Tag Archives: Uriah Heep

The Pros and Cons of Classic Album In Full Sets

A Guardian piece claims that  the ‘classic’ album set is ruining festivals. It actually makes some good points, but those points are so clumsily-made that the whole piece reads far more like provocative clickbait than perhaps it should. The last sentence on this quote is a self-evident load of tripe.

This week, there’s even an entire festival in Chicago and Denver dedicated to artists too lazy to write a proper setlist. Weezer, Slayer, Jane’s Addiction and seven more will plough through their biggest albums front-to-back at Riot Fest, so if you want to hear a band you used to like perform a track they wrote as filler 20 years ago, knock yourself out. Be honest: when was the last time you actually played an album, including all those rubbish “skits” artists are so keen on, all the way through?

The “Play a classic album in full” thing got started because fans were getting bored of older bands playing the same standards tour after tour as if they were their own tribute act, and it was an opportunity to shake things up and perform the odd rarely-played song live.

This was a fine approach for bands who have made albums as consistently great as “Moving Pictures” or “Blackwater Park”, but once the trend caught on too many bands who hadn’t actually made a flawless classic jumped on the bandwagon. For them, some of those rarely-played songs were rarely-played for a reason.

There were two such sets on the Prog stage at High Voltage in 2011, Uriah Heep playing “Demons and Wizards” and Martyn Turner’s Wishbone Ash playing “Argus”.  The latter worked really well, it’s an album that’s stood the test of time, and it made for a more enjoyable set that the blues-rock workouts you get from Andy Powell’s official Wishbone Ash nowadays.  The Heep set was far less effective,  much like every 70s Uriah Heep album there was a lot of filler and some of the album had dated very badly. A greatest hits set cherry-picking the best songs from their 40 year career would have been so much better.

Which all goes to show that album-in-full sets are neither a good thing or a bad thing in themselves, but they depend on the band, and on the album.

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Uriah Heep announce new album Outsider

Uriah Heep Outsider Uriah Heep have announced the tracklisting for their new album “Outsider”, their first release since the death of long time bassist Trevor Bolder.

It’s released on June 6th in Europe. The album will be available in both CD and vinyl, both with the same track listing though the running order will be slighly different.

The eleven songs are as follows:

Speed Of Sound
One Minute
The Law
The Outsider
Rock The Foundation
Is Anybody Gonna Help Me?
Looking At You
Can’t Take That Away
Jesse
Kiss The Rainbow
Say Goodbye

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The advantage of being a prog fan – You can tell a band their new song sounds like Uriah Heep and they won’t take it as an grevious insult.

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While it’s not surprising that news reports about Trevor Bolder’s death emphasise his role in David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars in the early 70s, it’s a shame there’s not more mention of Uriah Heep, for whom he was a member for more than 30 years, representing the bulk of his musical career.

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RIP Trevor Bolder

Classic Rock Magazine is reporting the death of Trevor Bolder at the age of 62 after a long battle with cancer.

Trevor Bolder was part of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars in the early 70s, but for most of the past three and a half decades he’s been an integral part of Uriah Heep. A great bass player, as anyone who’s seen Uriah Heep in recent years will attest, and taken from us far too soon. He’d stepped down from Uriah Heep due to ill-health earlier this year, with Arena and former IQ bassist John Jowitt standing in for him, but had hoped to return to the band in the summer.

I’ve seen him with Uriah Heep many times, and I will never forget that barnstorming performance at the 2009 Cambridge Rock Festival, when the band came on something like two hours late because of technical problems, and just blew the doors off. His powerful bass playing contributed a lot to the huge energy of Uriah Heep’s live performances.

I only ever met him the once, and only briefly, at the Uriah Heep acoustic show in London back in 2000, but he came over as a lovely guy. He will be greatly missed.

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Get Well Soon, Trevor Bolder

Press release from Uriah Heep.

Trevor Bolder is going into hospital for an operation which will require several months’ recuperation. Everyone connected with Uriah Heep wishes Trevor a speedy operation and recovery, and Trevor’s wishes are that the band should carry on without him, until he is fit and ready to come back.

Venerated bass player John [JJ] Jowitt has agreed to deputise for Trevor at short notice, to ensure that the band’s show in Israel at the end of January can still go ahead

Having spent 20 years with IQ, plus varying stints with Ark, Arena, Jadis, Frost and other respected bands, John is renowned for his on-stage charisma and has won Classic Rock Society’s Bass poll on no less than 10 separate occasions.

Mick Box said:- “We all wish Trevor a speedy return to the fold, and in the meantime we are very pleased that JJ has agreed to step in and cover Trev’s unique bass panache, so crucial to Heep’s sound. JJ will also contribute to the signature 5-part vocal operatics”.

John Jowitt said:- “I have long been an admirer of Trevor Bolder’s iconic playing, and it is a huge honour to be asked to stand in for one of the all-time greats of the bass. I intend to bring due respect to the legend that is Uriah Heep, and I hope I can do justice to Trevor’s presence, both on and off stage”.

We know all of you out there will support Trevor and the Band as we move forward together into 2013. Trevor will use his recuperation period to write songs for the new Uriah Heep album, the follow up to Into The Wild, which will be put together in the next 12 months.

As a long-standing fan of Uriah Heep who once (briefly) met Trevor Bolder, I wish him a speedy and full recovery from the operation. Although Trevor is not a founding member of the band and wasn’t on some of their classic early albums, his time in the band does go right back to the 70s, and he’s an important part of what makes the current band Uriah Heep. And he’s a damned fine bass player. He wouldn’t have played bass for David Bowie if he wasn’t.

I’m sure the multiple winner of the Best John Jowitt Award will be a worthy stand-in in the meantime.

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Top Ten Albums of 2011

2011 has been an incredible year for new music. In fact, I can’t remember another year when I bought so many new release, which makes the traditional end-of-year list especially hard this time round.

So, after much deliberation and consideration, here’s my completely personal and subjective list of ten best albums released in 2011.

10: Uriah Heep – Into the Wild
70s veterans Uriah Heep have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Even if this album doesn’t really break any radically new ground for them, with their trademark combination of searing guitar and Hammond organ they rock far harder than any band in their fifth decade of existence has any right to.

9: Steve Hackett – Beyond the Shrouded Horizon
Much like Uriah Heep, the former Genesis guitarist has hit something of a purple patch recently, with his third album in two years. It’s a rich, ambitious album that combines some heartfelt songwriting with his distinctive symphonic liquid guitar style that has rightfully made him the godfather of prog guitar.

8: Anathema – Falling Deeper
A largely instrumental set by Liverpool’s Doom-metallers-turned-proggers, containing radical orchestral reworkings of material from their earlier metal years. It’s an album for which you should sit back and let the huge atmospheric soundscapes wash over you.

 

7: Touchstone – The City Sleeps
The rising stars of the British female-fronted progressive rock scene deliver a strong third album, with a highly melodic mix of prog, hard rock and metal than builds on the success of their previous album “Wintercoast”.

 

6: Within Temptation – The Unforgiving
In which the Dutch band opt out of the symphonic metal arms race in favour of a far more rock-orientated album that emphasises Sharon den Adel’s incredibly powerful vocals over overblown arrangements. More varied than previous albums, there’s an emphasis on big anthemic choruses that ought to have a lot of crossover potential.

5: Chantel McGregor – Like No Other
Chantel’s debut album proves she’s far more than just a virtuoso guitarist, and far more than just a blues artist. It’s a hugely varied album demonstrating her talents as a singer-songwriter who can do hard rock, folk and pure pop as well as she can do blues-rock guitar wig-outs.

4: Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
The band which more or less invented prog-metal deliver their best album for years, proving that Mike Portnoy’s departure, far from finishing the band, has given them the kick up the backside they needed, with more emphasis on composition than instrumental showboating.

3: Liam Davison – A Treasure of Well-Set Jewels
The solo album from Mostly Autumn’s second guitarist was an unexpected surprise, with some great songwriting and big atmospheric arrangements reminiscent of the early years of Mostly Autumn. Great guest performances from supporting cast including Iain Jennings, Gavin Griffiths, Anne-Marie Helder and Heather Findlay, but none steal the spotlight from Liam’s own contributions.

2: Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning
With his second solo release, Steve Wilson has taken a step away from the metal stylings of recent Porcupine Tree albums in favour of swirling Mellotrons and spiralling saxophones. The resulting jazz-tinged album sounds like a cross between 70s King Crimson, Canterbury-scene prog, and the ghost of Porcupine Tree past.

1: Opeth – Heritage
Sweden’s finest drop the death metal growls and go all-out prog with perhaps the most musically ambitious album they’ve done to date. Far more varied than their earlier non-metal “Damnation”, it manages to sound both gloriously retro and absolutely contemporary at the same time.

With such a strong year, there are many more great albums that would have appeared in many years’ top tens, so honourable mentions for Also Eden’s progtastic “Think of the Children” Magenta’s excellent “Chameleon”, Matt Stevens unclassifiable instrumental “Relic”, very solid releases from veterans Yes, Journey and Megadeth, and Mastodon’s “The Hunter”.

I’ve also made the decision to exclude live albums, but I will mention Mostly Autumn’s powerful “Still Beautiful”, Heather Findlay and Chris Johnson’s beautiful “Live at the Café 68″, and The Reasoning’s hard rocking “The Bottle of Gettysburg”.

And there are a few albums I’ve yet to hear, and since it’s too close to Christmas to be buying albums for myself. So the reason for the absence of Nightwish’s “Imaginaerum”, Kate Bush’s “50 Words for Snow” and Morpheus Rising’s “Let The Sleeper Awake” is not that I don’t think they’re good enough, only that I haven’t heard them yet. Perhaps, for the purposes of end-of-year lists, the year should run December to November, so that late-year releases count as next year?

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Uriah Heep – Into the Wild

Uriah Heep have never had the recognition they deserve in their home country. In continental Europe just about every metal band with a keyboard player seems to cite them as a major influence. But in Britain they’re a cult band, all-too-often thought of as 70s also-rans, best known for being one of the principal inspirations for “This is Spinal Tap”.

They have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. After the constantly changing lineups of the 70s and 80s, leaving just guitarist Mick Box and bassist Trevor Bolder from their 70s glory days, they’ve enjoyed many years of stability, with vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboard player Phil Lanzon members of the band for well over than half their four-decade career. Studio releases have been infrequent, but the sheer quality of albums like 1995′s “Sea of Light” and especially 2008′s excellent “Wake the Sleeper” showed a band who weren’t ready to turn into their own tribute band like so many of their contemporaries.

And now, forty-one years after their debut, they’ve gone and delivered one of the best albums of their career.

From the opener “Nail on the Head”, onwards this is a very much a hard rock album with a classic 70s vibe. It’s got the combination of searing guitar and Hammond organ that defines the quintessential Uriah Heep sound. But just as on “Wake the Sleeper”, ‘new’ drummer Russell Gilbrook has upped the energy level considerably, resulting in a very hard-rocking Heep indeed.

While there is a definite echo of “Lady in Black” in Trevor Bolder’s “Lost”, the nearest thing to a ballad on the album. there’s not much of their acoustic side on display, and very little trace of the Americanised AOR that characterised a lot of their 80s output. There is, however, noticeably more of Phil Lanzon’s keys used as a lead instrument. I don’t think I’ve heard this much Hammond organ on a Heep album since the days of Ken Hensley. The album closer, the epic “Kiss of Freedom” ends with a magnificent solo, each crescendo more extravagant than the last; nothing less than a “Comfortably Numb” of the Hammond B3.

Few bands can come up with an album this good in the fifth decade of their career, and even fewer come up with albums that rock this hard. But Uriah Heep are one of those bands.

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Best (and worst) Gigs of 2008

Some of my highlights (and low points) of the 30+ live gigs I attended this year.

Most hard-rocking gig by a newish band
The Reasoning, when they blew the roof off Crewe Limelight. I’ve seen this band six times this year, and they’ve never disappointed. This one was the best of the six.

Most hard-rocking gig by a bunch of grizzled veterans
The mighty Uriah Heep at Manchester Academy 2. They were good the last couple of times I’ve seen them playing greatest hits sets. This time they took the gamble of playing their new album “Wake the Sleeper” in it’s entirety, which might have flopped if the album hadn’t been up to scratch. But with an excellent album, it turned into a triumph.

Most emotionally moving gig
This has to be Breathing Space at Mansfield. This was about two weeks after the death of lead singer Olivia Sparnenn’s father Howard from a brain tumour. The whole show was intensely moving, especially the final encore of the Mostly Autumn song “The Gap is Too Wide”. Not long after this I lost my temper with a Guardian Journalist who insisted that “Amy Winehouse is an icon because she can articulate pain and heartbreak in her songs”. He just doesn’t get it.

Most totally bonkers gig
Has to be The Mars Volta at Manchester Apollo. A three hour set, no support, no interval, and they played right up to the curfew without going off and coming back for an encore. And the whole thing was one continuous jam. Despite owning all four of their studio albums, I recognised very little of what they actually played. It was intense, complex and very, very loud. Even after nine months I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

Worst performance by a so-called classic artist.
Andy Fairweather-Low at the Cambridge Rock Festival. “I’m a great sixties icon – you have to bow down and worship me”. Reminded me of The Kinks at the 1981 Reading Festival in 1981, and not in a good way. Tedious set of 50s and 60s covers, made no attempt to connect with the audience, and gave me the impression he was was playing for the benefit of Radio Caroline rather than the people in the hall.

The gig that didn’t actually happen
Panic Room at the Peel where the power failed, and we didn’t get any music apart from 20 minutes of the support band. Fortunately I did get to see the excellent Panic Room a further three times, and there’s a rematch of the cancelled gig on January 31st next year – see you there!

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Top Ten Albums of the Year 2008

I wasn’t originally going to arrange these in order, but in the end I did it anyway, just to annoy those people who hate ranked lists.

10. Van der Graaf Generator – Trisector
Reduced to a trio after the departure of David Jackson, this album proves the slimmed-down version of the 70s progressive rock veterans can still deliver an album in the same league as their 2005 comeback album “Present

9. Magenta – Metamorphosis
Magenta are very much old-school Prog, wearing their Yes, Genesis and Mike Oldfield influences on their sleeve, playing 20 minute epics with titles like ‘The Ballad of Samual Layne’. They get away with it though superior songwriting and arrangement, and stunning individual performances from Christina Booth on vocals and Chris Fry on guitar.

8. Josh and Co – Through These Eyes
This solo album from Bryan Josh of Mostly Autumn appeared out of the blue at the end of November. Has a similar sound and production to Mostly Autumn’s last album, but the songs are looser and more contemporary-sounding. Quite dark in places, playfully self-indulgent in others, and Bryan cuts loose on the guitar in a way that shows how much he’d been holding back on recent Mostlies releases; I haven’t heard him shred like that for ages. Although Bryan naturally handles most of the vocals, there are also some quite stunning contributions from Olivia Sparnenn which really make me look forward to the next Breathing Space album

7. Uriah Heep – Wake the Sleeper
Nine years since their last studio album, and the mighty Heep are back with a powerful statement that the hard rock veterans are very much in business. Ironically for a band who have spent much of their career in the shadow of the much bigger and more successful Deep Purple, they’ve now come up with something that blows away anything Purple have done in the last nine years. It compares very favourably with their best output from their 70s heyday, and I don’t think they’ve ever rocked harder than this.

6. Panic Room – Visionary Position
The debut from the band that grew out of the ashes of Karnataka, fronted by Anne-Marie Helder. Three years in the making, it’s a rich multilayered album with a real mix of styles from hard rock, folk, pop and full-blown prog which was well worth the wait.

5. Pineapple Thief – Tightly Unwound
Pineapple Thief are one of the new generation of progressive rock bands who mix elements of 70s progressive rock with more contemporary influences to give a streamlined modern sound rather than produce a pastiche of older bands. You can hear the influence of both early Radiohead and Porcupine Tree on this album, although thankfully we’re spared Thom Yorke-style whining vocals, and there is definitely no shortage of tunes.

4. Mostly Autumn – Glass Shadows
A strong release which is a marked improvement on the patchy and badly-produced “Heart Full of Sky” even if it doesn’t quite match their best work. Written entirely by Bryan Josh and Heather Findlay this time around, it’s more mainstream melodic rock than the celtic-tinged prog of their early work, but retains the 70s vibe that’s still a major element of their sound. Musically it has hard rockers, shimmering piano ballads, dreamy atmospheric numbers and soaring guitar-driven epics. Lyrically they’re certainly not singing about Hobbits any more, this is a true life story about heartbreak, joy, tragedy and hope.

3. Opeth – Watershed
2005′s “Ghost Reveries” wasn’t an easy album to follow, but Opeth managed to equal it with “Watershed“, which contains all their trademark elements; piledriving heavy passages alternating with delicate guitar harmonies, Mikael Åkerfeldt’s vocals swapping back and forth between harsh ‘cookie monster’ and heartfelt clean vocals, typically all in the same song. It’s not an easy listen, songs average ten minutes, and don’t have anything as crassly commercial as conventional verses or choruses. But when you get what they’re doing, the result can only be described as ‘symphonic’.

2. Marillion – Happiness is the Road
This double album is a vast improvement on last year’s patchy “Somewhere Else“. The two disks are conceived as two separate single albums; the atmospheric “Essence“, and the rockier “The Hard Shoulder“. Both contain plenty of gems and very little filler. Stylistically it’s the same contemporary sound as recent albums rather than a reversion to an earlier sound. Steve Hogarth is on great form, using his voice as much as a musical instrument rather than solely to express the lyrics, and Steve Rothery demonstrates in many places why he’s one of the best rock guitarists out there.

1. The Reasoning – Dark Angel
It’s difficult to choose just one album as my album of the year, but in the end I’ve settled for The Reasoning’s second album. Last year’s debut “Awakening” was one of my top albums of last year, a great mix of melodic hard rock with progressive flavouring, with three-part vocal harmones and a powerful twin lead guitar attack. This one takes things to another level, adding some metal to the mix, full of melodies that get stuck in your brain, sublime vocals from Rachel Cohen, and some amazing but never self-indulgent playing from new guitarist Owain Roberts.

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