Uriah Heep

The Magician's Birthday

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After reaching an international level of success with Demons and Wizards, Uriah Heep continued to build their fan base by knocking out another album of prog-like metal before the year's end. The end result, The Magician's Birthday, is not as consistent or cohesive as Demons and Wizards but still offers plenty of highlights. It starts dramatically with "Sunrise," a spooky power ballad that alternates quiet organ-led verses with an emotional chorus and guitar-fuelled instrumental breaks topped off by David Byron's operatic wail. The remainder of the album divides its time between punchy rockers and spacy balladry before climaxing with another prog-inflected epic. Highlights in the rock arena include "Blind Eye," an acoustic-flavored rocker whose galloping pace is firmly anchored by Gary Thain's melodic bassline, and "Sweet Lorraine," a stomping good-time rocker that adds extra texture to its guitar-driven sound with some spacy synthesizer lines. As for the quieter moments, "Rain" is a lovely piano ballad that makes surprising and impressive use of a xylophone in its sound and "Echoes in the Dark" is an eerie mid-tempo song that alternates stark piano-led verses with an emotional chorus cemented by Mick Box's searing guitar leads. There is also another multi-part epic in the title track, a prog-ish piece with fantasy themes. It lacks a strong structure (it feels more like three songs grafted together than a true multi-part composition) and succumbs to a bit of aimless jamming in the middle, but it is redeemed by strong hooks in the opening and a spirited performance from the band on its space rock finale. All in all, The Magician's Birthday never quite hits the consistent heights of Look at Yourself or Demons and Wizards but remains a solid listen for Uriah Heep fans.

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