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Uriah Heep - Very 'Eavy...Very 'Umble CD (album) cover


Uriah Heep


Heavy Prog

3.37 | 455 ratings

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2 stars According to comments by guitarist Mick Box on the re-mastered edition's sleeve notes, the band went into the studio to record their debut as the four-piece Spice but came out again as the five-piece Uriah Heep. Multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley had been a late addition to the band, initially recruited in order to add Hammond organ to the group's sound. Unfortunately he is conspicuous by his absence from the album's song writing credits. In my opinion this is the main flaw with Very 'Eavy as the songs lack craft and the lyrics are cliché-ridden. This situation was thankfully resolved on subsequent albums. The follow-up Salisbury saw Hensley involved in the composition of all but one track, while he had a hand in the writing of every song on the third album Look At Yourself.

Released in 1970, the same year as Black Sabbath's debut, Deep Purple In Rock and Led Zeppelin III, the first Heep album had some serious competition. It lacks the menace, variety and subtlety of these other three artists' albums respectively. Despite these criticisms of Very 'Eavy, the album does act as a template for the sound that would be honed on future releases. Heavy but melodic songs saturated with Hammond organ, wah wah guitar, falsetto vocal harmonies and a bit of slide guitar would become features of the group's trademark sound and all these elements are present here.

Gypsy opens the album, a live favourite and the only song from the first two Heep albums to feature on the Live 1973 disc. It features psychedelic Hammond stabbing and swirling over a relentless pile driving rhythm. Add David Byron's distinctive voice along with some background 'aahs' and the album's off to a fine start. Walking In Your Shadow follows and this is just a run of the mill rocker. The next song, a cover of Come Away Melinda, is something of a surprise as it's a pensive acoustic ballad featuring Mellotron string and flute over-dubs. I believe this song was popularised by Tim Rose, a guy who had links to Scott McKenzie and members of The Mamas And The Papas. In my view this is a strange choice of song to cover, although pleasant enough. Lucy Blues is indeed a slow blues featuring some good organ and piano from Hensley, but is not one of Box/Byron's better compositions.

Dreammare, penned by bass player Paul Newton, features some of Hensley's trademark slide guitar. The song's lyrics hint at some of the fantasy-oriented themes that would be an important component of the band's classic albums. Real Turned On is another bluesy rocker that features juvenile, puerile lyrics: 'Next time you come over I'll buy you a bottle of wine, Just take a little drink and everything'll turn out fine' etc. The final two tracks, I'll Keep On Trying and Wake Up (Set Your Sights), are arguably the most progressive on the album with their changes in melody and tempo. I'll keep On Trying begins with a plaintive guitar/organ theme and vocal backing 'aahs'. It then goes through different mood and tempo shifts, from quiet and reflective to fast and propulsive with shrieking guitar. With the exception of David Byron's unmistakable voice, Wake Up (Set Your Sights) could easily have featured on Time And A Word (interestingly also released in 1970). This song comprises two sections, the first featuring a jazz groove with melodic bass and jazz-toned guitar, the second featuring a dreamy atmosphere with Mellotron to the fore.

Very 'Eavy demonstrates the potential that Uriah Heep had at the time of its original release. The album opens strongly with the classic Gypsy and closes with two interesting songs. However most of the five remaining songs are average at best, therefore I feel this album only warrants 2 stars.

seventhsojourn | 2/5 |


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