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Uriah Heep - Salisbury CD (album) cover


Uriah Heep


Heavy Prog

4.19 | 911 ratings

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5 stars Uriah Heep was a band in flux right from the beginning, even through their best years. They were stable, for the most part, through the release of their first 3 albums as they only had different drummers through that entire time while being able to retain the rest of their members during that time. So, for the release of their 2nd album 'Salisbury', the line up consisted of David Byron on vocals, Mick Box on guitar, Ken Hensley on keyboards and Paul Newton on bass. Keith Baker (the original drummer for Supertramp) takes the place of both Nigel Olsson (who went on to be Elton John's drummer) and Alex Napier on drums, and even he would leave the band after the release of Salisbury because he didn't want to tour with the band, who was beginning to open for some huge names like Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf.

This album would see the band sort of unsure where it wanted to go, but it also saw them venturing into progressive music, their first real steps into the genre. The band would also rely more on the songwriting talents of Ken Hensley, not just Byron and Box as the first album did. This might have been part of the reason for the move into the progressive rock arena.

The album starts off with 'Birds of Prey' which had been a hit between the UK release of their debut album and this album, although it did appear on the US version of 'Very 'eavy, Very 'umble'. Many consider this song Uriah Heep's most popular. It has the heavy guitar riff combined with Byron's over-the-top high vocals. This was the sound that would go down as UH's trademark sound that they would unfortunately abandon way too early in their career for a more commercial sound. You would almost swear that this is where Queen got its sound. 'The Park' proves Hensley's songwriting ability and the movement to progressive music is quite apparent. Byron's falsetto pretty much makes up the entire vocal performance on this one also. The song is more pensive than the opener helping to give this album a similar level of variety and emotion that makes 'The Magician's Birthday' album so great. Again, the leaning towards progressive music is proven after the 3 minute mark as the instrumental break changes tempo and meter and opts for a more fusion style. The vocals resume coming back in acapella at first with instruments slowly joining in again.

'Time to Live' goes back to the dark and heavy sound with a great guitar solo in the introduction. The vocals are more natural this time staying in a mid-range and not soaring off into the stratosphere as often and the song is more of a straightforward rock. 'Lady in Black' goes for a softer, acoustic sound and a steady mid-tempo beat. The fifth track on the UK version of the album is 'High Priestess' while on the US version it is 'Simon the Bullet Freak'. Both songs are written solely by Hensley. The timing of each song is about the same and why they were different is anyone's guess. The former is a bit heavier and more unhinged where the latter is a mid-tempo, yet heavy, blues-based song. Both of them are pretty decent.

'Salisbury' is the final track on the album and is quite an epic track at 16 minutes. The band has recruited a 27-piece brass band to help create a full, head-on progressive masterpiece. It was quite impressive that the band could pull something like this off on what was only their 2nd album. And the song is definitely impressive as it mixes the orchestra with the rock instruments, and Byron's crazy range is more than adequate for a track of this scope. Back in these early days, UH was proving it was a force to be reckoned with and that the musicians involved were extremely talented. It's too bad they never reached the status of bands like Deep Purple or Chicago, but the fact that they had such a hard time holding on to a regular line-up is probably one of the main reasons and that pressure from the label to be more commercial kept them from reaching that level. But this track should take away any doubt that UH deserved more recognition than they ever got. But, the band was given a lot of freedom for this album, and it ended up being another step in elevating their careers at least in its early years.

The extended version of the album released in 2003 adds in a lot more tracks in that it brings 'Simon the Bullet Freak' back to the album and features an almost 8 minute outtake called 'Here Am I'. The other things on this version are 3 single edits of tracks on the album and 2 alternate versions.

When you listen to this album now, it is hard to believe that a band like this would end up not getting the attention that it deserved. If they were left to their own inventiveness, who know what they could have accomplished. Yes, they would have another masterpiece with 'The Magician's Birthday' and 'Demons and Wizards' but after that, the pursuit of commerciality would bury the band into obscurity for quite a while. That, along with an ever changing line-up would prevent the band from ever making a real comeback, though there were occasional decent albums, nothing would ever sound as great from them as these early progressive gems.

TCat | 5/5 |


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