Ken Hensley – Love & Other Mysteries

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Review by Brian McGowan

Tracing the fault-lines between loneliness and love, Ken (Uriah Heep) Hensley’s gentle (if indistinctive) croon opens this very personal album with ‘Bleeding Heart’. It effectively sets out his stall, not with a flourish but with the emotional fragility of a man who’s been sold a false dream one too many times. More on this later.

Guest vocalists, Glenn Hughes and Santra Salkova stand around the piano for the second tear stained sliver of melancholy, ’Romance’, though this time, Hensley cleverly (and very deftly) mixes up the bruised emotions with a soulful middle section, where the song accelerates into life. Two handed, Hughes and Salkova somehow manage to work up a gospel blues texture out of the song’s mood, delivering a couple of pounding crescendos to lift the music out of its undemanding groove.

‘No Matter’, ‘Come To Me’’ and ’Walk Away’ showcase the kind of casually ornate and versatile songwriting that Hensley became well known for in a previous life. The first adopts an MOR stance – the kind of thing that Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross might have recorded in the eighties – while ‘Come To Me’, is a smoky, late nite ballad that hits the spot, though there’s a whiff of self satisfaction in the narrative that just seems out of place.

It’s around here that the perceived problems become evident – some of the lyrics and Hensley‘s less than distinctive vocals. His defeated lover persona – the protagonist who inhabits many of these tracks – sounds just a bit too defeatist. It gets a bit irritating after a while. In ‘This House’, a sombre lament, the air is heavy with grief and emotional distress, and stylistically it seeks to emulate the sophisticated, retro music making of Richard Hawley. But where Hensley aims to capture Hawley’s mellowness, and wistful, yearning tone, he simply sounds depressed and defeated. You want to reach out and give him a shake.

‘Walk Away’ provides redemption of sorts. It’s a mock country rock, redneck ditty, owing much to the Eagles, with a winning chorus. But even this quality song struggles to swim against a tide of sentimentalism, with the Kleenex wringing ‘Little Guy‘ and ‘Respiro Tu Amor‘ book ending the track.

It would be great to say that this recording catches Hensley at an artistic peak, but the truth is much more prosaic, ‘Love & Other Mysteries’ is something of an indulgence and will only find refuge among the most ardent of fans.