Uriah Heep

Classic Heep: An Anthology

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To irritate snobbish rock critics in the 1970s, all a band had to do was play heavy metal or progressive rock. Imagine their horror when Uriah Heep came along and consciously fused both styles. Uriah Heep was the subject of one vicious critic's infamous quote, "If this group makes it, I'll have to commit suicide." Well then, this critic is probably dead, because the British band did achieve widespread success. 1998's two-CD Classic Heep: An Anthology is a terrific compilation of Uriah Heep's 1970-1976 prime. The 30 songs are taken from nine studio albums: Uriah Heep (Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble in the U.K.), Salisbury, Look at Yourself, Demons and Wizards, The Magician's Birthday, Sweet Freedom, Wonderworld, Return to Fantasy, and High and Mighty. It surely won't inspire a serious critical re-examination of Uriah Heep, but it should. The band was aggressively experimental, and while not everything worked, during its peak years vocalist David Byron, guitarist Mick Box, keyboardist/guitarist Ken Hensley, bass guitarists Gary Thain and John Wetton, and drummer Lee Kerslake tried it all. Musically, Uriah Heep relied on Byron's dramatic vocals, Box's gritty guitar crunch, Hensley's rumbling keyboards, and Thain's (later Wetton's) busy bass licks, and the band's harmony vocals and background "aah"s and "ooh"s were unique. Of course, Uriah Heep's two most famous songs, "Stealin'" and "Easy Livin'," are included. "Stealin'," a staple of classic rock radio, is the band's best: a powerfully tight, explosive lament from a penitent, ashamed outlaw. "Easy Livin'," the band's only U.S. Top 40 hit, is a catchy, full-bore rocker. Other notable cuts are "Gypsy," "Bird of Prey," "Lady in Black," "Rainbow Demon," "Blind Eye," "Sweet Lorraine," "Wonderworld," "Return to Fantasy," "Weep in Silence," and the ambitious epics "July Morning," "Paradise/The Spell," and "The Magician's Birthday." The detailed liner notes include an insightful essay by Hensley.

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