Thursday, February 5, 2009

Uriah Heep - Rarities From The Bronze Age

This is an archival album 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 "Head First" 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.

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.

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 version 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.

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.

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.

As will by now have become apparent, as this collection progresses, it moves rapidly from an indispensable status to (ardent) collectors only. Nevertheless, the historical significance of this album (in Uriah Heep terms) is unquestionable, and some of the music is worthy of any collection

(Review from

Track Listings

1. LOOK AT YOURSELF (3.09) single edit, full version on Look At Yourself 1971
2. SIMON THE BULLET FREAK (3.28) single b-side 1971
3. GYPSY (2.58) single edit remix, full version on Very 'Eavy ... Very 'Umble 1970
4. WHY (4.57) single b-side 1972
5. STEALIN' (3.18) single edit, full version on Sweet Freedom 1973
6. SUNSHINE (4.49) single b-side 1973
7. WHAT CAN I DO (3.13) single b-side 1974
8. SHOUT IT OUT (3.35) single b-side 1975
9. RETURN TO FANTASY (3.41) single edit, full version on Return To Fantasy 1975
10. THE TIME WILL COME (4.08) single b-side 1976
11. CRIME OF PASSION (3.38) single b-side 1977
12. MASQUERADE (3.47) single b-side 1977
13. GIMME LOVE (3.16) single b-side 1978
14. CHEATER (3.59) single b-side 1978
15. BEEN HURT (3.53) single b-side 1980
16. LOVE STEALER (3.25) single a-side 1980
17. THINK IT OVER (3.32) single a-side 1981
18. MY JOANNA NEEDS TUNING (2.54) single b-side 1981
19. TIN SOLDIER (3.53) sngl b-side 1982
20. SON OF A BITCH (4.06) single b-side 1982
21. PLAYING FOR TIME (4.26) sngl b-side 1983

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