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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

THE HEEP


Uriah Heep put out a hefty load of shit in their day, that much is certain, but when they were good, they were great.

Mostly I blame former vocalist David Byron for the horrible stuff, but he left the band in 76, and the crap not only kept flowing, but took over completely. Then Ken Hensley left in 1980 and they got good, completely different, but good.

What was good about the classic Heep, the early seventies stuff, was the sound. If you can ignore the singer long enough, you'll hear some amazing stuff. I developed this skill listening to Zeppelin, and it serves me well.

Drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Gary Thain created a dense steady thunder flavored with Thain's amazing sense of melody. His style was unorthodox without being distracting, certainly one of a kind. Lee is your classic solid skin pounder, a pocket guy who can really bash with the best.

On top of that you had this great blend of organ (Hensley) and guitar (Mick Box - great name), both put through huge amp stacks creating a super distorted fog, sometimes broken by Box's Wah, but mostly pumping along with the fore mentioned thunder.

David Byron was just bloody awful - half the time. When they reeled him in and settled him down he could do the job, but he had this tendency to turn on the stupid like nobody's business. Stupidity is the real issue. Stupid lyrics, and really stupid vocal........uh........ideas?

Certainly 'Best of Uriah Heep' and 'Uriah Heep Live' cover this period of the band very well, the rest is interesting at times, laughable at others.

The second half of the decade saw The Heep releasing utter crap - really, really worthless records. I know, I own them.

1982 saw a rebirth of Uriah Heep. After Ken Hensley called it quits in 1980, so did everybody else, except Mick Box, who at that point was the only other original member.

Mick drafted a new band featuring Lee Kerslake, freshly fired from Ozzy's band, and bassist Bob Daisley, who quit Ozzy's band after Lee was sacked.

Mick replaced Ken with John Sinclair, who bailed on Spinal Tap just before the movie to join Heep. He's on the Spinal Tap record, and in the 30 minute 'treatment' filmed to shop a deal.
I guess Mick was tired of being a party to crap. It's apparent in the fact that he hired a singer, Peter Goalby, who not only was a very good singer, but he seemed to actually listen to the band and sing stuff that worked well with what they were doing.

A refreshing move, and a marked improvement.

Getting Bob Daisley was a score as well because Bob was a good songwriter, having written the bulk of the lyrics for the first five Ozzy records. Even after Bob left Ozzy's band in 82, he would be hired by Sharon and Ozzy at some point during the recording process of the next three Ozzy records.

The first record the newly refurbished Uriah Heep put out featured the most unrepresentative album cover ever made.

Now, you have to imagine you are me, it's 1982, you're a sixteen year old Metal fan. You go to the record store and you see this:




















Of course you're gonna buy it. I mean Uriah Heep has a new record with half of Ozzy's band on it, and this is the cover?

I bought it, brought it home, put it on, and...........what the fuck? What is this crap? Sounds like fucking Pink Floyd!

Now, another important thing happened in 1982; I started smoking pot, and soon, because it's mandate, I started enjoying Pink Floyd.

'Abominog' got another chance, and by gosh, it was actually very good.

The standout track is 'The Way That It Is', penned by then unknown outside of Canada singer songwriter Brian Adams.

The Heep had changed, gone was the foggy sound, in it's place was crisp dynamic power pop.
By the time they released 'Head First' - boring cover art - in 1983, I was more than willing to buy in.

I was not disappointed.

'Head First' is a great record. Certainly the best record any line-up of Heep made.

I guess they had a good head of steam, and they really delivered the goods. 'Head First' is more progressive than 'Abominog', but still very crisp and accessible. The songs, however, are the yard stick, and finally, after very many years, Uriah Heep - Mick Box at least - had a consistently good record, instead of consistently bad.

Uriah Heep has been working fairly steady since, albeit with more line-up changes. I can't speak to the quality of the successive records, they might be good.

It's likely they aren't.

Comments:
Well put about ignoring lyrics and vocals and listening to the music.

"If you can ignore the singer long enough, you'll hear some amazing stuff. I developed this skill listening to Zeppelin, and it serves me well." -

Gary Thain had some very cool bass lines. My older brother and uncle listened to a lot of heep - I just could never wrap my head around the singer.

great post

hue
 
Amazing that any one person could know this much about Uriah Heep.

I gotta say that other than "The Wizard", I can't remember much of this bands work. I know many have played me stuff from various records that I liked a lot, and I think I might even have Abominog, but I don't remember much beyond that. I do remember that bass players dig The Heep and from your post it sounds like there's good reason. I'll have to dig Abominog out and play it while packing the studio.
 
Tony: The Live album is really good, and some of the best bass playing I've ever heard.
 
You liked 'Lady In Black' alot, Tony, as I recall. See if you can find the Best Of disc.

Sorry Circy.....
 
"The Wizard" was awesome. This is the correct way to use tape echo.

I loved the Spinal-Tap-like band member chart on the back cover of (Best of?)

At what point does your band become a franchise?
 
When there ae no original members left, like the Oak Ridge Boys or Menudo.
 
Abominog!! I remember that cover..sounds like a really evil christmas beverage.
I only remember "Easy Livin" Sounds like Rainbow/Deep Purple.
 
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