Releasing nine studio albums inside six years is a pretty hectic schedule in anyone’s book, and by the time Uriah Heep released their ninth long player the cracks in their monolithic brand of rock had begun to show. Vocalist David Byron’s alcohol dependency was spiralling out of control, and he was soon jettisoned from the band, along with bassist John Wetton. Despite this turmoil, High And Mighty was a solid album, and there’s never been a better time to rediscover it, than with this lovely picture disc edition.
There’s nothing quite like the sound of vinyl being played at ear-splitting volume, and none more so than with High And Mighty’s opening track, ‘One Way Or Another’. Introduced by some frenetic fretboard fireworks from Mick Box, it has an insidious riff that’ll bury itself deep in your cranium, and won’t be vacating anytime soon. It seems strange that the first track on a new album wouldn’t feature lead vocals from the main vocalist, but for some reason David Byron was relegated to back-ups on this cut (maybe the writing was on the wall?). Although Wetton and keyboardist Ken Hensley do a fine job and engage in some vocal dualling, it’s puzzling as to why the band didn’t play their ace card and open with Byron’s wonderfully operatic vocals. That anomaly is heightened by the following ‘Weep In Silence’, a fairly average track that’s lifted from its mediocrity by Byron’s soaring voice.
Heep’s previous albums found them veering away from prog rock towards a more mainstream sound, and with High And Mighty that shift was complete. Some have lamented this move, but their roots are still in evidence, you just have to dig a little deeper. For example, ‘Misty’ has an ethereal quality that characterised their early releases, while ‘Midnight’ has a melodramatic sensibility found previously on the likes of Look At Yourself.
Listening to High And Mighty you might wonder if Uriah Heep got a whiff of the coming punk storm and tailored their sound accordingly. By no stretch of the imagination is this a punk record, yet it has a streamlined quality that aligns itself with that movement. Only one of the 10 tracks (briefly) breaks the five minute mark, meaning that the glam-infused ‘Can’t Keep A Good Band Down’ and the hard-rocking ‘Make A Little Love’ (featuring some nice slide guitar from Mr Box) are devoid of any flab and signpost 1982’s Abominog. In truth this record works best when the band rock out, and their energetic nature leaves the more lightweight numbers in the shade. Case in point being closer, ‘Confession’, a piano-led piece that proves to be a sad swansong for David Byron, ending an endearing tenure on a rather sad note.
Nothing has ever split the Uriah Heep fanbase like High And Mighty. More rock, less pop is an often heard cry, yet this album is a real grower. Like all the best records, High And Mighty will reward repeated spins and reveal hidden treasures on each successive play. It’s certainly worth the effort.
- One Way Or Another
- Weep In Silence
- Misty Eyes
- Can’t Keep A Good Man Down
- Woman Of The World
- Footprints In The Snow
- Can’t Stop Singing
- Make A Little Love