After two albums that downplayed their penchant for gothic sounds and mystical lyrics, Uriah Heep brought these elements back to the fore on 1975's Return to Fantasy. The resulting album retains the musical experimentation that marked Sweet Freedom and Wonderworld, but has an overall harder-rocking feel that makes it more consistent than either one of those albums. Return to Fantasy throws down the gauntlet with the title track, which builds from a tapestry of spooky synthesizer and organ riffs to a thunderous rock tune where the guitar and organ duel over a galloping backbeat laid down by Lee Kerslake. It's bracing stuff and one of the finest rockers in the Uriah Heep canon. The rest of the first side continues in a similarly strong hard rock vein and its other key highlight is "Beautiful Dream," a song that marries stomping hard rock verses to a spooky, ethereal chorus that sounds like it could have been plucked from a mid-'70s Pink Floyd album. On the second side, Heep give themselves over to experiments that, while listenable, cause the album to lose focus. For instance, "Prima Donna" is a sardonic commentary on the rock & roll world that features a prominent brass section and prominently overdubbed Beach Boys-style harmonies, while "Your Turn to Remember" is the kind of bluesy AOR ballad that groups like Journey would later specialize in. Both songs are fun listening but stray too far from the group's traditional sound and are too dissimilar to make Return to Fantasy a cohesive experience. Despite these problems, the group never turns in a less-than-engaging instrumental performance and the consistent quality of their work keeps the album from getting carried away by all the genre-hopping. In the end, Return to Fantasy lacks the coherence of a top-shelf Uriah Heep classic like Demons and Wizards but remains a strong and likable album that is guaranteed to please the group's fans.
Return to Fantasy Review
by Donald A. Guarisco