* Prices may differ from that shown
In my youth I used to frequent a rock pub which played lots of classic rock music (mind you, I guess it wasn't called 'classic rock' in those days, just normal rock, but you get my gist, right?) One of the tracks they played most weeks was Uriah Heep's 'Stealin.' My buddies and I used to have our own variation of 'head-banging' and to this song such a 'dance' was compulsory. I bought a 'Best of...' album, which had this track and borrowed the old vinyl of Sweet Freedom. I went through a stage of loving this band. I saw them live in the eighties. But time passes by, the years fall away like landslides and your music tastes change. Uriah Heep became a band I used to like a lot, even though I always had a soft spot for them. And here one might think the story ends? The final chapter written... The End scrawled at the bottom. But no...
Whilst browsing through YouTube recently I stumbled across the track Stealin and had a good listen. I realised what a truly great song it was, played it several times and also played Pilgrim (from this album also, more on that to follow). I then promptly went to Amazon and bought the CD. It arrived quickly and I put it on. I was happy to see it was an expanded deluxe version with 6 extra variations of the song and song which featured on a B side. Was I happy with my purchase? I was - mostly...
Mick Box - guitars
David Byron - vocals
Ken Hensley - keyboards, guitars, Vocals
Lee Kerslake - drums, percussion, vocals
Gary Thain - bass
Like I have said they are a rock band, and in today's world they will be classed as classic rock. They evolved into heavy rock from the early seventies, when heavy rock, or metal was in its infancy. I would never say they were metal, but they were loud and full of operatic vocals, great guitars and wonderful keyboards. Of this line-up, however, only Box remains. The singer, Byron, with his diverse vocal range, died in 1985. Ken Hensley now has a solo career. Thain died in 1975. Kerslake played with Ozzy Osbourne for a while.
We start with Dreamer (written by Mick Box and Gary Thain) - 3:41 in length. This is an odd one to start this album, not a really good song at all, too jolly really as most of the songs which follow it are a little bit darker. It would probably have worked better in the middle of the album perhaps. Next is Stealin (Ken Hensley) - 4:49. This is the classic Uriah Heep song, with somewhat dark a storyline. A bass and organ intro that gently rises in volume before Byron comes in. This is a fine song and David's voice is just fantastic here. Lots of melodic vocals and a fine heavy riff takes over with a passion. Fine guitar solo, perhaps this would have been more apt an intro song to this album.
Then comes One Day (Hensley, Thain) - 2:47. An operatic/rock amalgam of an introduction, with a dirty riff to accompany David's excellent vocals. It is an uplifting tune, full of hope, yet with a bit of a darker side. I think Hensley might have been going through a break-up in a relationship, or it might have been on the rocks when he wrote the songs for this album, as most songs feature such dark relationship problems lyrics. But don't quote me on that. Talking of Hensley, his organ features in the intro to the next song, Sweet Freedom (Ken Hensley) - 6:37. The title track, it has a good build up and falls gently into a passionate song. There is more about relationship break-ups here. Mid section we have quiet instrumental bit that builds up... organ and guitars do a march that works well.
If I Had the Time (Ken Hensley) - 5:43, is next. A chaotic intro that falls into a great riff that is both spooky and science fiction. Maybe the kind of music you would have for a soundtrack of a film about ghosts in space, perhaps? Maybe call it 'Ghosts in Space?' Things quieten a bit and David's impeccable vocals come in again. A high-pitched intro, then a groovy little riff starts Seven Stars(Ken Hensley) - 3:52. Not a bad song, but not the best in the album. Next up is Circus (Box, Lee Kerslake, Thain) - 2:44. This is a gentle little number, which shows off David's varied vocal range.
Pilgrim (David Byron, Hensley) - 7:10. Does this track need anything other than a great big 'Wow?' Okay, how about 'Phew!' This is Uriah Heep at their best. A mega intro with operatic vocals and classical piano that is extremely uplifting. It then falls into a classic rock sound and we are taken on a journey through Prog Rock, which is heavy with many imaginative parts to it, sometimes quiet, heavy again and constantly full of passion. I am going to shut up now and listen to it... be back in just over seven minutes...
Like I said my copy is the 2004 Remastered version which was released by Sanctuary UK and it features six previously unreleased tracks. "Sunshine (Outtake)" (written by Thain and Box) is 4:48 long; this is not a bad song, but nothing special, only David's great vocal, it was on a B side. "Seven Stars (Ken Hensley) (Extended Version)" - 7:03. This features an extended intro with lots of spooky sounds - I am thinking Ghosts in Space again. "Pilgrim (Full Version)" (Byron, Hensley) - 8:29. This is an interesting version and well worth a listen to. "If I Had the Time (Ken Hensley) (Demo)" - 6:02. This is a little bit of a jollier and watered down version to the song, one you mind find the Troggs doing or something. The next two songs are life versions "Sweet Freedom (Ken Hensley)" - 6:48 and "Stealin' (Ken Hensley)" - 5:41. Here is proof that Uriah Heep were great live and David's vocal is faultless.
This is a good introduction to Uriah Heep of that time. There are some weaker songs, and it is dated a bit in parts, but it is well worth a listen if you are new to this band, or to have another look at them in you were once a fan. Hey, you might have followed them through thick and thin and don't need telling...
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Stealin' - Gerry Bron, Uriah Heep
3 One Day
4 Sweet Freedom
5 If I Had The Time
6 Seven Stars
10 Seven Stars
12 If I Had The Time
13 Sweet Freedom
14 Stealin' - Gerry Bron, Uriah Heep