After breaking in new vocalist John Lawton on the back-to-basics outing Firefly, Uriah Heep once again found themselves feeling the need to experiment a bit on Innocent Victim. The resulting album doesn't cohere as neatly as Firefly did, but manages to keep the listener engaged thanks to a combination of slick performances from the band and a handful of truly great Uriah Heep songs. Overall, Innocent Victim's blend of sharp, short rockers and pop-friendly ballads feels like an attempt to court the American AOR market. The rockers are all pretty strong stuff: "Free 'n' Easy" is a fast-moving tune built on an ear-scorching guitar riff that feels like boogie rock in overdrive, while "Roller" is a stylish midtempo track that blends funky, languid verses with a faster, bass-driven chorus that ups the song's rock quotient. The band also weaves in some experimental tracks that hit the bull's eye: "Illusion" is a spacy tale about dreaming that creates a rich atmosphere through an arrangement built on strong keyboard and vocal textures, while "The Dance" successfully marries a reggae beat to its prog-like melody. Meanwhile, the album's ballad leanings brought Uriah Heep one of their biggest international hits in the form of "Free Me," a tune whose acoustic style and accent on harmonies brought the group dangerously close to Eagles territory. The downside of Innocent Victim is that it works a little too hard at being radio-friendly: despite their high level of energy, songs like "Keep on Ridin'" and "Flyin' High" are too contrived and self-consciously poppy to sit comfortably alongside gutsy rockers like "Free 'n' Easy." Despite this unevenness in tone, Innocent Victim remains a likable album with enough strong material to satisfy Uriah Heep's admirers.
Innocent Victim Review
by Donald A. Guarisco