You don`t have to be a genius to figure out that this journalist is not a big fan of Uriah Heep. Kudos to him for admitting that it is so and trying his best to write a “balanced” review of their album. Well, at least as far as he is able to in the circumstances. His use of the English language suggests that Mr. Erskine was a well-read and intelligent music journalist. Unfortunately, Mr. Erskine died an early death, but lives on through his writing.
Personally, I still believe that Heep should be in the Rock`n`Roll Hall of Fame. Their long career and “Easy Livin`” alone should send them there.
Five years of unbroken popularity and delusions of grandeur
URIAH HEEP: The Best Of Uriah Heep (Bronze)
By Pete Erskine
One of the first records I ever had given to me to review was Uriah Heep`s “Demons And Wizards”.
I was Disc`s cub reporter then, trying hard to make a name for myself as some kind of verbal marksman – sniggering at the cut of the lead singer`s trousers as I took aim.
The outcome of the resultant review was a couple of acidic paras, in which I confessed to tossing the album over an adjacent hedge.
Roger Dean`s sleeve remained pinned to the kitchen wall – I only liked looking at the pictures, you see.
The extremities of people`s reactions to their music has always worked for rather than against the Heep.
I hated that album, but at least it was substantial enough to inspire an emotion as intense as hatred. Using the Zappa definition (he having developed the same ethos with regard to his signing of the latterday repulso-rock figure A. Cooper) this alone was conclusive evidence that Heep were destined for a major career.
Subsequently, I discovered that I wasn`t prejudiced against Heavy Metal at all.
Sabbath are great because they have no real pretensions musically. Even in the lyrical sense they are unpretentious, despite token concessions to passing “controversial” themes like ecology and neuroses. Which, you`ll have noticed, are never allowed to take precedence over the Sabbs` definitive H. Metal equation.
Heep, however, remind me of a poor man`s Deep Purple – unwilling to come clean and own up to the fact that they`re really no more erudite or imaginative than the Sabbs.
Instead, like Purple, they have aspirations to respectability and “progressiveness” by structuring their material along the delicate neo-classical lines of Jon Lord`s flirtation with the L.P.O.
Heep`s keyboardman, the gentlemanly Ken Hensley, must in part be responsible for the growth of this neo-classical tangent judging by the calmer, more pensive nature of his solo projects.
As yet, former Family/King Crimson bassman John Wetton appears to have had little effect in changing the group`s direction on record, while guitarist Mick Box and vocalist David Byron are Hensley`s polar opposites, still adhering conservatively to the traditional formalised precepts of volume and garishness.
The result – through five years of unchanging popularity, four drummers and three bassplayers – has been somewhat schizophrenic.
Artistically, the band has never qualified as “progressive”, while at the same time it cannot ever have been said to represent true Heavy Metal.
To me they typify that peculiarly English principle of Saving Face represented by the compulsive national need to dress mutton as lamb.
In this respect groups like Uriah Heep are direct descendants of the ghastly late `60s-movement in pop which required that musicians “prove their intelligence”, over mainstream pop by being as musically inscrutable and elitist as possible.
Which was only really another “anti-hero” guise, equally phoney because it was only a Pavlovian reaction to the other extreme.
The whole thing was so patently wooden and literal; half a decade later we still have musicians in this country who believe the hang-over maxim that the overdub is some kind of panacea and ju ju.
This, despite the almost universal acknowledgement of bands like The Wailers and Little Feat – both of whom continually realise the impact of the maxim of “If in doubt, leave it out”, which is one of the founding principles of black music.
Some people are even beginning to acknowledge the greatness of pop bands like the Small Faces and the Spencer Davis Group.
The Heep are the nearest parallel we have to the late Vanilla Fudge in terms of the scale of their misinterpretation of their raw materials.
They`re much too inhibited to strip down and make real unashamed quality Heavy Metal like Iggy`s “Fun House” or “Raw Power”.
Heep are too genteel by half – instead of wasting their time on quasi-magical lyrics and virtuoso organ runs they should dig out even a fraction of Iggy, and the Feelgoods` energy and some kind of working vocabulary of stirring (but simple) guitar riffs.
As it is, it`s a wonder they haven`t all got piles from sitting on the fence so long.
Track listings are as follows:
Side One: “Gypsy” (recorded 1970 with Paul Newton, bass; Alex Napier, drums. From “Very `Eavy, Very `Umble”. “Bird Of Prey” (rec. Nov. `70, same line up, “Salisbury” album). “July Morning” (July 1971. Ian Clarke, drums, Manfred Mann, moog. From “Look At Yourself.”) “Look At Yourself” (Same date. With Osibisa`s rhythm section).
Side Two: “Easy Livin`” (`72. Gary Thain, bass. Lee Kerslake, drums. From “Demons & Wizards”). “The Wizard” (`72. Same album). “Sweet Lorraine” (October `72. “Magician`s Birthday”). “Stealin`” (June `73. “Sweet Freedom”). “Suicidal Man (ditto. `74. “Wonderworld”). “Return To Fantasy” (`75. John Wetton, bass).
It might be worth remembering that to date Heep have sold in excess of 10 million albums.
YES! It is that easy to write a worldwide No. 1 Hit! Incredible!
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With a great, big thank you to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Harris, Steeleye Span, Roogalator, Santana, Stephen Stills, 10 cc, Jean-Luc Ponty, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Status Quo.
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