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


Uriah Heep


Heavy Prog

3.86 | 575 ratings

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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.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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