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Uriah Heep - The Lansdowne tapes CD (album) cover


Uriah Heep

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erik neuteboom
3 stars In 1965 Mick Box (guitar) was one of the founding members from beatgroup The Stalkers, soon David Byron (vocals) and Paul Newton (bass) became fellow members. After changing their name into Spice they build up a reputation in the London venue circuit and this resulted in an invitation to record an album. The recordings took place in the Lansdowne Studio and their sesssion keyboardplayer Colin Wood suggested to take keyboardist Ken Hensley as a new member. Ken played with Mick Taylor (later The Rolling Stones) in The Gods, other members from that 'cult-band' also later joined famous progrock bands like Lee Kerslake (Uriah Heep), Greg Lake (King Crimson, ELP, Asia) and John Glascock (Jethro Tull). After Ken had joined Spice the band changed their name in Uriah Heep.

This CD contains six Spice songs and eight previously unreleased Uriah Heep track versions from the era 1969-1971. The "Spice" composition "Born in a trunk" sounds like early Uriah Heep featuring raw and harder-edged guitarplay and the very distinctive vocals from David Byron. Another nice "Spice" song is the jazzy "Magic lantern" with strong bass play. Most of the Uriah Heep tracks feature compelling, bluesy inspired keyboard work from Ken Hensley (on "Why", "What should be done" and "Lucy's blues"). The final composition is the 'classic' "Look at yourself", so propulsive and powerful, this is perfect simplicity! This CD has a running time from at about 75 minutes, its mid-price must seduce some progheads...!

Report this review (#48472)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Discovering an abandoned goldmine

When this album was originally released in 1993, I must confess I became very excited and rather emotional. Here was a CD full of songs I had not previously heard, recorded by Uriah Heep during the time that the now sadly departed David Byron was the lead singer. I was blissfully unaware until then that such a quantity, and indeed quality, of unreleased material existed. "The Lansdowne tapes" was originally a single CD set, comprising almost entirely of unheard songs. The more recent 2CD version retains all those tracks, but has been expanded to include alternative recordings and edits of tracks which made it onto the band's official albums.

As with many bands around the time of these songs, Uriah Heep tended to record more material than was required to fit within the limitations of a 40 minute LP. The tracks would be seen through to final production before a decision was taken on which to include and which to omit. Some of the tracks appeared as single B sides, while others were simply shelved. The reasons for omission were varied, and while some were not deemed to be of a sufficient standard, many were dropped simply because they sounded too similar to other tracks which had already been selected. The wonderful ballad "What's within my heart" is an excellent example of this. The track was recorded during the "Look at yourself" sessions, but was not included on the final album because "What should be done" had been chosen, and the band did not want to put two similar ballads on the same album.

The songs included here are all from the period before the arrival of Gary Thain and Lee Kerslake, and the release of the "Demon's and Wizards" album. Thus they cover the period from the latter days of the band's previous incarnation as Spice, through the arrival of Ken Hensley, and the recording of the first three Uriah Heep albums "Very 'eavy very 'umble", "Salisbury", and "Look at yourself".

Among the unreleased songs and B-sides, are some real gems. Apart from the aforementioned "What's within my heart", we have the superb 11 minute track "Why". Why this track was never included on an album is a real mystery, but one can only assume that it was considered to be too out of character for the band. The song has an almost jazz like structure, with wah wah dominated lead guitar (similar to the solos on the title track of "Salisbury"), and seemingly improvised vocals. It may sound unappealing, but it is truly magnificent, and rather progressive. Several versions of the song have since been found, one of which is more rock orientated. It is however an essential treat for fans of the band.

"Here am I", is an 8 minute outtake from the "Salisbury" album. It is essentially a softer, pared back ballad, with Passing similarities to "If I had the time" from the later "Sweet freedom" album. It does however include another great Mick Box lead guitar solo. Very much of its time, but a lost classic nonetheless. "Simon the bullet freak" is an odd piano based song, which originally appeared as the B side of the "Look at yourself" single. Almost funky in its structure, it contains a truly awesome performance by David Byron, who takes the opportunity offered by the sparse backing to demonstrate the extent of his vocal dexterity.

While the first of the two discs takes us chronologically from "Very 'eavy very umble" through to "Look at yourself", the second disk delves further back to the pre Uriah Heep SPICE days. Ken Hensley was not yet on board for the seven consecutive SPICE tracks which open disc 2. The Vanilla Fudge influences are already apparent, as is Byron's vocal capability, but the tracks do not have the refinement and structure which was to come with Hensley's arrival. The disc then reverts to further alternative versions of tracks from the first three Heep albums.

Most of the alternative versions of tracks which have appeared on albums are similar to the final takes. Those from "Very 'eavy, very 'umble" in particular are almost identical. The "Salisbury" outtakes have more variety. The acoustic guitar on "The park" is more dominant, while "Lady in black" loses the echo on the vocals, resulting in a more rough and ready sound. "What should be done" (from "Look at yourself") is even sparser than the album version, emphasising once again the stunning vocals of Byron.

Most of the lost tracks have now been included on the expanded remasters of the band's early albums. This collection however gathers them together into a single package.

I experienced something of a quandary when it came to the star rating here. On a personal basis, this is a five star album. In truth however, it's a collection of out-takes and discarded material, deemed for one reason or another, not to be required for inclusion in the band's official releases. "The Lansdowne tapes" is therefore essentially "for fans only". It is nonetheless, a first class collection, and a compulsory purchase for those who loved the early music of the Byron era.

Report this review (#49021)
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars I can't add much to Bob McBeath review, the only thing I want to underline is the quality of THE SPICE song "Magic Lantern". For me it stands in the same row as URIAH HEEP epics like "July Morning", "Magician's Birthday" and "Pilgrim". This powerful beautifully composed song with some jazz lines shows, probably better than any other SPICE track, great potential of the band which soon became URIAH HEEP. David's voice is very strong and emotional, goose bumps, really. WARNING! 2CD reissue of the album contains different mix of "Magic Lantern" - David's voice is heard only from one speaker and it literally kills the song! Better listen original single CD version.

It's not easy for me to rate "The Lansdowne Tapes": 5 stars for HEEP fans and 4 stars for the rest of the world.

Report this review (#52866)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Review Permalink

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