' ' Echoes in the Dark' and the world renowned ' Magician's Birthday' I am still scrambling for more to wax lyrical about but I would have to say the album is good but pretty mediocre in parts.
Report this review (#31304)
Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I agree with previous reviewers in that the "Demons and Wizards" album is their best studio album from the 70s (their best years, I think). The inclusion of "Circle of Hands" (my favourite song from that album) is one of the reasons. But, as I don`t have the "Demons and Wizards" album (which I have listened in the early 80s for the last time as a cousin lent me that album for some days and I didn`t record it on a cassette!), I comment about this "The Magician`s Birthday" album, which I bought in early 1978, after listening to their "Live January 1973" album in late 1977, one of the best live albums of the 70s. My favourite songs in this album are: "Sunrise", "Spider Woman" (what a very good bassist Gary Thain was!), "Sweet Lorraine", "Tales" and "The Magician`s Birthday". The "Live 1973" album versions of "Sunrise" and "Sweet Lorraine" are better than these studio versions. "Tales" has a very interesting use of an "atmospheric" steel guitar played by outside musician Brian Cole. "The Magician`s Birthday" song has very interesting synthesizers, drums and lead guitar.
Report this review (#31305)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Magician's Birthday followed the enormously successful Demons And Wizards album. No doubt it was an overwhelming task to come up with a record that maintained that immense flow and energy. Uriah Heep was up for the challenge and responded with another metal-prog classic, and to boot they pulled it off in the same year.

The very first song, "Sunrise," is another Ken Hensley driving rocker with Mick Box providing the stinging guitar leads, David Byron the operatic shrieks, and Hensley the whirling dervish keyboard playing. "Spider Woman" was always one of my favorites; it's a straight ahead rocker that has a catchy riff by Box running through the entire song. "Rain" is a standout track that was typical of the Heep gothic metal sound complete with a great vocal treatment by Byron. The curtain falls on the title track "The Magician's Birthday." For over 10 minutes they show why they were one of the very best prog-rock bands in the world by changing gears several times without a hitch and offering the listener every facet of their complex makeup in one song. It's the kind of dark and mystical song that you never forget, it stays with you for a long time and when you listen to it again you hear what you missed the first time around.

What UH did in 1972 is quite incredible. To release one great album is a major feat, but two in one year? It's something very few bands have ever done. This was the final stamp of approval on their career; they had carved out a place in prog-rock history that would cement their legacy. In 2002, now more than ever, the relevance of what they did is more evident and valid when you listen to what they were creating over 30 years ago. It comes as no surprise that people want to hear all of that material as much today as they did back then. Its great music, so if you haven't found it yet its time to seek it out.

Report this review (#31311)
Posted Monday, January 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album introduced me both to the world of prog rock and URIAH HEP, and therefore it holds a special place in my heart. I had got an interest towards this band, and the fine album covers and the imaginative album and song tittles made me to do a purchase decision. Many of the songs have deep emotional load, and the songs build an album with nice contrasts. The opener "Sunrise" is truly THE anthem of all anthems, and similar power radiates from the magical "Echoes in The Dark". The title tune mini-epic is also a funny song, which can always be played at birthday parties of persons with good musical taste. I'm also very fond of the sound texture on this record, and I would recommend this URIAH HEEP album along with "Salisbury" and "Demons and Wizards" to any album collection!
Report this review (#31313)
Posted Sunday, April 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars My favourite album fron them after Look at yourself and Demons and Wizards, a true magic album of the '70. A special one for me, because was the first album i baught back in 1991, when a beggin to listen to good music. From that year to now i still listen it whith very much pleasure. One of the biggest albums in history of music. David Byron on RAIN is GOD, listen to his voice, she gets under your skin and your hair stand up... Of course, the remaining tracks are amazing , but that one , from above i said is magic.
Report this review (#31314)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rediscovered this album after listening to it in the car. As good as Demons and Wizards, consistent although the rock and roll number Spider Woman is a little too simple for my prog ears. The title track is magnificent supported by classics such as Tales and Echoes in the Dark and the beautiful ballad Rain, which my wife loves and gives me the opportunity to listen to at least some prog together!:) Magnificent vocals as ever from David Byron. A worthy addition to any collecton.
Report this review (#35160)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first rock album I bought with my own money (well..pocket money from mum and dad.) What a revelation it was at the time. Sweet Lorraine, a fiery opener, the cosmic tunes Tales and Sunrise. With hindsight, I really liked the Ken Hensley songs the best. The other members wrote good songs, but the lyrics were misogynistic, to say the least. Spider woman had a good tune, but the lyrics were terrible.

Still, the album holds sweet memories as my entrance into the world of prog-rock.

Report this review (#39239)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars "The Magician's Birthday" is my favourite Uriah Heep album (and Uriah Heep is one of my all time favourite bands.) Ken Hensley's song writing is amazing; the piano ballad "Rain" the atmospheric "Echoes in the Dark" and "Tales" and the great "Blind Eye" more straightforward rock songs like "Spider Woman" and "Sweet Loraine" The whole album is loosely based on a concept and features beautiful cover art by Roger Dean. A masterpiece.
Report this review (#39331)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5

This album is one of my favorites from Uriah Heep. It features great vocals, great metal and acoustic guitars, great and underrated rhythm sections, and the ever-important keyboards of Ken Hensley. It starts off with Sunrise, one of my favorite Heep songs. It contains elements of prog and metal, and features some great organ. Spider Woman is the worst track on the album, because it is kind of just straight forward rock and roll, but its not terrible. Blind eye is a catchy rocking song with prog elements and great lyrics. Echoes in the Dark is a great atmospheric song, with catchy guitar solos, and great keyboard riffs, and great vocals and melodies. Rain is a slow ballad-type song, featuring lots of piano. It may be hard for you to get into, and, while it is great, it is probably my second to least favorite song on the album.

Side Two starts off with Sweet Lorraine, an upbeat, psychadellic (sp?) song, with great melodies, riffs, and lyrics. Tales is another slow acoustic ballad, and it is truly awesome. It features catchy riffs, with great synth licks from Hensley, and incredible vocals from Byron. The Album closes with the epic title track, which tells the story of how the Magician must battle a Demon at his birthday party. It features all kinds of great hard rock/classic metal riffs, although there is a middle section featuring the kazoo which I find to be a little bit goofy. But what with the extended guitar solos, great lyrics, and great vocals from Byron and Hensley, it more than makes up for it.

This is a dynamite album from Uriah Heep. I really think Uriah Heep may be one of the most important pioneers of progressive metal ever. Highlights include: Sunrise, Sweet Lorraine, Tales, The Magician's Birthday.

Report this review (#39362)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Whilst it was more acceptable to say you liked Sabbath or Purple,Uriah Heep were always at the very least equal to these other groups in my opinion.David Byrons vocals never got the recognition they deserved in rock polls,however,this album along with Demons and Wizards demonstrated just how good a singer he was.Similarly underrated was Mick Box on guitar,somehow or other this band was unfashionable,it was never cool to say you liked Heep.Against this bias I have to argue that tracks like Tales and Magicians Birthday were truly superb and could easily match anything written all those years ago.Ken Hensley was another musician who was in the shadow of Jon Lord,however,Hensley was the better song writer and an excellent musician.A fantastic album,and a good starting place if you have never heard them.
Report this review (#48044)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fifth album - still on the strong 'Art Rock' path. Fortunately for the album it ends with 'The Magician Birthday'; a true masterpiece. Strangely this number contains all that real prog music needs: long, melodic, surprises. But one cannot only live on a late night dinner, one also needs breakfast and lunch. Sadly this is not available in large parts. So the overall appraisal is 3 stars despite the strong Birthday.
Report this review (#60197)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As Ken Hensley put it at the CD liner notes this album was a natural follow-up to "Demons and Wizards" and supposed to be a concept album with a theme revolved around the Magician. But this album was done in a rush with a released date the same year with its predecessor. As far as Heepsters concerned it's not a bad album at all, even an excellent one. It kicks off with an impressive opening through an organ sound followed with "aaaaa.aaaa." choir which is very unique Heep sound through "Sunrise" (4:04) which later become the opening track for the band's legendary Live 73 album. The song is very strong in melody as well as composition combining dynamic drumming, long sustain Hammond sound, guitar and great Byron voice.

"Spider Woman" (2:25) is not one of the band's hits but this short track has a good harmony on guitar and keyboard as well as good melody. "Blind Eye" (3:33) reminds us to the style of "Demons and Wizards" album through a good combination of acoustic guitar, drums, keyboard and good vocal harmony. "Echoes In The Dark" (4:48) is an interesting track in medium tempo using Hawaiian / sliding guitar style combined with long sustain keyboard work. This is a song-oriented composition with a nice musical flow from start to end augmented with symphonic textures.

Those who were there in the glory days of 70s must remember this mellow track "Rain" (3:59) dominated with piano and sweet vocal. People would always remember this song whenever they talk about Heep or Hensley. "Sweet Lorraine" (4:13) is the band's legendary song where it features dynamic and pulsating keyboard buzz throughout the song combined with energetic voice line. I always enjoy this track performed live as well as original version. It has a heavy rhythm and good melody.

I did not pay attention to "Tales" (4:09) by the time the album was released. But when Iwatched the Magician's Birthday Party DVD I was so amazed with this song because it was featured with guest appearance of Mr. Thijs Van Leer (Focus). Indeed, it's a great track with a medium tempo. "The Magician's Birthday" (10:23) is the main icon of this album. This song comprises multi-structure which combines different style from a ballad rock to heavy metal complete with hard-edge guitar solo augmented with dynamic drumming. At first listen the different styles did not seem to jive one to another but having listened to this song many times I came to realize that all parts were connected nicely. I have to admit whenever I play this CD I always repeat this track and the most memorable part of this track is the lyrical part "I challenge you! I challenge you All! ." oh .. what a rocking segment man! Of course I also love the long guitar solo work by Mick Box accompanied by Kerslake's drumming. Wonderful!

It's an excellent addition to any prog rock collection. Recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#69049)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Its the fifth album in the third year of Uriah Heep's existance. And between 1971 ad 72, Heep actually produced four albums. Now that's a lot of creativity no doubt. the heads of the band members-- especially Hensley-- were teeming with ideas. None of them too bad. Because out of the first five albums, four are regarded as the most classic Uriah Heep. Magician's birthday carries the similar undertone of Demon's and Wizard; musically and well, lyrically as well. Plus, after Salisbury, the band tried yet another lengthy song "Magician's Birthday". The recording of this album is very clear and the playing is very tight. A lot of acoustic guitar sounds along with moog synth gave it a refreshing ambience. Like the previous album, the songs were composed on a simple structure, while they sound really good. Blind Eye, Echoes in the dark and Tales share acoustic plus moog rythm while Sunrise is just one of its kind, Rain being the mellowest with piano. You will like both Sweet Lorrain and Spider Woman instantly-- but will get tired of them easily. My feelings about the title piece is that it could have been much better. It has some magical moments and while it proceeded well, it failed to evolove properly. THe band could have worked a bit harder on this song and easily win my heart. But overall, its a good album and one should collect it.
Report this review (#84054)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The genius called Ken Hensley has enhanced his creative machine to an even higher level than the in their previous work. This is the classic formation and entire career Uriah Heep's finest achievement beside Demons and Wizards, as they're strongly inside the fantasy theme.

Demons and Wizards was a soft, sweet album, if compared to this one. Magician's Birthday is energy! The band comes with a heavier sound and Mick Box seems to be more inspired now, more than the simply colaboration on Demons and Wizards, he and his wah-wah guitar were essentials in this achievement.

The main Magician's Birthday song is another Uriah Heep's giant, being beside Salisbury in quality terms, yet in a complete different style, heavier, 'weirder' even. The 'happy birthday' session before the solo may be a little repetitive, but with a generous ear, it will sound sweet. Byron's voice starting the song is just fantastic. In the middle section, Box, Hensley and Kerslake just go crazy! What a mind-blowing solo, really. The vocal session in which the magician fights the evil is also fantastic, Byron being very inspired. This song is worth the album, really. But, not alone, Echoes in the Dark, with darkened, sublime key sound and voice, is another must-have. Sunrise, Spider Woman and Blind Eye are energetic songs, the band just getting close to the sound of some 70's hard rock bands. Sweet Lorraine, with weird keys, reveals to be an interesting ballad. A masterpiece of an album!

Report this review (#85182)
Posted Sunday, July 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars The album gets off to a great start with "Sunrise", opening with drums and organ that are penetrated with the scream-like yell of David Byron. It settles as the vocals are almost spoken. It builds.Themes are repeated. I like the organ play in this one. I must say that "Spider Woman" and "Sweet Lorraine" both do absolutely nothing for me, the weak songs of the record as far as i'm concerned. Both sound really dated. "Blind Eye" has some excellent guitar playing that reminds me of the ALLMAN BROTHERS. Good song.

"Echoes In The Dark" is a darker song (surprise) with organ floating as drums pound slowly while vocals sing with conviction. "Rain" opens with piano as reserved vocals come in. Not a fan of this ballad. "Tales" is a good song with a spacey intro as almost spoken vocals come in. Some tasteful guitar before 3 1/2 minutes to the end. And I love the guitar intro on "The Magician's Birthday". Drums come pounding in followed by vocals. Great sound on this the best track on the album by far. Check out the guitar before 4 1/2 minutes as drums impress. This just goes on and on. Amazing !

Man I wish the whole album was more like this. It's not though and 3 stars is my rating.

Report this review (#94410)
Posted Friday, October 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Uriah Heep's Magician's Birthday is a great album. It's not quite essential as it didn't have a massive affect on the music industry, but it is amazing nonetheless. Some tracks have experimental/odd segments, along with wild solos, fast-paced good ol' rock n' roll, and even a dash of beautiful, thought provoking moments. It has everything I'd like in a prog album (except for baffling complexity, over-the-top lyrics and emotion). Unfortunately, like Styx, it's an album that is sort of screechy. That's the best way for me to describe it. It's a fantastic as it does not quite move the listener emotionally. It is very fun, very original, with high musicianship, though. Happy birthday, Magician.
Report this review (#94743)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Still before URIAH HEEP managed to form their ideal lineup, they had already released their IMO best album "Look at Yourself" and immediately after they recruited the strong drummer Lee Kerslake and the superb bass player Gary Thain with whom they released the excellent "Demons and Wizards" and after it comes "The Magician's Birthday" a magnificent album even when less Prog' than the two previous with a beautiful Roger Dean cover.

I remember reading that Ken Hensley wanted to make of this album the most experimental one but the rest of the band didn't fully agree so they reached a intermediate point combining Hard Rock/Metal tracks with strong Prog arrangements and tracks.

The album starts with "Sunrise" and the song is introduced by a haunting Byron scream that leads us to something that seems as an experimental and extremely hard power ballad, but the vocal explosions, controlled screams and radical changes makes of this a very well elaborate track, the wah-wah guitar of Mick Box and at last a powerful drumming makes of this song a pleasure, whoever doubts URIAH HEEP is one of the oldest ancestors of Prog Metal should listen this track.

"Spider Woman" is a classical Heep Hard Rock track with more conservative sound and less spectacular vocals than the previous but an impeccable bass performance by Gary Thain, good, but not awesome.

"Blind Eye" is another very good song where Hensley keyboards, Box's electric and played rhythm guitar and the correct vocals of David Byron blend gently, again as usual elaborate outstanding vocal arrangements in a band where almost every member contributed with the backing vocals, flows gently from start to end not very complex but the quality is obvious.

"Echoes in the Dark" is another proggy track that starts wit the haunting sound effects plus a dramatic guitar and piano creating a mysterious atmosphere, suddenly out of nowhere Baron's vocals join the band almost as a whisper, this leads to another strong instrumental section and several changes, this album keeps getting better.

"Rain" is probably the weakest song of the album, not a bad but a simple ballad, of course has beautiful moments but after the first tracks and two previous albums we expect much more of the band, less than the average.

"Sweet Lorraine" is breathtaking from start ton end, a synth intro that wakes after Rain leads to a hard Rock track with great drumming by Lee Kerslake, it's amazing how Gary Thain manages to take his bass from the rhythm section and joins the melodic part as if it was a second guitar but keeps making his job supporting Kerslake.

"Tales" works as a reliever after the strong material and to prepare the audience for the semi-epic and central piece of the album, not bad but plain simple, still the rhythm section work is outstanding.

"The Magician's Birthday" is a 100% prog epic that has everything, powerful moments, absolutely radical changes, drama, mystery, in other words a complete song that any proghead must listen and that I won't ruin with plain words, all I will add is that the closing section is absolutely breathtaking, probably one of the best vocal works I heard inside or outside Prog, David Byron goes from the lowest to the highest ranges in fraction of seconds and the chorus is absolutely perfect surrounded by great Moog backup, love this track from start to end, if you don't like the lyrics in the Magician's birthday greeting that I admit are a bit cheesy, don't listen them only last a few seconds, for me it's a complete masterpiece from start to end.

Even though I won't review the bonus tracks (I like to listen the albums as they were originally recorded) must say that the two I have in my 1996 Remastered Edition ("Silver White Man" and "Crystal Ball") are not in the level of the album but I won't consider them for the rating because were not recorded for the original album and only added to have less free space in the CD being that the old LP format only allowed about 40 minutes.

Being that "The Magician's Birthday" is not as good as "Look at Yourself" because of the weaker "Rain" and "Tales" I can't give 5 stars without being dishonest, but surely the album as a whole and all the other tracks deserve no less a high rating.

Four solid stars for the last album of URIAH HEEP'S golden trilogy.

Report this review (#100878)
Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Maybe not the best URIAH HEEP album, but in my opinion, the most essential.

It opens with mini-epic "Sunrise". Although the song is borrowing a lot from the "July Morning", it's not just a bad carbon-copy; it's a standalone valuable track with well-sung lyrics, good organ background, multi-layered vocals as usual, catchy chorus. The guitar is somewhat dull, perhaps. The album continues with a "Spider Woman", the most stupid song on the album. Skip her. Luckily, the rest of the album is on a very high level: "Blind Eye" is gorgeous acoustic-electric hybrid at its best, with simple chords but highly enjoyable.

Epic feeling creeps in while you are listening opening of the "Echoes In The Dark"; a majestic piece with excellent piano and great, breathtaking arrangement of all the instruments in the chorus part. Anyway, after a majestic piece a piano ballad follows. "Rain" is pretty song, it's creating a mood of a rainy day indeed, and somewhat it 's out of the time; it sounds very 80's in a positive way, maybe because of something in the melody, I just don't know.

The B-side opens with weaker "Sweet Lorraine", another hard rock tune with strong synth, however it's much better song than "Spider Woman". "Tales" is a little bit to hermetic for my taste (should I say: boring) but the good refrain balances it well.

And the grand finale - "The Magicians Birthday" forces me to use the word "majestic" again. This epic consists of few quite different pieces (all of them are individually quite good), including uriah-heep-esque epic proclaiming style, psychedelic birthday part and incredible guitar of the most expressive electric guitar solos ever played, full of wah-wah howling, sounds like a guitar talking in a way that Hendrix never managed to do. Anyway, that part isn't really related to the rest of the epic really, but hey, I don't think that anyone who likes multi-part epics will mind a bit of pretentiousness, right?

Anyway this is an excellent album...despite the few weak moments, it's fully of enjoyable music and nice surprises. Do yourself a favour and give it a listen.

Report this review (#107688)
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was my entry album to the Heep in 1973. Before this, I only knew " Easy Livin' " (the single I mean...). Again, we have a fantastic opener : "Sunrise". As usual should I say. Great keys and vocals, powerful and melodious. I guess that this is what the Heep is all about, right ?

"Spider Woman" is a short average rocky song while "Blind Eye" is more structured and has nice accoustic guitar in the background. But the last two tracks don't leave an indelible mark on me. I had the same feeling some thirty-three years ago.

"Echoes in the Dark" is a wonderful and melodious track (yes, I love melodious tunes ...) with a passionate Byron again. A bit opera-rock oriented (like the fantastic "The Spell" on "Demons"). Bass and guitar play (almost Floydian, really) are fantastic. The second highlight of this work.

"Rain" is a mellow, piano-based little tune. Not bad vocal arrangments but not a great song to be honest. One of the weak moments on the album.

"Sweet Lorraine" on the contrary is more in the Heep's tradition : hard-rocking song, catchy chorus and spacey passages. There won't be sufficient moment like this on this album, unfortunately.

"Tales" is a track that could be labelled "prog" on this album. This type of song was already initiated on"Salisbury". Quiet and nice music. Drastically different of what the Heep has delivered so far.

About the closing (and longest) track, my feeling are quite mixed : very good sections for ost of the song but the chorus is frankly boring (Happy Birthday to You ...bla bla bla). The song seems to end around 3'30" or so when a long jamming session starts which is quite unusual on a studio album. It features a wild guitar solo with crazy drumming. Pure hard-rock with no concession during four minutes after which the song returns to a more "normal" mood. This is the highlight of the album, but again the horrible chorus weakens it substantially.

The remastered version features a hell of bonus tracks (but this is a good habit of the Heep). In this case : almost thirty-one additional minutes of music. But are they fillers or valuable pieces of music ?

"Crystal Ball" starts as a heavy song, but has wonderful and sweet passage during the middle section. It should have make this album. It is honestly superior to several original tracks. Next one "Silver White Man" is a pleasant rock song : strong band, heavy background keys. I wouldn't have complained if it had replaced "Rain".

The good surprise of the bonuses keeps on with "Proud Words". This is really a very good track. One of my preferred from this whole album. Sounds a bit like a demo when it starts. It rocks alright and its melody is on par with the best songs featured on the original album. It is very strange that it was not featured, but it has been repaired with this remastering. A fantastic added value. It will be featured on Hensley debut solo album "Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf".

The edited version of "Echoes" is just as nice as the original one (only thirty seconds shorter). "Happy Birthday" is an excerpts of "The Magician's Birthday" (the first part). In terms of edit, we'll get the single version for "Sunrise" : I really wonder why they edited this one. The three minutes format maybe (but the original was just over four, so) ? The good bonuses continue with "Gary's Song". Rocking at times, melodious as well. But that's the essence of the Heep.

My global feeling at that time (and still is) was a bit of a disappointment. I think that the peak of their creative work is behind them. Of course, we will still get the fantastic "Uriah Heep Live" in 1973. The sleeve design from Dean (the second one) is of course superb. My recommendation is of course to get hold of the remastered version (but that'a a general remark valid for each Heep's album available in that format). Bonus really add value. Not only fillers. Four stars (but only three for the original version).

Report this review (#113613)
Posted Monday, February 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm pleased to say...that this album that was released the same year as Demons and Wizards, contains the song that was my VERY FIRST TASTE of prog rock. But more about that later...

Sunrise: The beginning of this certainly sets the atmosphere. Hensley's hammond organ adds a note each time the drums start their slow beat and then we're straight into the characteristic Uriah Heep seventies seemingly-castrated "AAAAH!" s. (For the record, I'm not putting the band down with that expression- I just use it cos I find it amusing.) This starts a up-and-down 'chanting' for the start. Then David Byron sings with his overwhelmingly *gorgeous* perfect masculine voice. "...except the sunrise, the sunrise and YOU." Because this song is so simple but the rockin' power of it makes it GREAT- you want to sing along. Especially at the bridge. Mick really picks up with the guitar by the third verse- totally showing off. The bridge melody repeats a number of times with the word "SUNRISE!" being sung/yelled and again the hammond makes it fantastic.

Spider Woman: This song is another cutie-song (think All My Life from D&W) which is yes the melody is simple but the beat is a funky one (thanks to Lee the drummer) "Spider Woman. She was good to me. She went DOWN..." ooh- naughty! Again, Mick plays a few fancy riffs throughout the song.

Blind Eye: This is my favourite short song from the album. The drums and guitar play a tune which instantly reminds one of country-and-western style music- but its a complex riff. An electric guitar plays an adrenaline-punping riff over the top of that and Byron sings. With passion. "I ran to a place.."- here the chord-progression changes to a major key (a 'happier' tone) and then back to the starting riff. It certainly adds a nice touch. At the end= the starting riff repeats plenty of times and fades out. Byrons last words are "So what of my leaving? I'm a man- anyway. I'm a man anyway." Yes- we KNOW you're man!! Gah...this is a recurring lyric in Byron-era Uriah Heep and it completely evades me. Singing to confirm that they're men. I *would* say: "if you're afraid of loosing your testosterone then perhaps you ought to stop singing so high" but I won't say that. Because I think the high-up seventies singing is completely sexy. :)

Echoes in the Dark: Banging, scary, spooky start with the drums, piano and guitar- this riff repeats till the electric guitar picks up with its main riff. Seems like its for a B-grade horror film. For children that is. Then Ken pays the piano alone while Byron sings sweetly over the top. The synth backs him up a bit later. Mind you- the melody is actually quite beautiful and the lyrics are melancholy and almost tragic. But I'm not going to go all depressing on you. In the second verse, Byron's voice grows stronger. And then a Change: "Though I'd love to...say "hello" to might have to wait a while to say "goodbye"." The mellotron and other voices sing in the background. Then back to the riff- which is expemplified with the drums start crashing to the last verse- which is the most passionate. The last lyrics are "a friend!" and this repeats for the apocalyptic ending.

Rain: This is very sweet. :) It's just a piano (ooh ooh! I know how to play some of it! *jumps up and down like the little girl that I am*) and some echoing effects and Byron's lovely voice. It's not a hard piece to play- believe me. The piano is a simple chordal backup for his voice. And the melody may be simple, but its the way it's done that makes it wonderful. (That seems to be the story for all of this album doesn't it.) "Away from your days and iiiinto mine..." it sounds as if he's crying but he giggles before "It's kind of a shame.." Still he sounds like he's emotionally involved. Intensely. "Rain rain Rain- through my tears."

Sweet Lorraine: At the time that I am writing this review- I am working in a property management firm and one of the people I work with is a dear little good-natured English lady called Lorraine. And I can't help but think of this song when I thank her for something! Thats rather silly isn't it. Yet another cutie song but no wonder-it's about a woman. (Is it about sex again? That can be debated.) The mellotron (or is it a moog?) makes a great start and features before each verse. Apart from that, the guitars, with fancy distortions, feature along with drums and the hammon organ. "SO!...Sweet Lorraine let the party carry on!" At the bridge- the synth plays an ear-ripping solo. I have to admit that, despite the sad melody, the tone of the instrument is such that it is unpleasant to hear! :/ But then the chorus repeats and we're all a happy family again. :)

Tales: This is another one of the first U.H songs I ever heard. It reminds me, kind of, of cowboys sitting round a campfire in the desert. Echoing electric guitars, country-song style, start for Byron's singing. Not a sad melody- but a mysterious one. Especially the riff after the drums pick up. In a way- you could say this is another version of 'The Wizard' from D&W. A weirder version. Seems a bit preachy actually. "And if you ask then you will know..." and that the Byron even does a slight man-grunt on the note of "before!" How nicely-surprising is that. :)

The Magician's Birthday: Note to the world= THIS IS THE FIRST PROG ROCK SONG I EVER HEARD!!! :D Hence why it's completely close to my heart. In 2005, a friend gave me a mix of prog rock and this was the first track on it. Please consider the fact that I had no idea what prog was or when this music was played. The guitar riff at the start with the banging drums made me think "Is this 80s?" After the riff develops to arpeggios going downa dn drums start smashing, I then thought "70s?" Then after David sang "In the magic garden some were singing, some were dancing" I immediately thought "Well this is far far too CUTE. 60s?" The melody constantly changes and you can tell Byron loves it. Now comes the legendary guitar solo. Watch Micks fingers dance over the frets! This is PURE rock n' roll!- ROCK the way it SHOULD be!! And then it just gets silly in an adorable way. Hehe- whistle. Happy you. Happy you." and the piano thumps away. Very comical. Then the strings on the piano strum slowly. "The fire died, the music faded. Filled with fear of DEATH we waiting, for now we knew some evil was to playyyy..." yep- this song tells a story. The synth plays a spooky ditty before the electric guitar crashes down on us again in all its sexy glory! Words cannot explain the AWESOMENESS with which this solo is played! Backed up by a very fast drum improvisation. This guitar shows off with plenty of distortions. Again and again the synth threatens to enter back into it but no- the guitar dominates everything. Sure there's no melody- but this improvisation is VERY impressive musicianship. Then it melts into a different song: "I challenge you- I challenge you all..." with a jumpy- thumping guitar and hammon organ. Duet! Byron and Hensley sing together- bit by bit. 'But one thing you can't see- the answer is simply an impenetrable fortress of LOVE!" The while bands sings on this last word for a long time. But that's still not the end... The chords change and go up high suddenly: "The fear went as quickly as it came." Characteristic falsetto of Uriah Heep again. "Love will find love will find Love!" ...and the track fades out. :) This is a masterpiece! And it marks a historical turning point in my music taste.

The psychedelic album cover can also be talked about. The friend who got me into prog had the chance to paint the cover on his wall. Dunno if he has yet. The songs here are so fun! Some of the melodies are simple but always impressive. Full of energy. Rock n' Proggy roll.

Report this review (#127091)
Posted Friday, June 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

URIAH HEEP was running the world back then in 1972. They were at their creative peak as well as fiiling up stadiums and selling millions of albums all over the planet.Was no time to rest. Maybe it would have been a good idea to take some time off and enjoy the beaches of the COSTA DEL SOL instead of reentering the recording studio so fast.

Yes, URIAH HEEP released 2 albums within the same year! Even back then, one album a year was the norm! How they have it easy nowadays when artists come back with an album every 3/4 years. So i think, URIAH HEEP rushed too fast back to the studio and it sounds like that. MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY has never been a favorite of mine, i rarely listen to it despite some very good songs.

The problem , is for the first time, there are BAD songs and inconsequential tunes that drown the album a little bit.( more to come). Have you ever listened to ''Spider Woman''?? that's poor by URIAH HEEP standard! Can someone recall how sound ''Blind Eye'' or ''Tales''.? when finished, you already have forgotten about them.Not bad, but not great!

Don't get me wrong: there are some excellent parts as well. Who doesn't like the beauty of ''Echoes in the dark'' and this haunting sound of guitar or the melancholy of ''Rain''. Also ''Sunrise'' will become of their many famous anthems with a great BYRON once again.

To finish the album we have an ''epic'': the title track ''The Magician' s birthday'' . I can't tell if i like it or not, even after 35 years. This is a mixed bag with silly ''happy birthday to you'''s followed by an out of place ferocious and wild guitar solo from Mick BOX who can't remember when was the last time he was given so much freedom to play a solo for so long, so believe me he is taking advantage of the opportunity.....much to my chagrin as i think it was just a way to fill up the time allowed to fill up an LP and then you have a ...drum solo. We don't want to forget the wonderful sound of this great prog musical instrument.....the Kazoo!!!

As the french language says: ''sans queue , ni tete'' would describe this ''epic'' ( without head , without tail)

Last note: another great cover from master ROGER DEAN, the last one until 1997' ''Sea of Light''. But by then, was a long time the real URIAH HEEP was gone.

Sorry, i can only give 3 stars to this album.


Report this review (#130598)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Without doubt, Uriah Heep´s finest hour in the studio. Together with Demons and Wizzards, it represents the peak of the band, both in terms of songwriting and perfomance. It is only ironic that such masterpiece came from an aborted project. It seems that Ken Hensley wanted to do a conceptual album about a magician completing his 500th anniversary. The rest of the band was against it, claiming they should also include some other, radio friendly, stuff. Still, it seems that most of the tracks here were intended for the original concept.

The result might not be what Hensley had in mind, but it was a classic, one fo rock´s most powerful and creative works to this day. The title track is surely the best piece of the album, a 10 minute epic with a fantastic, haunting lyric and a stunning performance by all band members. David Byron´s vocals on this track proves he was one of rock´s best vocalists of all time. Other highlights are Sunrise (a classic), Tales, Blind Eye and Sweet Lorraine. In fact, the whole album works very well and the only song that seems out fo place here is Spider Woman. And even this one is not bad.

My sister was a Heep fanatic during the seventies and I understand why. After all this years, The Magicians Birthday did not aged a bit. It is still my Uriah Heep´s fave album and the most pleasant to hear nowadyas (even if Demons And Wizzards is a close match). Definitly a 5 star album with all its glory.

Report this review (#165157)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars This used to be my favourite Uriah Heep album, I can still see why. There are several good songs here. Sunrise, Blind Eye, Echoes In The Dark, Rain and Tales are all among Uriah Heep's best songs. The rest is merely decent. The title track is hardly a prog epic despite its length. Indeed, it is a rather tedious affair.

Ken Hensley says in the new liner notes that this was a rushed album. The record company wanted to release it before it was finished so they had to finish it very quickly. Too bad, since had they been allowed to work on it some more it could have been much better.

I would recommend the excellent live DVD Acoustically Driven were several of these songs are performed excellently. Especially Blind Eye that features Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull as a guest! The original album version feels a bit tame now after having heard that version.

Good, but non-essential

Report this review (#177593)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Entering psychedelic domain with unapproachability

It is really hard to be evaluated such a variety and professionalism incorporeted into one band. Such a band is Uriah Heep and they proove it over and over again. This time with their 5th studio album - The Magician's Birthday. This album continues the psychedelic foundations of the previous masterpiece... and contains a candidate of my all time favourite composition - the homonymous The Magician's Birthday.

All the musicians are at the top of their songwriting and musical abilities. And especially the giant voice of David Byron, who shakes and touches everything it reach with its mightiness and gentleness. The solos of Mick Box rock strongly. The rhythm made by Gary Thain and Lee Kerslake is well-arranged. The combination of light and dark tunes by Ken Hensley complete the whole picture of suprimacy.

Remarkable psychedelic album and one of my all time favourite. Probably the best Uriah Heep album. It is so beautiful, full of grief and great arrangements. This is an album full of everything. You can find hit single - Sweet Loraine, you can find slow songs (something like psychedelic ballads) like Blind Eye and Rain, you can find rock & roll - Spider Woman, and finally you can find genius masterpieces - The Magician's Birthday and Tales.

The Magician's Birthday is a fundamental album by and for Uriah Heep! And all around the album you feel the thin psychedelic line, that makes everything so great.The Magician's Birthday is one of the greatest epic songs for me and its title is used for the name of Uriah Heep festival. Divine music by a divine band. 5 stars

Report this review (#183598)
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Roger Dean beautifully disguises the ganance of record companies with such a cover...

I'm afraid Uriah Heep is a band which will never leave the shadow of the holy trinity of hard rock(Purple,Sabbath and Zeppelin),for me personally.While there best albums are in all great,highly satisfatory heavy rock,the band didn't quite age as well as it's closest relatives,the fathers of rock music as we know it today(though it wouldn't be fair not to mention Cream and the Experience as well).Dated is probaly the word.Sometimes they just sound too generic if compared to constantly refreshing albums from the aforementioned bands in the early 70's such as Led Zep IV or Master of Reality.I'm convinced that Heep will please mostly those who are just arriving to this specific scene:ultimately less demanding listeners,willing to accept consistent and memorable rock music despite of it's relevance or originality.

Magician's Birthday is an album that clearly spots that weakness to my ears.if compared to it's predecessor,these recording presents a much lower level of quality in compositions,even if what is heard as an end result is still good rock and roll.The prog approach of Demons and Wizards is kept here,but unfortunately contribuites to a dreadfull feeling of generic music from time to time.So,what exactly is wrong?There are two main problems I guess:first,Uriah Heep was never a band of virtuosos in the league of Yes or Deep Purple(and references to the former now and then oftenly pass the equally awafull impression that this band is a lower product).So being,their attempts to make vast,ambitious,progressive music was somehow spoiled by an often incoherence,wich leads to the second issue:the omnipresent,killer pression by the record company to make another blockbuster as quick as possible simply ruined everything.Would John Mclaughin be able to dodge that?Arguably.Mick Box and Ken Hensley sadly couldn't,and to think that this album could have been developed into a much more sofisticated and perfect work had it came to life in a natural way is really a shame(and the band has always been the first to aknowledge that).

I don't want to pass the wrong impression that this is a bad album by any means.Now that issues have been numbered,I'll make way to a great collection of hard rock(with hints of prog)numbers,with highlights as well as letdowns.In it's own therms,Sunrise is a great opener where David Byron truly shines with an excellent leading vocal performance(even if the lyrics are quite sub-par),in contrast with a heavy instrumental wall and classic Heep backing vocals all around,forging a very strong and memorable melody. There's also space for priceless old-fashioned and admittedly simplistic rock and roll,Spider Woman of course.Some may claim it as a waste of space on record and a complete filler,but really it's just a harmless song to wich you'll find yourself singing along from time to time.All in all,that is quite the uncompromising mood of the album until it's last minutes.

The centerpiece,which should have been further developed had the album been worked upon for a longer period,is the title and final track,lasting ten minutes with clear prog structures.Indeed it's the strongest moment of the album,and kind of pass the impression that is the only piece of true interest here.That's probably because it's dense,slightly complex and dark mood is the complete opposite of what has been heard so far.The Magician's Birthday is a very good epic,and probably the only song in the album which survived the pass of time in the band's repertoire.

If you're somehow unaware of what was happening in the musical scene by that time (particulary with English bands),this album may have a special place in your heart in years to come,as a passionate introduction to the sheer brilliance of .the early 70's hard rock's best.To seasoned years however,the best to do here is try to enjoy an uncompromising but ultimately satisfatory prog-related album.

Report this review (#227469)
Posted Saturday, July 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Uriah Heep at their best, fantastic heavy prog album. One of the greatest album is this genre. Stars with one of the greatest Heep songs ''Sunrise'' fantastic riff fantastic vocals. After that nice rock and roll song ''Spider woman'' witch just makes you move, then brilliant two prog oriented songs ''Blind eye'' and ''Echoes in the dark'' fantastic lyrics great music. The ballad ''Rain'' is one of the finest i've ever heard beautiful piano trough the whole song fantastic lyrics. Just when you get sad they hit you with another rockarolla ''Sweet Lorraine''. The best comes at the end 10 minutes piece ''The Magician's Birthday'' one of the best songs ever written. Great solo by Mick Box.... All in all these is one perfect album it has everything from great prog peaces to great hard rock songs and a perfect ballad!

Report this review (#232886)
Posted Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the album that truly got me into Prog music. A person who only knows "Yes" and buys it on a lark, then falls in love with the "Prog" genre... If that doesn't earn this album a 5 star review, nothing will!

I'd been weaned, literally on diapers, with it and 60s folk in the background. But as a kid I went into 80s "Punk" and "NewAge" and worse, "Pop"... In my early adulthood, I'd truly discovered "Yes" and was buying up the CDs but was worried since their music sounded so unique would there be anything like it once I got used to their music?

On a lark, at "Best Buy" I picked up this album, which was bargain priced at $6. It was the "Roger Dean" cover art that pointed me, because even though any artist would draw about any album cover for $, hopefully there was some association.

And, boy was I right! This album was full of deep and rich songs. Most albums in "The pop machine" one song sounds good until the third play, then it's boring. But a good "Prog" album is a masterpiece from beginning to end. The song of the title was only the desert at the end of the great meal, the rest of the songs were wonderful.

Besides the title, which I always play on my B-Day no matter what, the song that really gets to me the most is "Blind Eye" which to me is a deep philosophical song.

I am also impressed that like Yes, Uriah Heep seems to be going and going and going on a level almost equal to "The Dead". Despite the "Colostomy Rock" label, they seem really healthy, probably got diet and yoga tips from Jon Anderson and kept them up or he'd shove 'em in the "Sweat Lodge" to re-purify them:-)

Report this review (#244797)
Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another one of Uriah Heep's awesome proggy adventures, featuring Roger Dean on artwork, again. The mix of heavy metal, progressive rock, and hard rock is still present, but this album is much more on the prog side of everything because of the lyrics being a lot more thoughtful and much more well thought out. The excellent rhythm section is still here, Gary Thain pumping amazing basslines, and Lee's forceful drumming is always present. Lets not forget the amazing David Byron on vocals, Mick Box playing guitar, and Ken Hensley playing the hammond organ as forcefully as he can.

The opener "Sunrise" is a fairly proggy adventure, though slightly short considering. The lyrics are excellent, kind of on the same page as "July Morning" from the Look at Yourself album, but it explains everything much more clearly. The music overall has excellent guitar, amazing and pumping bass, and theatric vocals as usual. The organ and drum intro is haunting, dark and mysterious. "Spider Woman" is a little more of the usual, two minute rocker. The guitar is excellent throughout the song. The vocals are amazing, but the lyrics seem to be a little lazy considering the last proggy song. It's a very fun song to play though because of how upbeat and crazy it seems to be. "Blind Eye" is more of a western song, with acoustic guitar and pumping bottom end coming from the bass. The guitar harmonies on the solo part at the beginnning are really excellent, reminds of Iron Maiden a little bit, but about seven years before them. The lyrics are excellent, as well as the vocals coming from David. Not that many vocal harmonies though, but the ones that do come are excellent as usual. Not a favorite, but still listenable. "Echoes in the Dark" is alright, has good use of some wierd effect at the beginning, but this one just seems to be filler material. The guitar, as usual, is very nice with it's rocking solo's from our very own Mick Box, work well with the bass. I just seem to lose intreset in it because it's more of a boring ballad type, not my favorite. "Rain" is another ballad type of song, with piano like the last song, but it's performed with much more soul and much more passion and it dosen't seem to be filler. The lyrics are thoughtful, and David always seems to add that extra emotion to the song. A sadness that makes you feel like a real person when you listen to this song. "Sweet Loraine" goes back to full on rocker. Cool guitar at the beginning, and the bassline is always awesome. That high pitched noise at the beginning is pretty cool. The lyrics are awesome, though not as thoughtful, but has a good use of interesting words, which can make anyone interested. The vocals are amazing, with it's vocal harmonies being awesome as the par for any Uriah Heep track. "Tales" is a pretty good song, with some nice acoustic guitar and some nice keyboards. David sings amazingly, but that is nothing different. I think this one might be the weakest because it just dosen't really seem to go anywhere, at least from my standpoint. Filler. "The Magician's Birthday" is one of the band's last epics, and it's a great one. The lyrics are interesting, and the overall music is excellent. David sings very good on this one, but he seems a bit bored, but it works well with the music overall. The drums are amazing, and seem to just be uplifting. The guitar riff at the beginning is great. The organ isn't as prominate as some of their other songs, which seems to be interesting. There is an awesome guitar solo, which lasts for about three minutes, and it's the most intense of them all. The drums are so fluid. This epic is worth it, and brings this album up in rating.

Containing one of my favorite heavy prog epics, besides "2112" and "Hemispheres" by Rush, this one is not to be missed. The musicianship is amazing, as with all prog rockers, but this one has a special feeling to it. 5 stars for a masterpiece.

Report this review (#254621)
Posted Sunday, December 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars After 4 good to excellent record, Uriah's heap became something of a mess.

Sunrise is a great track, repeating old tricks but nevertheless inspiring the band to a very enthusiast performance. The chorus is a bit cheesy but still ok. Tracks like Spider Woman however give ample proof of the dwindling inspiration of this band. Blind Eye has a few better parts but the chorus indicates the looming stagnation that would demote Uriah Heep to a second rate hard rock band from the second half of the 70's onwards.

And it keeps raining half ideas and ill-advised songs, Echoes in the Dark could have been a good example of their gothic side but the tacky chord change around minute 2.40 can only inspire me to deeply disappointed sighs. Sweet Loraine has a great opening theme but quickly sinks down to insipid and substandard hard rock.

Only Tales offers another glimpse of what Heep used to be. Unfortunately the album mainly excels in proving their deteriorating talent.

Report this review (#254726)
Posted Monday, December 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Uriah Heep was nothing if not prolific in the early '70s and the band managed to churn out its first five albums in the space of only three years. It may seem a bit churlish of me to describe the band's fertility in this manner but by all accounts The Magician's Birthday was something of a rushed job, released quickly due to pressure from the record company. In spite of that it's a great album and as with Demons And Wizards it was certified Gold, although for me it will always lurk in the shadow of its more illustrious predecessor. The other major flaw with this album is that it is too much a clone of the preceding album. Side One of the original vinyl of Demons And Wizards consists of five relatively short songs, featuring a mix of ballads and rockers; Side Two finishes with an atmospheric acoustic song followed by a long multi-part track. Ditto for The Magician's Birthday. The album title and the Roger Dean cover even mirror Demons. That was the desired effect no doubt, but it borders on slavish imitation. Fortunately the chemistry of the previous recording remains in evidence, thus reinforcing this line-up's status as the classic Uriah Heep.

Sunrise opens the album in provocative manner. It begins with a gradual crescendo on Hammond organ that beautifully evokes the breaking of day. Some typically melodramatic choral effects burst forth along with Gary Thain's swaggering melodic bass line, which intermittently acts as the lead instrument. The main song features sharp contrasts in dynamics from subdued, pensive verses to rousing, fervent choruses. What a wonderful song and it's no surprise the band used it to open the Live '73 set. Spider Woman is one of the band's unremarkable rockers, so enough said about that. The next track, Blind Eye, has a memorable tune and features agitated acoustic guitar and an urgent twin electric riff. It's quite different to the band's usual sound mainly due to the timbre of the guitars, and I always think of Wishbone Ash when I listen to this song! Echoes In The Dark features Moog and slide guitar, both played by the multi-talented Mr Hensley. Manfred Mann's guest appearance playing Moog on the Look At Yourself album obviously made an impression on Hensley, as he himself uses the instrument extensively on this album. Echoes has some nice atmospheres and David Byron's vocals are fraught with emotion. Side One closes with Rain, a quietly reflective song with piano, vibes and organ providing the sole accompaniment.

Sweet Lorraine cracks open Side Two with a willowy Moog intro, followed by a superb wucka-chucka wah wah lick from Mick Box. The instrumental section midway through the song features a wispy, thread-like Moog and meandering bass duet. This song is undoubtedly one of Uriah Heep's finest rockers. The penultimate track, Tales, is a haunting ballad featuring gurgling Moog and a guest appearance by session musician B. J. Cole on pedal steel guitar. The 10-minute title track then closes the album in grandiose style. It consists of several different sections including a guitar/drums jam that struggles not to outstay its welcome. Earlier in the track drummer Lee Kerslake actually improvises on a kazoo during the 'Happy Birthday To You' section. The closing section includes a verbal exchange between the magician and his adversary, and features Byron's vocals in unison with Hensley's Moog. Nice effect guys, so why the sudden fade?

I always think of The Magician's Birthday as the companion album to Demons And Wizards; if you own one, you'll probably want both. I wouldn't describe it as essential but it has more than its share of highlights and is certainly worthy of a 4-star rating.

Report this review (#261756)
Posted Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 1972 a magical year in great progressive rock albums, and Uriah Heep comes with this good album, starting with the incredible "sunrise" loud shouts by the amazing vocalist David Byron, the great company of rhythm made by Mick Box guitar, great guitarist, this album begins with Sunrise, and apparently it will be really aggressive the whole album , and Spider Woman: we again believe in aggression, a little a la Rock and Roll, but a little more heavy, spider woman is the weakest part of the album in my opnion. Uriah Heep apparently enjoys incredible moments where the voice rises at the maximum in a style of opera, then begins Blind eye:, and we now see a little more lightness of sound, thanks to the acoustic guitar accompaniment, and a mystic voice and powerful, is an acceptable piece but not the best, I like the melody on electric guitar. from there we are transported to one of the best pieces from the album "Echoes in the Dark" begins really dark, with an incredible Melotron, a truly mysterious guitar tone from there we are transported to a glorious guitar solo painting the melody , with a great feeling and passion, while the pace of the drumms are consumed, then the claim of the song, the chorus implying glorifies hope.

Rain: beginning with the gentle piano, to be shopping in a super market, quiet song, but there's nothing else to talk, you can get bored too.

Sweet Lorraine: start scandalous, returned to the base of "heavy progressive rock, rock and roll type", not so bad song, but in terms of composition there is not much to talk about.

Tales: a good song, good, but up there. melodic at times and a bit psychedelic.

The Magician's Birthday: Along with "echoes in the dark" sunrise "are the best songs on the album which really worth listening to this album, with the theme of heavy-rock, uriah heep leads to a passage in a really rock rich and energetic, dynamic voices, with interesting changes following the mystery that characterizes this album, reaching voices that can scare the audience or can make you laugh for a moment "happy birthday to you" to 3:31 it is very dark, i am scared about that part.OMG, and then begin the keyboards and the whole band starts to play aggressively, great solos, stunning, using the Wah Wah sistem, again the scary sound, of the keyboards, 7:19 amazing stuff by mick, speed and good accuracy. and then again agressive the whole band, that is a part of the progressive elemments by this band. and in the final part is the best of the best of this album, really, yeah!,nice vocals,i think that a lot of heavy bands took this album like their heart and starts doing music. NICE SONG.

3.5 stars.

Report this review (#267661)
Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars What to say about album that never really had a chance. Coming after great Demons and Wizards The Magician's Birthday could never beat expectations. Although it doesn't start in that way opening song Sunrise is so strong and powerful that I had feeling that this album will be powerful at lest as last one. This song has everything that I like in UH great David Byron's vocal , great screaming back vocals and strong powerful music. Also has some kind of fantasy mystery around it that most great UH tracks have. Spider woman its nice little love song but not quite in the standard of the first song. Guitar is somewhat annoying it doesn't quite sit well in main ear. Now it comes Blind Eye probably mine favorite from album. Its starts with a "riding" rhythm and nice guitar melody. Byron's voice is calm when he starts to sing like he is telling a story. Its very good song. Echoes In The Dark is mystical song as the title suggests. Very nice guitar work through entire song. Nice vocals and lyrics. One of the highlights of the album. Rain is a beautiful ballad on which I just to dance with mine wife so I have emotions attached to it. Beautiful song , great piano, nice emotional vocals, what else to say.

Sweet Lorraine. Hmmm this one is tricky. I love this crazy opening music , lyrics are ok but I just hate this main catchy chorus it sounds like country. So everything is ok except the main chorus I just cant swallow it. Tales is a slow song trying to be mystical but it just fails. Uninspired song fails to touch you in a right spot. Now it comes The Magician's Birthday everybody's favorite. Probably because its long over 10 minutes. I never understand why people think that one song is great just because is very long. Its a stupid thought. Song starts with good rhythmic guitar and drumming work. Standard vocals and decent lyrics. Song is great until it comes to happy birthday chorus. I just hate this chorus its spoils entire song. Song after a while again comes back to the opening theme which then quickly fades out to some kind of dark music which after a while evolves to a annoying guitar solo which continues fore a couple of minutes. After that main story and singing continues and then song finishes. All in all not that bad song but I cannot escape felling that is somewhat forced. Like band was trying to make a equivalent for Paradise/Spell from Demons. They had a great idea but after a first chorus they just didn't now what to do so they force song until the end .

This is another great album from Uriah Heep with much better A side. I also have to mention another great cover art.

Report this review (#283284)
Posted Monday, May 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The progression of Uriah Heep toward a truly progressive rock album took a step forward with Demons and Wizards, but the follow up, Magician's Birthday, IMHO, relies a bit too much on the D & W formula--which, at times, makes it feel tired. The album had an FM radio "hit" in "Sweet Lorraine" (4:13) (7/10), a likable rock song with some eerie synth play and tight bass play from Gary Thain, as well as an irreverent, GRAND FUNK/LED ZEPPELIN-influenced long playing "epic" to interest the art rockers in the ten minute long title song (which I never really liked) (7/10).

Favorite songs: "Sunrise" (4:04) (9/10), "Rain" (3:59) (8/10), "Blind Eye" (3:33) (8/10), "Echoes in the Dark" (4:48) (8/10), and "Tales" (4:09) (8/10).

Report this review (#330980)
Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I just finished reviewing 2 poor Uriah Heep albums from the 80's so now I deserve to reward myself with a review of a classic Heep album. From 1972, it's THE MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY, one of my favorite Heep records along with DEMONS AND WIZARDS and LOOK AT YOURSELF. A true example of hard/rock/psychodelic/prog. Can't beat tunes like "Sunrise", "Echoes in the Dark", "Tales", and the wonderful "Magicians Birthday". The only weak moment is "Spider Woman", but it only lasts a bit over 2 minutes in length, so no big deal. As close to a 5 star as the Heep gets. This is Uriah Heep at the top of their game with their classic lineup intact- Thane, Kerslake, Box, Byron, and Hensley. I do not have the CD with the bonus tracks so I can't speak to their quality. 4 solid stars. I still haven't decided if I like this or DEMONS AND WIZARDS more, tough choice.
Report this review (#442893)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars ... and then it all started to go downhill.

To the band's credit, it wasn't really their fault that their fifth album, 'The Magician's Birthday' was something of a mess when compared to their previous albums. The deadline of this album had been set just 6 months after the release of 'Demons and Wizards', and with constant touring and a high reputation to maintain. The band were very overworked by this point - and it shows.

The album had originally been planned as a concept album, to follow up the fantasy-tinged 'Demons and Wizards'. However, with such a tight schedule, the concept couldn't be developed into an album-length story, and the band had to settle with what they had: the title track The Magician's Birthday. At 10 minutes in length, this is actually a great song, worthy of 'Demons and Wizards'. Essentially, it is two 3 minute songs joined together by a bitchin' instrumental. This instrumental is a breakneck jam between Mick Box on guitar and Lee Kerslake on drums, with some bizarre effects heard on top. The song also shows the fun side of Heep: the chorus in the first part of the song is a rendition of Happy Birthday To You with Kerslake on kazoo. If it is worth buying the album, then it is definitely for this song alone.

The other seven songs are all relatively forgettable. For a taster, the opening track Sunrise seems to have a good riff, but the song goes nowhere. The second track, Spider Woman has some of the worst lyrics ever (if you hadn't guessed from the name already!). The good moments are few and far between. After listening to this album, you will likely have forgotten these pieces. It's ironic, really, how Hensley talks about the 'tightness, togetherness if you like' of the album in the sleeve notes.

Years after recording this album, the band would agree that this was a rushed project. Even the elaborate Roger Dean artwork seems rushed, with sections of the art that still need be filled in! If the concept album had had the same quality throughout as the title track, we could have had something really special, possibly a magnum opus. Instead, this is a bit of a disaster.

Report this review (#525501)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars This record was a very important one to me a long time ago. I appreciated Uriah Heep's semi-heavy approach a lot more than for example Black Sabbath, who I felt were pretentious. Heep, and especially Ken Hensley could pen a melodic rock ditty with amazing ease, and Magician's Birthday is another fine proof of this.

There is not one single bad track on this record, and there are a few gems, like the fatally beautiful Rain, very well-formed Echoes In The Dark, Tales and especially the exciting title track.

Then why don't I consider this an "excellent addition to any prog music collection", why three stars only? The reason is that I have to compare this with other prog music that I have reviewed on this site, and on that scale Magician's Birthday is found lacking. Were this a list of straight rock music, this album would be in the top drawer, but as it is so much less prog than its predecessor, Demons And Wizards, I can only recommend this as a good welterweight fighter, with a few heavy punches.

Report this review (#534926)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars A Prog Birthday treat.

Perhaps one of the proggiest Uriah Heep releases "The Magicians Birthday" is a fantastic collection of songs that often find their way onto compilations of the group. There are no dull moments and most of these tracks tell a story that is compelling and surreal. 'Sunrise', 'Spider Woman' and 'Blind Eye' start this off with huge blues riffs and heavy distorted hammering riffs. Hensley's Hammond is an impactful force on each track giving a decidedly eerie effect.

'Echoes In The Dark' begins with a downright chilling intro with ethereal organ and dark riffs. It turns into a song full of very powerful riffs and atmospheres.

'Rain' is one of the quieter Heep Songs and it works okay as a break between all the mayhem. It became a popular entry in live performances as did 'Sweet Lorraine'. The album really gets into prog territory with the incredible 'Tales', but the piece de resistence is undoubtedly the 10 minute 'The Magician's Birthday'. This veritable icing on the cake features lengthy solos, tons of Hammond and guitar fills, along with isolated drums and even a kazoo for good measure. The quirky birthday tunes embedded are fun and of course the band were never taking them seriously... that came later.

Overall this album comes recommended for heavy prog fans and it is undoubtedly one of Uriah Heep's finest achievements.

Report this review (#537706)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've had this on vinyl for as long as I can remember. I've never been able to bond with it so, after reading these reviews, I took it for another spin.

The problem with this album is that it sounds "dated". I know what year it was made but plenty of music from that era has aged very well. Too much organ, silly lyrics, mediocre musicianship, over-dramatic vocals, etc. This sounds like a parody band. It's Spinal Tap, except there's no humor to be found here. These guys are very serious.

Most of the album is forgettable. Occasionally, there are some moments of quality. For example, "Sunrise", peaked my interest before going nowhere. "Sweet Lorraine" is so generic that I have to guess they were hoping for radio airplay. Any band could have written that tune. Absolutely indistinct in any way.

I gave this record two stars because of two songs, "Blind Eye" and "Tales". The former is good while the latter is great. "Tales", alone, made it onto my ipod. There's no organ, Byron shows some needed restraint, and there is some great interplay between the synth and pedal steel. It sounds nothing like the rest of the album which is a very good thing.

All in all, this is one of my least favorite recordings in a genre that I otherwise enjoy very much.

Report this review (#751531)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is one of three Uriah Heep albums to be certified gold in the US. The other two are "Demons and Wizards" and "Sweet Freedom." I am not familiar with "Sweet Freedom" so I can't comment on that other than it does include one of the more well known songs in "Stealin." Demons and Wizards is actually a stronger album than The Magician's Birthday from my perspective. However, "The Magician's Birthday" sounds fresher and less dated.

The album starts with "Sunrise" which is a very good song to start off an album. The vocals and guitar virtually come out of nowhere and propel this heavy hitting song. It contains a very good example of what could be considered the trademark guitar sound of Mick Box. The song predates grunge in that it alternates between both soft and harsher moments.

Next up is "Spider Woman" which is a decent enough track but nothing extraordinary and probably one of the weaker songs on the album. It doesn't make the album poor but does little to raise it's quality either.

Next up is "Blind Eye" which is a mid tempo tune with acoustic guitars at the foundation with electric soling on top of it all.

Track number four is "Echoes in the Dark" which has more keyboards than the other songs heard on the album so far. This is probably the closest the band ever got to sounding like Pink Floyd mainly because the weepy guitars have a very David Gilmour quality to them. The analog synths are a nice touch also.

Next up is "Rain" which is the most mellow song on the album. It has a slow dreamy quality that makes you think of staying home on a rainy afternoon. The song mostly consists of just vocals and keyboards(organ and piano). A very lovely song.

Track number six is "Sweet Lorraine" and it is possibly the best song on the album for my money. It's a very catchy up tempo rocker with lots of quirky synthesizer.

The second to last track on the album is "Tales" which is based around acoustic guitar. Some of the electric guitar that is heard mostly in the background sounds a bit on the country side but over all this track has the same kind of unique sound as "Echoes in the Dark" and "sweet Lorraine" due mainly to the spacey analog synths.

The last track on here is "the Magician's Birthday" and is by far the longest track on the album. By default it is the epic and probably the center piece(as well as obviously the title track). This track goes through a lot of different themes musically and even includes the children's instrument known as the gazoo. I find the part of the song that includes the "happy birthday" chant and the gazoo to be a bit silly but your mileage may vary. Still, it's a very good song and along with "Sweet Lorraine" the best song on the album. As quirky and unique as the other songs on this album are, I think this one takes the cake(pun intended).

While I still prefer "Demons and Wizards" there is really nothing weak on here and it's a very solid album for the most part. Maybe it has been lost in time to some degree but if you are looking to discover the discography of Uriah Heep this should probably be purchased earlier rather than later.

Report this review (#856118)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Though undeniably a pleasant listen, Uriah Heep's The Magician's Birthday doesn't quite measure up to the high standards of the run of albums leading up to it. The soaring, fantastic atmosphere of Demons and Wizards occasionally peeps in here and there, which saves the album from total mediocrity, but the glorious heights reached on that album are nowhere to be seen here. Simply put, doesn't really have any truly memorable standout songs that remain with you after listening - something every Heep album from Salisbury to Demons and Wizards offered in spades. Simply put, I could listen intently to the album and then an hour later I couldn't remember what most of the songs sound like aside from Sweet Lorraine - something which certainly isn't true of Salisbury or Demons and Wizards.

Although the band do seem to be trying to evolve their sound here, as they have for their previous albums, this is the first time that to my ears that evolution results in a dead end rather than a fruitful avenue for further exploration. The attempt to dial back and present a quieter and more sedate Uriah Heep on several of the tracks is particularly bizarre, given how successful the heavier portions of Demons and Wizards were.

Worth it if you were bowled over by Demons and Wizards and don't mind that the artwork manages to be closer to the spirit of that album than the music a lot of the time, but The Magician's Birthday marks the waning of Heep's classic period in my view.

Report this review (#864112)
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I always thought Uriah Heep could have been one of the great prog rock bands. According to many things I have read about them, their management steered them towards more accessible hard rock and let Ken Hensley dominate the songwriting. Much of their early stuff hinted at great prog rock such as "Wake Up, Set Your Sights", "The Park", "Salisbury" and Shadows of the Grief" among others. To many people, this is their quintessential album. I think its good but a step back from the three previous albums.

"The Magicians Birthday" is a great title and the Roger Dean artwork is excellent. It is just that most of the music doesn't match the proggy title or cover. This is their second album with their "classic" line-up and they implement a lighter approach with mixed results.

"Sunrise" starts of the album with a bang. One of their best songs. 100% of it's time, a total '70's anthem. A perfect mixture of early 70's metal and art rock.

"Spider Woman" is a bland rock song with corny lyrics that did not age well at all. Decent slide guitar though.

"Blind Eye" is a good song that is acoustically driven with nice lead guitar harmonies that could have influenced Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden.

"Echoes In The Dark" another highlight on the album with a cool theremin sound creating an eerie effect.

"Rain" I think this is a terrible song. It sounds like a band trying to do a ballad that doesn't really know how. David Byron's voice doesn't suit it and the lyrics are lame.

"Sweet Lorraine" is a straightforward rock song with some annoying synthesizer sounds that have aged badly and ultimately ruin the song. Take away the keyboards and you have yourself a decent song.

"Tales" is another acoustic guitar driven song with a really cool delaying effect on the slide guitar. Great song with nice mellow mood.

"The Magicians Birthday" Don't let the length of this song fool you, It's not really prog. It is more of a long hard rock song with prog leanings. It has the multi parts, some synth effects and a wild hard rocking extended guitar solo with some excellent drums behind it. It's a good tune. I just feel like it wasn't the big song that the earlier albums hinted towards.

Report this review (#916146)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
4 stars 'The Magician's Birthday' saw them in the novel position of having the same line-up; stability is not something that the band has been famous for over the last thirty years or so. This is probably one of the reasons why this is a very varied album, as they use many different styles although Ken again provided the vast majority of the material. These three albums are often viewed as their strongest, with many proggers picking this as the best as there is so much going on, with acoustic guitars very much to the fore as well as hard rock and plenty of keyboards. The title cut is a classic.

Originally appeared in Feedback #62, May 01

Report this review (#968571)
Posted Saturday, June 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I was younger, I was a bit dismissive of Uriah Heep, but now I own a few of their albums (Look at Yourself, Demons and Wizards, and this one) I come to the conclusion that they can do some absolutely brilliant material, and material I can do without. I know I'll still be looking for more Uriah Heep albums as they come my way. The Magician's Birthday seems to be my very favorite Uriah Heep albums, of the ones I heard. Since the band was riding high with Demons & Wizards (an album I personally find a tad overrated), with "Easy Living" receiving tons of FM radio airplay, they quickly followed it with The Magician's Birthday. "Sunrise", "Spider Woman", and "Tales" are some great songs found here. "Rain" is the one song I can do with out, a rather generic, piano-dominated ballad that I know Ken Hensley can do much better, such as "What Should Be Done" (off Look At Yourself"). That song has that charming quality that "Rain" lacks. "Sweet Lorraine" is a rocking piece but I really dig that synth. The title track is the epic track, one of Uriah Heep's best. It seemed they cut back a bit on the swords and sorcery of Demons & Wizards. I realize after their next album, Sweet Freedom, their input had became more erratic, but The Magician's Birthday really exceeded my expectations. Despite "Rain", it's simply Uriah Heep at their best.
Report this review (#1399634)
Posted Thursday, April 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars If anyone ever wanted to know what a typical classic Uriah Heep album sounded like, this would be a fine candidate for that title. It contains all of the elements that the band is best known for: heavy-hitting hard rock from guitarist Mick Box, romantic fantasy-themed lyrics delivered beautifully by David Byron, a couple of ballads here and there and some fairly standard keyboard performances interwoven between Mick Box's guitar licks. If you love everything I've just described, then you will find it all delivered well on this album. The reason why I only give this album 3 stars is because aside from these facets, there's little that's memorable about the album. The only truly magnificent track is the epic "The Magician's Birthday", which undoubtedly features Mick Box's strongest guitar work, with a nearly 4 minute guitar solo, as well as some of the band's best fantasy storytelling. So unless you're a Uriah Heep mega fan, you certainly won't be making this release one of your desert island discs.
Report this review (#1456816)
Posted Thursday, August 27, 2015 | Review Permalink

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