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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Uriah Heep – Celebration 40th Anniversary ‘Best of’ CD review

Uriah Heep – Celebration 40th Anniversary ‘Best of’ CD review

About 2 years back Uriah Heep released ‘Wake the Sleeper’ their first new studio album in 10 years, since ‘98’s 'Sonic Origami.'
'Wake The Sleeper,' without doubt was an absolutely stunning return to the studio for Mick Box and his band of merry musicians!

So here we are 2 years on and what is 'Celebration,' the latest official release from the band?
It’s an official 40th Anniversary celebration of Heep’s history, but it’s more than just another ‘Best of.’ Indeed, the bands current line up, for the most part has been the same band since 1987 with just one exception. Long time member, drummer Lee Kerslake had to call quits on his playing - due to health reasons – in 2007 and was replaced by the extremely impressive Russell Gilbrook and they’ve re-recorded everything here, 12 classic Heep tracks and 2 new ones. If you were at all doubtful about this, you needn’t be!
2010's Uriah Heep line up is, Mick Box, Trevor Bolder, Bernie Shaw, Phil Lanzon and Russell Gilbrook.
(Uriah Heep - 2010)

In 'Celebration,' the band has really breathed new life into this re-recorded classic material in the studio, after presenting it live, night after night, so they’ve had plenty of ‘warm up’ time live on stage before making this ‘new’ album of classics, plus 2 additional pieces of new material.

Opener ‘We’re Only Human’ is the first of the new material tunes and it’s of the same great quality Heep provided on 2007’s ‘Wake the Sleeper.’ Loads of Hammond organ, strong guitars, great drums, great vocals, killer hookline and chorus, quite the opener!

‘Bird of Prey’ (from the 'Salisbury' album) redone here, brings a smile to my face as to a degree it reminds me here and there of the (Equally) old Focus tune ‘Hocus Pocus,’ but the tune is still very strong in Heep’s own unique style and it sounds current ala their more recent material.

Then ‘Sunrise’ (Magician’s Birthday) next is a more laid back starter, before picking up a little and one of Heep absolute strengths is their vocal talents throughout the release and when you listen to these tracks today redone, you wonder why they never broke through bigger than they ever did back in the 70’s. That’s said of course the fact that the majority of these tracks have been re-recorded with a different band from each of their original appearances and what a really strong band it is today too.

‘Stealin’ sounds so good here and again, the levels on everything on this album are all just right, which just makes to enhance the listening pleasure. Bernie Shaw fails to include the ‘dirty’ inclusion of ‘Ha, ha,’ after the smutty tongue firmly in cheek line of, ‘I done the rancher’s daughter and I sure did hurt his pride.’ Ah well …

Second new song ‘Corridor’s of Madness,’ to be honest fit’s in like a true classic Heep song, with the structure being very traditional if you ask me. Nice solo toward the end from Mick Box that sadly is faded out way too soon!
‘Between Two Worlds’ I was thinking to myself, hold on, this track’s not that old, why redo it and then I realized that its origin was actually 1998, so OK and yeah, I do really like the track so go ahead guys! It’s great!

If you’re a Heep fan of old that was stuck with the Dave Byron version, seriously, give the guys another shot, the current incarnation of the band can sound so fresh, yet true to their roots that it’s phenomenal and I think that in years to come – if you don’t get into now. – you then discover it, you’d probably kick yourself for missing out!
I can’t believe ‘The Wizard’ was really originally from 1972, although perhaps maybe the most dated sounding song amongst the set, but still classic Heep and a beauty!

‘Free Me’ (Innocent Victim) literally could be a Gospel song and a nice laid back track, that in fact was a No.1 hit single in New Zealand back in the day, but still stands as a good song today.
Then ‘Free and Easy’ from the same original album is a different bag altogether, same big vocals / choruses, but a true rocker of a track, with Mick Box and Phil Lanzon playing guitars and keys off one another. Go guys!

‘Gypsy’ of course is many a Heep fan’s favorite (from ‘Very ‘eavy, Very ‘umble.') and is everything you expect it to be, rough edged vocals, big Hammond organ, rocking guitars and it’s Heep through and through, fresh up to date!

In ‘Look at Yourself,’ it’s great classic rockin’ stuff in true, what we used to call ‘Contemporary Rock’ style of the 70’s and it’s got everything here, but ultimately it sounds better today than ever! Bernie Shaw couldn’t possibly have given anymore than he does here. It’s great!
You know full well, you simply couldn’t have a Best of Uriah Heep without the next track. ‘July Morning’ is a staple in any Heep set, live or compilation set and this is no exception. Heep’s soundtrack song? Who knows, after all we all have our own personal favorites right?!

Probably the first Heep song from the 70’s that sticks in my memory more than any other is ‘Easy Livin’.’ I truly love this song and this version is stronger than ever and is just pure magic here.
The album is closed by ‘Lady in Black,’ again these really are all classic Heep songs if you ask me. Could this have been a double release? Sure and I’m certain others will say why didn’t they include this or that song and it’s true, but these really are 14 great tracks. No disappointment from me here with what’s presented.

Well, maybe one … As it’s a promo copy of the ‘Celebration’ release this didn’t come with the live at Sweden Rock festival DVD that should be with your copy when you buy this album. Would’ve loved that here, but that would be like getting my cake and eating I guess!
Ah well, a very nice album to celebrate 40 years of Heep and I strongly recommend it!
Rating: 4 out of 5.

Go catch the band live on their first US tour in years, check their site for all the details:

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