4 October 2013

Uriah Heep - Demons And Wizards

With an album title like that, it's a good bet that we're going to be treated to a spectral mix of magic and spells as well as an unleashed box of power where progressive rock rules. I am of course referring to the 1970s, the era where record companies allowed their label acts a full free reign on their creative material, where the obligatory Les Pauls and Stratocasters duelled with Wurlitzers and Hammonds and where riffs where running riot.

As you've probably guessed by now I'm a hopeless romantic when it comes to the Seventies, "The decade that taste forgot." I was born halfway through then, and in my infant years I was subjected to numerous weird and wonderful acts on the airwaves like Queen, Yes, Focus, etc. And man, how those memories came flooding back when the nostalgia returned to the foray. Formed in 1969, Uriah Heep made up the "Big Four" of hard rock along with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple although they were probably the lesser known of the quartet. To date, the only founder member still with The 'Heep is six-stringer Mick Box, while some have passed away and others have gone on to pastures new. The vocalist in 1972 was the enigmatic David Byron who had such overwhelming charisma and onstage charm but with serious alcohol issues that would cost him his job at UH and ultimately his life in 1985.

Named after a Dickens character in David Copperfield, Uriah Heep were churning on average an album a year when their third and previous record Look At Yourself was the band's first to receive critical acclaim. This followup Demons And Wizards however would exceed all expectations. We start from the beginning with acoustic string and mystical explanatory The Wizard until the bridge is accompanied with heavier guitars and falsetto backups. Traveller In Time is my favourite on the record as the chord structure marries with the Hammond, likewise the following track and pacier Easy Livin' telling of tales excess and the fast life. There's more falsetto harmonies in Poet's Justice which reminds me of Focus' Hocus Pocus minus the yodelling. Most tracks up till now are three minute snippets until there's more depth with Circle Of Hands and The Spell giving us a rare Honky Tonk flavour at the start and finish. Paradise is a departure from the magical and legendary theme with acoustical backdrops and telling of a dying love in his life.

As an album in its own right, Demons And Wizards is beautifully and imaginatively written and UH were prolific in their releases at that time. Sadly, it's my suspicion that back then they tended to be largely overlooked by fans in favour of the other Big Three as they seem to have been right throughout their existence. Hopefully this should go some way to redressing the balance.

9 out of ten. Almost perfect...almost.

Click on here for Uriah Heep's Official Website
Listen to Demons And Wizards here on Deezer
Buy the album here on Amazon

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