On fine form…
Oout on 14 September and reviewed by Paul H Birch
The credibility so long denied Uriah Heep in their homeland arrived but a few years back, despite their actual successes.
One of the big four UK heavy rock bands (alongside Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath) who established themselves internationally, and delivered cash aplenty to the coffers of Her Majesty’s government’s tax offices back in the day. They didn’t do the decent thing like the others when punk came along they stuck it out, rode the NWOHM bandwagon then shifted their focus to Europe. Sea Of Life found them refocusing their identity, just as the heritage band renaissance took hold, but too many live albums/DVDs and Best Of compilations kept diluting the waters, and aging/ailing members meant new recruits were needed. A few years back they hit pay dirt in terms of that credibility factor and began releasing albums that also struck a chord with the current rock fraternity, younger fans were noticeable at concerts – and not just those there to aid their own long-haired grandparents to seats.
Now 47 years young Uriah Heep can rightly be proud to have recorded their 25th studio album. They’ve brought in Jay Ruston to produce the Living The Dream and as someone who’s made other classic rock bands like The Winery Dogs, Black Star Riders and Europe sound contemporary they chose well.
Fear not, all the boxes that require ticking for a traditional Heep album are here: A heavy organ thrust, lyrics that can at times sail close to the wind with greeting card like similes and the ever-present Mick Box wailing away on his wah-wah pedalled guitar. What makes it most appealing for this listener is that they’ve gone for a fulsome harder edged sound throughout while being unafraid to expose their early progressive rock sounds too. To that end, if you were there when they first rose to fame with Look After Yourself or present for the Abominog era, you may just like this too.
They commence proceedings with ‘Grazed By Heaven’ as a hardy back-flipping riff gambols out the speakers like some ancient behemoth dragged kicking and screaming into the here and now. Berne Shaw’s soaring vocals belt out loud in this clarion call to the faithful and amidst it all there are wild and woolly organ runs from Phil Lanzon and a trademarked Box guitar solo. Nothing new but it slams away, packing a hefty punch and leaving you exhausted.
A cappella vocals greet us on title track ‘Living The Dream’ before briefly becoming an Eastern-shaded slow metal blues – Or about as doom laden in the modern idiom as these original Goth rockers here will get. Stirring into life it develops into a rather prog rock harmony guitar melody as prequel to Box upturning events with a brief raging guitar solo and then it’s back to the grind with guitar and organ noodling away, the latter in a particularly church like manner.
Guitars chip away hard over the next two numbers> With ‘Take Away My Soul’ there’s the urgency of an impending countdown but ultimately it bops out as a rocker. Shaw sings of love gone awry, a shower of keyboards weep and harmonies act as Greek chorus as he debates over his decision on the matter, only for Lanzon to spread his hand over the length of his keyboards preparing the way for a lengthy guitar solo to ensue. At six minutes long, they’re packing a fair bit in here. You may find yourself playing air guitar of the rhythm variety (so handle those imaginary bar chords well) on ‘Knocking At My Door’, the newish/younger rhythm section of Dave Rimmer (Bass) and Russell Gilbrook (Drums), cracking away in hard syncopation and Lanzon’s organ becoming suitably eerie when Shaw sings out “The fear of darkness is upon me!” despite which the song as a whole feels incredibly upbeat.
At eight minutes long ‘Goodbye To Innocence’ allows the band to really sprawl out. Gilbrook’s drums snap away propelling a complex prog riff keyboard and guitar riff over a song about obstacles and overcoming them. Over 8 mins long, you get the teeniest of jazzy prog bits to it, choral keyboards and arpeggio guitar then a bass driving it to another mood as echoed staccato chords come in with darker piping organs building towards a solo of Emerson like diversionary vision some six minutes in, Box then nailing a six string solo a little later on. In contrast, ‘Waters Flowin’’ with it effects laden acoustic with lots of “Na-na-nas” in this sing-along is a shorter respite.
‘It’s All Been Said’ returns us to melodramatic prog in its opening theme before giving way to piano and vocals for a largely ballad section. A hard luck story about how the media forgoes news in favour of a story for the most part but one that could be interpreted on a more personal daily affair too. The band return full on with heavy variation of the opening riff with instrumental sections and solos unfolding too over six minutes.
A rather stern waltzing guitar shifts to a rock and roll boogie stomper on ‘Goodbye To Innocence’. A song that bear equals parts resemblance to their classic rock hit single ‘Easy Living’ and ‘Spider-Woman’ from The Magician’s Birthday – In fact they could be singing about that black widow’s hatched offspring! Crisp and sharp but fulsome with it. Shaw might be able to scream like Maiden’s Dickenson when he wants but here he has the timbre of a youthful Gillan. Aptly following, as if there’s no escape is ‘Falling Under Your Spell’ less intense, with guitar and keyboard melody harmonies.
The album finishes with ‘Dreams Of Yesteryear’ as Box’s guitar whirrs into life with all the pomp and ceremony of their epic ‘July Morning’ but on a song that has a sense of warmth and happiness, rather than regret. It feels like another one of their walks down memory lanes lyrically, but might just as well be about a significant other rather than the love affair the band has with past members and fans. If that’s a little too sentimental for you don’t worry, they rise above it.
Uriah Heep stick to their strengths on Living The Dream and admirably demonstrate they’re well-armed in that area and still have much to say for those ready to listen. With a brace of strong rockers and more extensive progressive tunes too the record shows the band on fine form.
- Grazed By Heaven
- Living The Dream
- Take Away My Soul
- Knocking At My Door
- Rocks In The Road
- Waters Flowin’
- It’s All Been Said
- Goodbye To Innocence
- Falling Under Your Spell
- Dreams Of Yesteryear
- Take Away My Soul (Alternate Version) Bonus Track (Deluxe Edition Only)