When Uriah Heep released The Magician’s Birthday in 1972, you feel that they’d reached a pinnacle of sorts and had taken their progressive leanings as far as they could. The following year found the band honing their sound into something more direct and catchy, and were rewarded with their highest charting album (until then) in the critically acclaimed Sweet Freedom. An often overlooked album in the band’s canon, there’s never been a better time to rediscover this lost classic than with this audiophile picture disc reissue.
The rapidity with which rock band used to release albums in the early ‘70s never ceases to amaze me, and Uriah Heep’s Sweet Freedom was their sixth in just three years. With such a punishing schedule they could be forgiven for becoming formulaic, yet this album found them taking a new path, shedding their progressive past in favour of a rockier approach. However, the band haven’t lost their knack of writing strong openers and ‘Dreamer’ arrives with all fists flying. Bold as brass and full of beans, it has a funky, buoyant beat that’s chock full of neat time changes and finds guitarist Mick Box scrawling spidery solos on every surface. After the overtly serious The Magician’s Birthday, Uriah Heep sound like a band reborn and there’s a looseness and sense of fun to be found on tracks such as fan favourite ‘Stealin’’. All this means that Sweet Freedom has stood the time very well and while albums like Demons And Wizards are firmly rooted in the early ‘70s, Sweet Freedom still sounds fresh as it approaches its 50th anniversary.
When 1973 rolled ‘round, Uriah Heep had a stable line-up (in opposition to the second half of the decade) and you can hear the chemistry seeping through every note. Unfortunately, Sweet Freedom was to be bassist Gary Thain’s penultimate album with the band, and he was to be sorely missed. Throughout Sweet Freedom he leads the charge taking the band from the hard rocking ‘Seven Stars’ to the folksy ‘Circus’, and all without missing a beat. However, what really tethered the band to their past was vocalist David Byron and he had a powerful range that could have led the cast in some lavish Broadway musical, but it sounds equally at home floating atop Uriah Heep’s heavy beats, no matter what direction the band take. Proving that the band hadn’t totally severed their roots, final track ‘Pilgrim’ takes us on a wild journey and the guitar histrionics that curtail the album bring things nicely full circle and makes for a grandiose conclusion.
Sweet Freedom might not have the overall cohesion of the band’s earlier albums, but it has a sense of fun that was hitherto missing. Recommended for long time fans and newbies alike, this album captures an important point in Uriah Heep’s development and is a fine addition to any collection.
- Sweet Freedom is released via BMG Records on 20th January 2023 and is available here.
- Official Website
- One Day
- Sweet Freedom
- If I Had The Time
- Seven Stars