Uriah Heep – Rarities From The Bronze Age (1991)

FrontCover1Uriah Heep are an English rock band formed in London in 1969. Their current lineup includes lead and rhythm guitarist Mick Box, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, lead vocalist Bernie Shaw, drummer Russell Gilbrook, and bassist Dave Rimmer. They have experienced numerous lineup changes throughout their 52-year career, leaving Box as the only remaining original member. Notable former members of the band include vocalists David Byron, John Lawton, John Sloman, Peter Goalby, and Steff Fontaine, bassists Gary Thain, Trevor Bolder, John Wetton, Bob Daisley, Paul Newton, and John Jowitt, drummers Nigel Olsson, Lee Kerslake and Chris Slade, and keyboardists Ken Hensley, and John Sinclair.

Uriah Heep have released twenty-four studio albums (of original material), twenty live albums and forty-one compilation albums (including two greatest hits albums). Twelve of the band’s studio albums have made it to the UK Albums Chart (Return to Fantasy reached No. 7 in 1975), while of the fifteen Billboard 200 Uriah Heep albums, Demons and Wizards was the most successful (No. 23, 1972). In the late 1970s the band had massive success in Germany, where the “Lady in Black” single was a big hit.

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Uriah Heep are notable for being part of the early 1970s rock scene (along with other British bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple), and have been referred to as pioneers of the hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock genres. The band has sold over 45 million albums worldwide with over four million sales in the U.S, where its best-known songs include “Easy Livin'”, “The Wizard”, “Sweet Lorraine”, and “Stealin'”. They also maintain a significant following and perform at arena-sized venues in the Balkans, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Finland and Scandinavia. (wikipedia)

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This was the first of a number of albums to plunder the Uriah Heep archives in search of rough diamonds. As the title suggests, it covers the period when the band recorded on the Bronze label. This era lasted from their inception through to the â??Head Firstâ? album.

Up until this point, the average Uriah Heep fan had to assume they had heard all the Byron era songs by the band which had been recorded, with the possible exception of the odd single B side. This collection however indicated that there was a veritable wealth of material to be unearthed, leading to the superior “Landsdowne Tapes” release a couple of years later.

The tracks here are in fact a mixture of alternative recordings and edits, plus surplus album material. While David Byron dominates the vocals, there are also recordings featuring John Lawton, John Sloman, and Peter Goalby.

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Getting the superfluous material out of the way first, “Look at yourself”, “Gypsy” “Return to fantasy” and “Stealin” are all excellent songs, but the versions here are simply edits of the original songs.

“Simon the bullet freak” is a pulsating blues based song which featured on the US verison of “Salisbury” and also appeared as the B side of the “Look at yourself” single. It is the first of many gems here. “Why” (full title allegedly “Why fourteen minutes”) is one of Heep’s most progressive songs ever. Several takes of the song have now become available but this superbly loose version is absolutely essential not just for fans of the band, but for anyone who thinks they were little more than a heavy rock band.

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A succession of wonderful David Byron vocal performances follows on tracks such as “Sunshine”, “What can I do”, “Shout it out”, etc. None of these songs had previously appeared on a Uriah Heep album. In fairness, some of them may not be up to the standard of the classics which made it onto albums such as “Wonderworld”, “Return to fantasy”, “Magician’s birthday” etc., but they are still akin to the Holy Grail for Heep affectionados.

The John Lawton tracks here, of which there are four, are more prosaic. While Lawton is a fine singer in his own right, he did not fit in well with the sound of Heep, largely because he sounded nothing like Byron. The tracks here reflect that. Those who appreciated the Lawton era albums will however find these songs to be of a similar standard.

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The “Conquest” album featuring the vocals of John Sloman is generally considered to be the low point of the band’s career, and the four tracks here on which he sings do nothing to alter that view. “Love stealer” is however historically interesting, as it was only the band’s second cover version ever. Ken Hensley then left the band, leaving Mick Box as the only original member. The final three tracks here are from that post Hensley period, with Pete Goalby (whom Hensley had wanted to join the band when Sloman got the job) on vocals. Two of the tracks are from the rare “Abominog junior” EP, while the final track “Playing for time” is from the “Head first” sessions.

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As will by now have become apparent, as this collection progresses, it moves rapidly from an indispensable status to (ardent) collectors only. Fortunately, the Byron era material included here has since appeared on expanded remasters of the original albums, and on other more complete Byron era compilations. Nevertheless, the historical significance of this album (in Uriah Heep terms) is unquestionable, and about 50% of the music worthy of any collection.

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Personnel:
Various Uriah Heep line ups

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Tracklist:
01. Look At Yourself (Hensley) 3.09
02. Simon The Bullet Freak (Hensley) 3.28
03. Gypsy (Box/Byron) 2.59
04. Why (Box/Byron/Hensley/Newton) 4.57
05. Stealin` (Hensley) 3.19
06. Sunshine (Thain/Box) 4.50
07. What Can I Do (Box/Byron/Kerslake) 3.13
08. Shout It Out (Hensley) 3.36
09. Return To Fantasy (Byron/Hensley) 3.42
10. Time Will Come (Box/Byron/Kerslake/Hensley) 4.08
11. Crime Of Passion (Box/Hensley/Kerslake) 3.39
12. Masquerade (Hensley) 3.47
13. Gimme Love Struttin (Box/Bolder/Kerslake/Lawton) 3.16
14. Cheater (Hensley) 3.59
15. Been Hurt (Hensley) 3.54
16. Love Stealer (Myhill/Wainman) 3.25
17. Think It Over (Bolder/Sloman) 3.33
18.  My Joanna Needs Tuning (Bolder/Box/Dechert/Sloman/Slade) 2.54
19. Tin Soldier (Marriott/Lane) 3.53
20. Son Of A Bitch (Box/Daisley/Goalby/Sinclair/Kerslake) 4.07
21. Playing For Time (Box/Daisley/Goalby/Sinclair/Kerslake) 4.26

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