Today, June 13, is a special day for the band "Uriah Heep" whose two albums are celebrating a birthday today exactly 5 years apart.
We'll start with the first album, "... Very 'Eavy ... Very' Umble" which is also the band's debut album released in 1970.
1970 was a great good year in music. The seeds planted by the big rock bands of the previous decade, became two mighty "Sequoia" trees in the form of the "Hard Rock" and "Metal" genres.
In February 1970, "Black Sabbath" releases their debut album "Black Sabbath" and reveals to the world the sharpened heavy riffs of Tony Iommi. Later that year on June 3, "Deep Purple" releases the album "In Rock" - the band's first album with lead singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, a groundbreaking album that defined the style of hard rock and heavy metal and proved that singers do not have to sing in a gentle and clear voice, But can also roar and scream and growl. To complete the picture we will note that later that year "Black Sabbath" released their second album "Paranoid" which finally established the metallic sound that would form the foundation on which the two genres were built.
For some reason, not many remember that in this magical year "Uria Heep" released their debut album, an album which also has some influence on the development of the genres.
There is no doubt that the album does not reach the level of influence the other albums released that year, but it is still an album that undoubtedly has an impact on the development of the genres.
The album introduces us to a band that is still looking for the sound that will define it, with songs ranging from initial heavy metal "Gypsy", through basic hard rock "Walking in Your Shadow" to progressive rock "Wake Up" and even blues "Lucy Blues" and Soft Rock (listen to the amazing ballad "Come Away Melinda" and find some "Barcley James Harvest" in it).
At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the fact that this is a band that was an important part in the emerging scene that will later define the genre of hard rock and metal. Listen for example to the riffs in the opening song "Gypsy" and the song "Bird Of Pray" (which is only in the American version) and you will understand what we are talking about.
"Uriah Heep" began it's career as the band "Spice" back in 1967. The band then Included four members: Mick Box on guitar and vocals, David Byron on vocals, Paul Newton on bass and Alex Napier on drums.
In July 1969, the quartet entered the recording studio while it still bears the name "Spice". They added the session keyboardist Colin Wood who was a teacher, on the advice of the director of their record company. During the same session, the band records two songs. The first, the amazing ballad "Come Away Melinda" written by American folk singer Fred Hellerman and Fran Minkoff and originally performed by singer Harry Belafonte in 1963. The second, the progressive song that closes the album "Wake Up (Set Your Sights)", written by Box and Byron.
This session with a keyboard player, felt right for the band and made them desire to look for a keyboardist who would accompany them regularly as a full member. Bassist Paul Newton offers the name of Ken Hensley and the band decides to invite him to join the band. It was a move that brought with it a fundamental change in the band's sound.
Hensley was a member of the bands "The Gods", "Head Machine" and "Toe Fat" with whom he recorded several albums. With the addition of Hensley, the band changed its name to "Uriah Heep", after the famous character from the book David Copperfield.
Ken Hensley was a talented and gifted writer who, beyond his incredible keyboard work, also knew how to play guitar and sing, thus contributing greatly to the diversity and enrichment of the band sound.
However, in the specific case Hensley joined the band after most of the material for the album was already written and even recorded (the two songs we mentioned above), so his influence on this album was minor in relation to subsequent albums. Although as mentioned, Hensley was not given a chance to prove his abilities in this case, he still managed to leave a substantial mark on songs like "Gypsy" whose echoing Hammond organ with the dirty sound resonates in our ears even 50 years later ...
It is unfortunate to note that this album received bad reviews upon its release. Rolling Stone magazine reporter Melissa Mills opened her review of the album with the words: "If this group makes it I'll have to commit suicide. From the first note you know you don't want to hear any more...". Luckily for Melissa Mills the paper absorbs everything. Despite that, 50 years later, you can still hear the rolling laughter of Mick Box, who continues to lead the band with a high hand, perform with it and release good albums.
To date, the band has released 25 studio albums, 18 live albums and countless collections. The band continues to perform to this day and fill halls without any difficulty. Just to be clear, the band has visited Israel 4 times when sometimes each visit includes more than one performance.
Before concluding, a few words about the second album celebrating its birthday today: "Return to Fantasy". This is the band's eighth album released in 1975 (8 albums in 5 years !!! and Melissa Miles did not commit suicide as promised but sure ate her hat).
This is the band's first album with legendary bassist John Wetton ("Family", "King Crimson", "Roxy Music", "UK", "Wishbone Ash", "Asia" and more), who just yesterday was due to celebrate his birthday. The album continues the band's experience with the albums "Sweet Freedom" and "Wonderworld" and the search for new areas of music, but it retains a heavier common sound than its predecessors.
Although the album finds the band a little after its peak from the first half of the 70's, it is still a good album that includes, among other things, the theme song. A strong hard rock song that is in the band's setlist even in its recent performances.
And now let's listen to the albums: