Uriah Heep (band)

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Uriah Heep
2015 Uriah Heep - by 2eight - 8SC1873.jpg
Uriah Heep performing live in 2015
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres
Years active1969–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website www.uriah-heep.com
Members Mick Box
Phil Lanzon
Bernie Shaw
Russell Gilbrook
Davey Rimmer

Uriah Heep are an English rock band formed in London in 1969. It has had the same lineup since 2013: lead and rhythm guitarist Mick Box, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, lead vocalist Bernie Shaw, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Davey Rimmer. Of the current lineup, Box is the only remaining original member. Throughout many lineup changes, the band have included many notable musicians, such as vocalists David Byron, John Lawton, John Sloman, Peter Goalby and Steff Fontaine, bassists Gary Thain, Trevor Bolder, John Wetton, Bob Daisley and John Jowitt, drummers Nigel Olsson, Lee Kerslake and Chris Slade, and keyboardists Ken Hensley and John Sinclair.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Mick Box British guitarist

Michael Frederick "Mick" Box is the lead guitarist of British rock group Uriah Heep, having previously been a member of The Stalkers and Spice, both with original Uriah Heep vocalist David Byron. He is the only member from the band's founding in 1969 who is still active with the group.

Phil Lanzon British musician

Philip James "Phil" Lanzon is the keyboardist for British rock group Uriah Heep since 1986.

Contents

Over the course of their 50-year career, Uriah Heep have released twenty-five studio albums, two albums composed of re-recorded material, eighteen live albums and thirty-nine compilation 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 (#23, 1972). [1] In the late 1970s the band had massive success in Germany, where the "Lady in Black" single was a big hit. [2] [3]

<i>Celebration</i> (Uriah Heep album) Uriah Heep album

Celebration is the 22nd album by British rock band Uriah Heep. It mainly features rerecorded classics – which, said bassist Trevor Bolder, "chose themselves, really. The likes of 'Sunrise', 'Gypsy' and 'Look at Yourself' are songs we still play today. We just went in and redid them. [Drummer] Russell [Gilbrook] is a bit of an animal, so they sound livelier than ever."

<i>Totally Driven</i> album by Uriah Heep

Totally Driven is a greatest hits album by British hard rock band Uriah Heep, released on 12 November 2015 on their own label, Uriah Heep Records. The album contains re-recorded versions of 27 of their best known songs, recorded with the long-standing 1986-2007 lineup.

The Official Albums Chart is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales and audio streaming in the United Kingdom. It was published for the first time on 22 July 1956 and is compiled every week by the Official Charts Company (OCC) on Fridays. It is broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and published in Music Week magazine, and on the OCC website.

The band maintains a significant following and performs at arena-sized venues in the Balkans, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia and Scandinavia. They have sold over 40 million albums worldwide with over 4 million sales in the U.S, [4] where its best-known songs include "Easy Livin'", "The Wizard", "Sweet Lorraine", and "Stealin'".

Arena enclosed area designed to showcase theater, musical performances, or sporting events

An arena, is an enclosed area, often circular or oval-shaped, designed to showcase theatre, musical performances, or sporting events. It is composed of a large open space surrounded on most or all sides by tiered seating for spectators, and may be covered by a roof. The key feature of an arena is that the event space is the lowest point, allowing maximum visibility. Arenas are usually designed to accommodate a large number of spectators.

Balkans geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range.

Easy Livin (song) 1972 single by Uriah Heep

"Easy Livin'" is a song by the British rock band Uriah Heep, released as the second single from their 1972 album Demons and Wizards. The band has also shot a basic music video for the song in 1972. It was the band's first hit in the United States and the only top 40 hit there, peaking at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1972. The song's greatest success came in the Netherlands, where it reached #5 on the singles chart. The single also peaked at No. 25 in Canada. In 1988 the band released a live version of the song, with new vocalist Bernie Shaw, as a UK single from the album Live in Moscow.

History

Early days (1967–1971)

Mick Box in 1977 Uriah heep 01041977 33 300.jpg
Mick Box in 1977

The band's origins go back to 1967 when 19-year-old guitarist Mick Box formed a band in Brentwood called Hogwash, which began playing in local clubs and pubs. When the band's singer left, drummer Roger Penlington suggested his cousin David Garrick (who knew the band) as a replacement. Box and Garrick instantly formed a songwriting partnership and, having higher musical aspirations than their colleagues, decided to give up their day jobs and go professional. They set up a new band called Spice; it was then that David Garrick changed his surname to Byron. Drummer Alex Napier (born 1947 in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Scotland) joined, having answered a music paper ad; bassist Paul Newton of the Gods completed the line-up. [5]

Brentwood, Essex town and the principal settlement of the Borough of Brentwood in England

Brentwood is a town in the Borough of Brentwood, in the county of Essex in the East of England. It is located in the London commuter belt, 20 miles (30 km) east-north-east of Charing Cross, and near the M25 motorway. Latest figures suggest the town has a population of 79,000.

David Byron British singer

David Garrick, better known by his stage name David Byron, was a British singer and songwriter, best known in the early 1970s as the lead vocalist with the rock band Uriah Heep and recognized for his charismatic stage presence and his operatic voice.

Spice were a British pop rock and rhythm and blues band featuring David Byron (vocals), Mick Box (guitar), Paul Newton, Alex Napier (drums) and Colin Wood (keyboards)..

From the very beginning, Spice avoided playing covers and, according to Box, always strove "...to do something original." Managed initially by Newton's father, the band climbed their way up to The Marquee level, then got signed by Gerry Bron (the Hit Record Productions Ltd.'s boss) who saw the band at the Blues Loft club in High Wycombe. "I thought they were a band I could develop and I took them on that basis," remembered Bron later. He became the band's manager and signed them to Vertigo Records, the newly formed Philips label. [6] The four-piece found themselves booked into the Lansdowne Studios in London, still under the name of Spice. Then the name was changed to that of the well-known character from David Copperfield , Uriah Heep (for, according to biographer Kirk Blows, "Dickens' name being everywhere around Christmas '69 due to it being the hundredth anniversary of his death"). According to Dave Ling's 2001 autobiography of the band, Wizards and Demons, The Uriah Heep Story, though the "Uriah Heep" moniker was chosen in December 1969, the band continued to play gigs as "Spice" until Ken Hensley joined in February 1970. Uriah Heep then decided to widen the sound. "We'd actually recorded half the first album when we decided that keyboards would be good for our sound. I was a big Vanilla Fudge fan, with their Hammond organ and searing guitar on top, and we had David's high vibrato vocals anyway so that's how we decided to shape it," Box recalled. Gerry Bron brought in session player Colin Wood, followed by Ken Hensley, a former colleague of Newton in the Gods, who was then playing guitar in Toe Fat. "I saw a lot of potential in the group to do something very different," remembered Hensley. [5]

Marquee Club former music club in London, England

The Marquee Club was a music venue first located at 165 Oxford Street, London, England when it opened in 1958 with a range of jazz and skiffle acts. Its most famous period was from 1964 to 1988 at 90 Wardour Street in Soho, and it finally closed when at 105 Charing Cross Road in 1996, though the name has been revived unsuccessfully three times in the 21st century. It was always a small and relatively cheap club, located in the heart of the music industry in London's West End, and used to launch the careers of generations of rock acts.

Gerald Lincoln "Gerry" Bron was an English record producer and band manager. In his early days, he managed the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

High Wycombe town in Buckinghamshire, England

High Wycombe, often referred to as Wycombe, is a large town in Buckinghamshire, England. It is 29 miles (47 km) west north west of Charing Cross in London; this information is also engraved on the Corn Market building in the centre of the town. It is also 13.2 miles (21.2 km) south-south-east of the county town of Aylesbury, 23.4 miles (37.7 km) southeast of Oxford, 15.4 miles (24.8 km) north east of Reading and 7.7 miles (12.4 km) north of Maidenhead. According to the ONS official estimates for 2016, High Wycombe has a population of 125,257 and it is the second largest town in the county of Buckinghamshire after Milton Keynes. High Wycombe Urban Area, the conurbation of which the town is the largest component, has a population of 133,204.

Their 1970 debut album, …Very 'Eavy …Very 'Umble (released as Uriah Heep in the United States), introduced Hensley's heavy organ and guitar-driven sound, with David Byron's theatrical, dynamic vocals soaring above thunderous sonic backgrounds, although acoustic and jazz elements also featured in the mix. The album's title references the signature phrase of the Dickens character Uriah Heep ("very 'umble"). Hensley had little to contribute to the debut: Box and Byron wrote most of the material, including "Gypsy", in many ways (according to Blows) "...a marriage of contrasts" that, in time, became their trademark. In a 1989 interview, Mick Box recalled, "The funny thing was we wrote it at the Hanwell Community Centre, and Deep Purple were rehearsing in the room next door to us. You can imagine the kind of racket we were both making between us." [5] During the winter of 1970, three quarters into the recording of the album, drummer Alex Napier was replaced by Nigel Olsson, recommended to Byron by Elton John. The debut was not popular with rock critics (especially in the USA where Rolling Stone reviewer Melissa Mills infamously promised to commit suicide "if this band makes it") but in retrospect the attitude towards it changed. "Those unfamiliar with Uriah Heep may want to try out Demons and Wizards or a compilation first, but anyone with a serious interest in Uriah Heep or the roots of heavy metal will find plenty to like on ...Very 'eavy ...Very 'umble," advised critic Donald A. Guarisco. [7] In the course of the album's making the writing relationship between Box, Byron and Hensley was beginning to develop. "It was very quick, because we were all into the same things. It was like it was meant to be, there was that kind of chemistry," Mick Box recalled. [8]

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Uriah Heep fictional character created by Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield

Uriah Heep is a fictional character created by Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield. Heep is one of the main antagonists of the novel. His character is notable for his cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own "'umbleness". His name has become synonymous with sycophancy.

Deep Purple English rock band

Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. The band is considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although their musical approach changed over the years. Originally formed as a progressive rock band, the band shifted to a heavier sound in 1970. Deep Purple, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, have been referred to as the "unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-seventies". They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as "the globe's loudest band" for a 1972 concert at London's Rainbow Theatre, and have sold over 100 million copies of their albums worldwide.

When Nigel Olsson returned to Elton John’s group in the spring of 1970, Keith Baker took his place. [9] The band's second album, Salisbury (February 1971), was more squarely in the progressive rock genre, with its 16-minute title track featuring a 24-piece orchestra. [10] One of the album's tracks, "Lady in Black", described as, "...a stylishly arranged tune that builds from a folk-styled acoustic tune into a throbbing rocker full of ghostly harmonies and crunching guitar riffs," [10] became a hit in Germany upon its re-release in 1977 (earning the band the Radio Luxemburg Lion award). Produced by Gerry Bron, the second album went a long way to (according to AllMusic) perfect Uriah Heep's "blend of heavy metal power and prog rock complexity" [10] and was also significant for Ken Hensley's instant rise to the position of main songwriter.

In December 1970 Keith Baker left the band [11] and was replaced by Iain Clark (from another Vertigo band Cressida). With him the band toured Germany in late December 1970/January 1971 and made their first US tour in the spring of 1971, supporting Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. [12]

By this time, Gerry Bron's deal with Philips/Vertigo was over, so he set up his own label, Bronze Records. The third album was recorded in the summer months of 1971, during the band's three visits to Lansdowne. "It was the point in time when the band really found a solid musical direction," said Bron later. [12] The third album, Look at Yourself , released in October 1971, marked the solidification of disparate ideas that had been a prominent feature of Salisbury and presented the unified sound and direction. Among the stand-outs were the title track, "Tears In My Eyes" and "July Morning", an epic many Heep fans regard as equal to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Deep Purple's "Child in Time". "I think that 'July Morning' is one of the best examples of the way the band was developing at that point in time. It introduced a lot of dynamics, a lot of light and shade into our sound," Ken Hensley said. [12] The album peaked at No. 39 in the UK.

Success (1972–1976)

Lee Kerslake, David Byron, Gary Thain, Mick Box and Ken Hensley in 1973 Uriah heep 73.jpg
Lee Kerslake, David Byron, Gary Thain, Mick Box and Ken Hensley in 1973

By the end of 1971 it became clear, according to Hensley, that he, Byron and Box had become the tightly knit nucleus of the band. Feeling marginalised and having recently been badly shaken up when he was involved in an accident in Germany in one of the band's cars, first bassist Paul Newton left, in November of '71, and was briefly replaced by Mark Clarke. Newton recalled in a 2000 interview on Uriah Heep's website his departure: "Well, as you know, my father managed the band in the early days, with the Gods and Spice. He bought a lot of the gear and so on. When we became Uriah Heep and Ken joined the band – and Ken is the first to admit it – he had very definite ideas about what he wanted to do in a band. I suppose in some ways it was like the band was a vehicle which Ken needed and used to put his own ideas together. And there's nothing wrong with that as such. I mean, let's face it, the fact that what we did was successful was great for me too. But after a while you're bound to get some in-fighting in a situation like that. There were other problems too, because Gerry Bron was now the manager and my father was trying to get back some money from him - get some of his money back on the equipment and so on. There was a lot of unhappiness on all sorts of levels and everybody was unhappy in a lot of ways. I actually wanted to leave the band for quite a while before I actually left but I didn't. Anyway, with the heavy work schedules and the pressures and so on, I ended up collapsing on stage one night and the other members of the band decided I should go. It was funny because I didn't want to go and there was a lot of animosity but at the same time it was a tremendous relief". [12]

During that same November, Iain Clark was replaced by Lee Kerslake, once of the Gods. [13] New Zealander Gary Thain, a then member of Keef Hartley Band, joined Uriah Heep as a permanent member in February 1972 halfway through another American tour, replacing Mark Clarke who was exhausted and nearing a mental breakdown. "Gary just had a style about him, it was incredible because every bass player in the world that I've ever known has always loved his style, with those melodic bass lines," Box later said. Thus the "classic" Uriah Heep formed and, according to biographer K. Blows, "Everything just clicked into place."

The result of this newly found chemistry was the Demons and Wizards album, which reached No. 20 in the UK and No. 23 in the USA in June 1972. While the title of it and Roger Dean's sleeve both suggested that the band was romantically working medieval myth into their songs—and surely songs like "Rainbow Demon" and "The Wizard" (co-written by Mark Clarke, during his short stay) did have thematic links with fantasy world—a more straightforward, [13] hard-rocking approach was also apparent. [14] To discard any possible insinuations concerning any kind of concept behind it, Hensley's note on the sleeve declared the album was "...just a collection of our songs that we had a good time recording." Both critics and the band's aficionados hold the album in high regard, [14] which, according to AllMusic, "...solidified Uriah Heep's reputation as a master of gothic-inflected heavy metal." [15] Ken Hensley remembered:

The band was really focused at that time. We all wanted the same thing, were all willing to make the same sacrifices to achieve it and we were all very committed. It was the first album to feature that line-up and there was a magic in that combination of people that created so much energy and enthusiasm. [13]

Two singles were released from the album: "The Wizard" and "Easy Livin' ", the second (a defiant rocker, according to Blows, "...tailor-made for Byron's extrovert showmanship") peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. [13] Six months later, in November 1972, Uriah Heep's fifth studio album The Magician's Birthday (#28 UK, No. 31 USA) [1] came out, with "Sweet Lorraine" released as an American single and the title track (a multi-part fantasy epic featuring Hensley–Byron vocal duel and Box's extensive guitar solo in the middle) being the album's highlight. "Uriah Heep used to have an image, now they have personality," wrote Melody Maker in 1973. [13] A lot stemmed from the flamboyant Byron. "David was the communication point, the focal point of the whole group's stage presentation. He had so much charisma, so much ability," admitted Hensley many years later. But Hensley too developed into a sophisticated instrumentalist and stage persona, whose writing and keyboard flair ignited the rest of the band. [13]

Lee Kerslake in 1973 Lee-Kerslake.jpg
Lee Kerslake in 1973

A lavishly packaged (an eight-page booklet plus) double album Uriah Heep Live followed, recorded at the Birmingham Town Hall in January 1973. Having completed another Japanese tour, the band (due to tax problems) went to record to Chateau d'Herouville in France. It was there that the solid, but rather mainstream-sounding, Sweet Freedom (#18 UK, No. 33 USA) was created with "Stealin'" released as a single. Having gained worldwide recognition, the band quit the fantasy world in lyrics and made an obvious stab at versatility by adding funk ("Dreamer") and an acoustic number along the lines of contemporary singer/songwriters ("Circus") elements to the palette. [16] Ken Hensley meanwhile had been gradually recording his own, mellower material; his solo debut Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf was released the same year.

Wonderworld (June 1974), recorded in Munich's Musicland Studios in January, disappointed fans and band members alike. "Recording abroad disrupted the band's normal method of operation and that had a big negative effect on the group. Our communication was falling apart, we were arguing over stuff like royalties and we were getting involved in matters beyond music," Hensley said. Box remembered weeks spent in the studio as "dramatic" for all the wrong reasons. "David was drunk for most of the time, Kenny was having an emotional time of it and I was constantly trying to help them so it was difficult for me too. There was also a little bit of friction because (artistic) Kenny didn't like all the attention that (flamboyant) David was getting." Gary Thain was in even more serious trouble. According to Blows, "A strenuous touring schedule, compounded by the bassist's heavy drug dependency (inherent even before joining Heep) was taking its toll, though matters came to a head while on tour during September," when the bassist received a serious electric shock on stage in Dallas during a gig at Southern Methodist University’s Moody Coliseum on 15 September 1974. The rest of the US tour was then canceled and their UK dates rescheduled to October. Soon after going out of hospital, Thain, in Sounds , openly accused manager Gerry Bron of having turned Uriah Heep into a mere "financial thing" and was fired two months after the group's final gig of 1974 at New Theatre in Oxford, New Zealand on December 14. A year later, on 8 December 1975, Gary Thain was found dead in his Norwood Green home, having overdosed on heroin. [13]

John Wetton (ex-Family and King Crimson) joined the band in March 1975 and with him Return to Fantasy (June 1975) was recorded; representing a revitalised Uriah Heep, it soared up to No. 7 in the UK. "It was a relief to have someone solid and reliable, and he had a load of ideas too," Box remembered. [17] The following "Year-long world tour" (according to a headline in NME ), was marred by a new accident. Mick Box fell off stage in Louisville, Kentucky on 2 August 1975, breaking the radial bone in his right arm (but he persevered through both the set and the tour, receiving three injections a night). On 26 March 1976 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota, John Wetton had an accident of his own when he (like his predecessor, Thain) received an electric shock on stage. [17]

In November 1975 The Best of Uriah Heep compilation was released, preceded by two solo albums: Byron's debut Take No Prisoners and Hensley's second, Eager to Please.

Uriah Heep in 1976 Uriah Heep 1977.JPG
Uriah Heep in 1976

High and Mighty followed in June 1976. It was considered lightweight; even Box stated: "less of the 'eavy and more of the 'umble." [17] The matter of production here became the point of major contention. With Bron committed to non-musical projects (including his air-taxi service) the band decided to produce the album themselves. The manager later insisted the result was Heep's worst album, while Hensley accused the manager of deliberately ignoring the band's interests. [17] The album, though, was launched in the most lavish manner (with journalists and business people being flown off to the top of a Swiss mountain for a reception). However, it was not matched with the quality of live concerts, which were increasingly chaotic due to Byron's inconsistency on stage. [17] "He'd always got drunk after the show but it had never got to the point where it would jeopardize the show itself. The performance had always been first and foremost with David. It was when the show started to come second that the problems began," Hensley remembered. "The distance between David and the rest had grown to unworkable proportions," according to Blows. "It's a tragedy to say it but David was one of those classic people who could not face up to the fact that things were wrong and he looked for solace in a bottle," commented Bron. In July 1976, after the final show of a Spanish tour, Byron was sacked. Soon bassist John Wetton announced he was quitting. Obviously he was not comfortable in the band, nor were his colleagues with him. Hensley later explained, "When he joined, we thought that we could replace a great bass player (Thain) with another great bass player, but we ignored the personality factor, which is crucial. It was like grafting on a new piece of skin but it just didn't work—the body rejected it." [17]

Post-David Byron period (1977–1981)

Ken Hensley in 1977. Uriah heep 01041977 01 300.jpg
Ken Hensley in 1977.

Uriah Heep recruited bassist Trevor Bolder (ex-David Bowie, Mick Ronson), and after having auditioned David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake), Ian Hunter and Gary Holton (Heavy Metal Kids), brought in John Lawton, formerly of Lucifer's Friend and the Les Humphries Singers, with whom they turned totally away from fantasy-oriented lyrics and multi-part compositions back towards a more straightforward hard rock sound typical of the era. Box later said, "Image-wise he wasn't quite what we were looking for, but his pipes were perfect and so we went for the music end of it." Hensley agreed: "He had a voice that I thought would give a new dimension."

Firefly was released in February 1977, displaying "renewed effervescence and energy in unveiling what was clearly a new beginning for Heep" (per. K. Blows), "a new vigour and confidence" (according to a Record Mirror review) [18] and also the new singer’s abilities: the latter (according to AllMusic), although lacking the multi-octave range of David Byron, "…boasted an impressive and emotionally rich hard rock voice that instantly jelled with the Uriah Heep sound." [19] The band then toured the USA supporting Kiss. Paul Stanley later recalled, "They were incredibly professional, and so consistent that their worst nights were excellent and their best were tremendous." [18]

Innocent Victim , released in November 1977, "had a slight edge on Firefly" according to Box, but still in retrospect this "...blend of sharp, short rockers and pop-friendly ballads" looked like "an attempt to court the American AOR market." [20] The single "Free Me" (whose "acoustic style and accent on harmonies brought the group dangerously close to Eagles territory," according to AllMusic) [20] became an international hit (making it to No. 1 in New Zealand). In Germany the album sold over a million copies and became Uriah Heep's most successful, which coincided with the success of the re-released "Lady in Black." For some time during this period, there were three Uriah Heep singles sitting together in the German Top 20, these being "Wise Man" (from Firefly), "Lady in Black" and "Free Me". [18]

In the end of 1978, Fallen Angel came out, having completed a hat-trick of studio albums to feature a consistent lineup (only the second time in their career that they had done so). "Too poppy" for Mick Box’s liking (but still, "too eccentric to fit the bill of an AOR record," according to Allmusic), [21] it was well received at the time (Sounds gave it 4 stars) but failed to chart. Meanwhile, the relative stability of the Lawton period belied the behind the scenes unrest having to do with Ken Hensley's earning much more than his colleagues. "Everything he wrote, he had to use… And if you insist in using everything you end up with substandard albums," disgruntled Box opined. The major rift, though, developed between Hensley and Lawton. As K. Blows writes, "the combination of constant friction between the two (resulting in the nearest thing to violence the group had seen) and the constant presence of Lawton's wife on the road finally led to the vocalist getting the chop, shortly after playing the Bilzen Festival in Belgium in August 1979." [18]

Ex-Lone Star John Sloman was brought in, a younger singer who played keyboards and guitar and was, in the words of Box, "...an all rounder." But almost instantly, Lee Kerslake departed, after a row with Bron, whom the drummer accused of favouritism towards Hensley's material. Several tracks of the next album had to be re-recorded with a new drummer, Chris Slade (of the Manfred Mann's Earth Band). Conquest LP was released in February 1980 and received 5 stars from Record Mirror, but, according to Box, "was a difficult album to record" and represented "a confused Heep," even "a mess" (in the words of Trevor Bolder). [22] The band went on the 10th Anniversary Tour with Girlschool as support and attracted respectable crowds. Hensley was very unhappy, primarily with Sloman, and he explained why:

The band had chosen John and I had opposed that decision. He was a good musician and he looked great but I thought he had little going for him vocally. The way that he interpreted songs were totally different to the way I had written them. I could understand wanting to move on but this was like the difference between Black Sabbath and Gino Vannelli. We weren't addressing our basic problems, in that we weren't re-establishing our musical direction and John definitely wasn't helping us to do that. [22]

A meeting at the manager’s office concerning the songwriting dissent was the last straw and, in September 1980, Hensley quit. Gregg Dechert, a Canadian who had worked with Sloman in Pulsar, came in and the band went on a 23-date tour of the UK. After that Sloman left, citing musical differences for a reason. [23] He would later go on to work with UFO, Gary Moore and Robert Palmer. Hensley's acrimonious departure left the group in a state of collapse. Box and Bolder visited David Byron with attractive propositions. "We couldn't believe it when he said he didn't want to know," the guitarist remembered. Bolder, who by that time, "...had had enough of Gerry Bron and the management," decided to join Wishbone Ash. When Dechert left, Uriah Heep were down to just Mick Box with the name and contract. [24]

Peter Goalby-era (1982–1986)

Box remembered, "I locked myself in my flat for two days and drank myself senseless in complete self-pity. But I somehow managed to pull myself together and consider my options." [24] First he rang Lee Kerslake (who in the meanwhile had co-founded Blizzard of Ozz with Ozzy Osbourne) and the drummer brought along with him bassist Bob Daisley. Then John Sinclair came in whom Box knew from the times he was a member of Heavy Metal Kids and who currently played with a Los Angeles band called Lion. The band’s new vocalist became Peter Goalby of Trapeze fame. The latter had once auditioned for Uriah Heep and failed, ironically Hensley being the only band member who had supported him as a choice. "With us all contributing to the writing we forged our new direction," Box recalled. [24]

Produced by Ashley Howe, the Abominog album (according to Blows) was, "…important…in the way it pulled Heep out of the Seventies and thrust them into the Eighties with determination muscle," even if sounded a bit too American. [25] Released in March 1982 (and preceded in February by the Abominog Junior EP), it won favour with the critics. Sounds gave it a five star review, the newly established rock magazine Kerrang! declared it "the most mature and perhaps best album of their career" and in retrospect it is still seen as "one of the most consistent and engaging albums in the group's lengthy catalog." [26] The album did relatively well in the American charts (#56) after its US release in September 1982 and the band successfully performed at the Castle Donington Monsters of Rock event a few weeks prior to this, on August 21.

Head First (May 1983), produced again by Ashley Howe (who, according to Goalby, became "like the sixth member of the band"), [25] followed much in the same vein, pursuing (according to AllMusic) "...a similar combination of heavy metal firepower and AOR sleekness." [27] Not long before its release Daisley left the band to return to Ozzy Osbourne and Trevor Bolder re-joined Uriah Heep. [25] Both albums, Abominog and Head First, updated the band's sound and generated a brief, newfound interest in Uriah Heep among younger heavy metal fans.

Uriah Heep toured the US supporting Rush, Judas Priest and Def Leppard, whose vocalist Joe Elliot remembered: "They were the best band that we've ever toured with either as a headline or support, because there was no ego, no pretentious kind of stuff. They were good in as much that we learnt a lot from them."

By this time Gerry Bron was Uriah Heep manager no longer (they were looked after by Neil Warnock in Europe and Blue Oyster Cult's management team in the US) and then, finally, Bronze Records collapsed under the weight of debts, which, according to Box, "...cost Heep a lot of money." [28] Massive Asian and South American tours followed before the band returned to the studio with producer Tony Platt and a new deal with CBS's Portrait label secured by new manager Harry Maloney. Meanwhile, David Byron died of a heart attack and liver disease on 28 February 1985 at the age of 38. [17]

Equator (March 1985) sold poorly, due to the fact that "CBS just did a terrible job getting it into the shops," as Box saw it. [28] On the other hand, what Kirk Blows described as "a solid piece of product that had the potential to do extremely well" was regarded less favourably by later reviewers. Jason Anderson, for one, argues that with this "lackluster" album, high only "in high-schmaltz rating," the band squandered the chance that Portrait gave it. [29]

Totally exhausted and having serious voice problems, Goalby left in November 1985 after an Australian tour. "I loved and believed in Uriah Heep but it kicked the shit out of me in the end," were his parting words. [28] Then John Sinclair quit deciding to join Ozzy Osbourne and keyboardist Phil Lanzon (Grand Prix, Sad Café) came in to fit in immediately into the Box-envisaged scheme of things.

American singer Steff Fontaine, formerly of Christian metal band Joshua, joined in July 1986 but he was criticised for being totally "unprofessional" (he missed, for some reason, a San Francisco gig) and was sacked in September 1986 after just one American tour. [30] Fontaine's position was offered then to ex-Grand Prix, Praying Mantis and Stratus vocalist Bernie Shaw, and that in retrospect was a winning move. Shaw "felt honoured at being invited to join such a legendary band" while for Box "it was like everything falling into place." [31]

New members, Raging Silence and Different World (1986–1993)

Bernie Shaw has been the singer of Uriah Heep since 1986. Bernie-Shaw.jpg
Bernie Shaw has been the singer of Uriah Heep since 1986.

The lineup remained unchanged from 1986 until 2007, being veteran Mick Box at the helm, Trevor Bolder on bass, Lee Kerslake on drums, vocalist Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon on keyboards. Their principal tour circuit has been in Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Japan and Russia. In December 1987 they became the first ever Western rock band to play in the Soviet Union, under Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost (Western pop acts Boney M, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Elton John had already played shows there in the late 70s during the pre-Gorbachev era). [32] At Moscow's Olympic Stadium the band played ten consecutive nights to a total of 180,000 people (following a reception that Bernie Shaw remembered as being "something like Beatlemania"), which was represented in the international press as not just an achievement for Uriah Heep but a major breakthrough for Western music in general. The concerts were recorded and issued as the Live in Moscow album, which included three new tracks. Ironically, it was this behind the Iron Curtain excursion that did well to re-establish Heep's name back at home. After a series of sell-out dates in Czechoslovakia, East Berlin and Bulgaria the band returned to Britain for the Reading Festival in August 1988, and toured the UK with the Dogs D'Amour.

Raging Silence , produced by Richard Dodd and released in May 1989, was followed by a return to the Soviet Union, concerts in Poland, East Berlin, six dates in Brazil and another British tour. "The last two years have been the most enjoyable of all my time in Heep," Trevor Bolder was quoted to say at the time. The band played in the Central TV studios in Nottingham on 29 November 1989 (the film was shown as part of the Independent TV series Bedrock and a few years later it was repeated in the Cue Music series) and celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a series of compilations and re-issues. [31]

Produced by Trevor Bolder and released early in 1991, Different World got a mixed reception from the press (put down in Kerrang!, hailed in Metal Hammer) and sold poorly. "Yet another technically sound but artistically bland recording from Uriah Heep" (according to AllMusic) [33] failed to chart and marked the end of the band's contract with Legacy Records. Touring incessantly, the band issued some compilations of which Rarities from the Bronze Age and The Lansdowne Tapes (featuring previously unreleased material from the early 1970s) are considered most noteworthy. Still, the first half of the 1990s is regarded even by the Heep fans as "the wilderness years." [31]

Later days (1994–2006)

In late March/early April 1995, the band's former singer, John Lawton, briefly rejoined Uriah Heep for two weeks to tour South Africa and Austria with Deep Purple, filling in for Bernie Shaw, who was suffering from voice problems at the time.

The Sea of Light album (released in April 1995) produced by the band along with Kalle Trapp [34] was well received and in retrospect is seen as the band's return to form, the key to success being (according to critic Donald A. Guarisco) the way it "forsook the ill-judged pop metal stylings of albums like Equator for a return to the gothic-tinged old-school metal style that highlighted classic Uriah Heep albums like Look at Yourself. [35]

Produced by Pip Williams, Sonic Origami , originally issued in Europe and Japan in the fall of 1998, then, a year later, in the U.S., had "a grand, epic tone throughout" that, according to rock critic Steve Huey, "doesn't always match Uriah Heep's journeyman-sounding prog-tinged hard rock, still being a solid entry in its chosen genre". [36] The release was followed by a successful European tour, which continued through 1999. [31]

The band released The Legend Continues DVD and then toured the UK. A reunion gig with Ken Hensley & John Lawton took place in London on 7 December 2001 in the course of the Magicians Birthday Party, which since then became a tradition, even though Hensley never actually joined again.

Earlier in 2001, during the summer, the group embarked on its first US tour in seven years and returned the following year to headline both nights of Classic Rock Productions Classic Rock Festival at the Patriots Theater at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey on 5 and 6 October 2002, alongside Mostly Autumn, Asia, Karnataka, Focus and Nektar. Uriah Heep played an electric show the first night and an all acoustic show the second.

For most of the years that followed Uriah Heep have returned to Britain for a tour or just their annual showcase concert, the Magicians Birthday Party, which in 2003 was held at the now demolished London Astoria. [31] All the while Mick Box acted as a manager for the band until, on 5 April 2005, they retained Simon Porter as their manager. [37]

Wake the Sleeper and Into the Wild (2007–2013)

Mick Box and Bernie Shaw performing live in London Heep mbp2001 01.jpg
Mick Box and Bernie Shaw performing live in London

In early 2007, drummer Lee Kerslake had to leave the group due to ill health. In March of that year the band recruited Russell Gilbrook as their new drummer and immediately started recording a new studio album entitled Wake the Sleeper , where they used double drums in the songs Wake the Sleeper and War Child. Originally slated for a summer 2007 release, Universal Music finally released Wake the Sleeper on 2 June 2008.

In October 2009 Uriah Heep released their 40th Anniversary Celebration album, containing new studio recordings of twelve of their best known tracks, plus two brand new songs. [38] "This collection underlines again that Uriah Heep are deserving great respect for their past achievements but far more importantly it makes it crystal clear that this is a band with a bright future as well as a glorious history," wrote Chris Kee in his 9/10 review in Powerplay magazine’s February 2010 issue. [38]

A United States tour for June/July 2010 was delayed due to immigration problems; the first two dates had to be rescheduled. This resulted in an appearance at B.B. King's in New York City as being the first date of the tour. Then Uriah Heep performed live on the Progressive Rock stage at the inaugural High Voltage Festival in London's Victoria Park on 25 July 2010. They played their 1972 album Demons and Wizards in its entirety, being joined by ex-Whitesnake man Micky Moody on slide guitar. [39]

Uriah Heep released their 23rd studio album Into the Wild on 15 April 2011 in Europe (3 May in North America) via Frontiers Records. [40]

Bassist Trevor Bolder died on 21 May 2013 after suffering from pancreatic cancer. He was 62 years old. [41] British bassist John Jowitt (Ark, IQ, Arena) came in temporarily, followed by Davey Rimmer.

Outsider and Living the Dream (2013–present)

In May 2013, when the band toured The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, they were again joined by their late 70s era singer John Lawton who was covering for Bernie Shaw, who required time off for a routine medical procedure. Then both Bernie and John fronted the group for their show in San Javier, Spain on July 12.

Uriah Heep entered the studio in January 2014 [42] to begin recording their 24th studio album Outsider , which was released in June 2014. [43] The album featured new bass player Davey Rimmer who had been a substitute for Trevor Bolder the previous year.

In March 2015 they went on the "Down Unda Tour" visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Auckland. On 25 September, they announced the release of their greatest hits album Totally Driven , a collection of re-recordings of classic Heep songs made in 2001, which was released on 12 November. On 15 October that year, the group played alongside Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake at a special two-hour concert at Crocus City Hall in Moscow.

Swedish singer Stefan Berggren, from Berggren Kerslake Band (BKB), subbed for Bernie Shaw on lead vocals at the Rosenheim Festival in Germany on 14 July 2016 and again later that same year for a New Year’s Eve festival in Sibiu, Romania when Shaw had a family commitment.

2016 also saw the group play a few Japanese dates and the Legends Rock Cruise.

On November 16, 2017, it was reported that Uriah Heep would begin recording their 25th studio album, titled Living the Dream , with producer Jay Ruston. [44] The album was released on 14 September 2018, and the band was set to embark on a world tour in support of it that would take them into 2019. [45]

Musical style

Uriah Heep's music has predominantly been described by critics and journalists as progressive rock and heavy metal, [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] with influences from acid rock, blues, and folk. [53] [54] Uriah Heep's distinctive features have always included a massive keyboard sound, strong vocal harmonies and (in the early years) David Byron's quasi-operatic vocals. [14] [55]

Personnel

Current members

Discography

Studio albums

Related Research Articles

Ken Hensley British musician

Kenneth William David Hensley is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for his work with Uriah Heep during the 1970s.

<i>Salisbury</i> (album) album

Salisbury is the second studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in February 1971 by Vertigo Records. It was produced by Gerry Bron.

<i>Demons and Wizards</i> (Uriah Heep album) album by Uriah Heep

Demons and Wizards is the fourth studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released May 19, 1972 by Bronze Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. The album was a success and sold over 6 million LP's worldwide.

<i>The Magicians Birthday</i> album

The Magician's Birthday is the fifth album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in November 1972 by Bronze Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. The concept was "based loosely on a short story" written by keyboardist Ken Hensley in June and July 1972.

<i>Sweet Freedom</i> 1973 Uriah Heep album

Sweet Freedom is the sixth studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in September 1973 by Bronze Records in the UK and Warner Bros. Records in the US.

<i>Wonderworld</i> (album) album by Uriah Heep

Wonderworld is the seventh album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in June 1974 by Bronze Records in the UK and Warner Bros. Records in the US. Wonderworld was the last Uriah Heep album to feature bass player Gary Thain.

<i>Return to Fantasy</i> album by Uriah Heep

Return to Fantasy is the eighth studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released on 13 June 1975 in the United Kingdom by Bronze Records. It was the first of the two albums to feature John Wetton as the new bass player, who replaced Gary Thain in early 1975.

<i>Firefly</i> (Uriah Heep album) album by band Uriah Heep

Firefly is the 10th studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in February 1977 by Bronze Records in the UK and Warner Bros. Records in the US. It was their first album without lead vocalist and founding member David Byron, and the first of three albums with new singer John Lawton. Bassist Trevor Bolder made his Uriah Heep debut on this album. Barring a break of about 18 months in the early 1980s, he remained with the group until his death in 2013.

<i>High and Mighty</i> (album) album by Uriah Heep

High and Mighty is the ninth studio album by British hard rock band Uriah Heep, released in 1976 by Bronze Records in the UK and Warner Bros. Records in the US. High and Mighty was the last Uriah Heep album to feature vocalist and founding member David Byron, who was subsequently fired due to his troubles with alcohol.

<i>Fallen Angel</i> (Uriah Heep album) album released by British rock band Uriah Heep

Fallen Angel is the 12th studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in September 1978 by Bronze Records in the UK and Chrysalis Records in the US. Fallen Angel only reached No. 186 in the US Billboard 200, but in Germany, the band were at the height of their popularity. On this album, the band moved toward an AOR sound, as opposed to the progressive rock of previous albums.

Sweet Lorraine (Uriah Heep song) single by Uriah Heep

"Sweet Lorraine" is a song by the band Uriah Heep, first released on the album The Magician's Birthday. It was written by Mick Box, Gary Thain and David Byron. "Sweet Lorraine" reached #91 in the US Billboard Hot 100. It is one of the better-known songs by the band, famous, in part, for its Moog synthesizer solo performed by Ken Hensley. It became a popular live performance. The B-side of "Sweet Lorraine" is the first single released from The Magician's Birthday, "Blind Eye".

Stealin (Uriah Heep song) single by Uriah Heep

"Stealin'" is a song by British hard rock band Uriah Heep, from the concept album Sweet Freedom. The song was written by Ken Hensley, and it reached gold status in New Zealand. The B-side of the song is "Sunshine".

<i>...Very Eavy ...Very Umble</i> album by Uriah Heep

...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble is the debut studio album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released on 13 June 1970 by Vertigo Records in the UK. The original vinyl release was a gatefold sleeve, featuring frontman David Byron on the front sleeve, almost unrecognisable beneath cobwebs.

The Best of Uriah Heep is the first compilation album by British rock band Uriah Heep released in 1976. It reached gold status in Germany.

"Blind Eye" is a song by the British band Uriah Heep, which was originally released on their fifth studio album The Magician's Birthday in 1972, and as the first single from the album. The song is also the B-side of the second single, "Sweet Lorraine". "Blind Eye" was written by Ken Hensley. It charted at #97 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It was included on Uriah Heep's live album Acoustically Driven in 2001. The song was recorded and mixed at Lansdowne Studios, London, in September 1972.

Spider Woman (song) 1972 single by the British rock band Uriah Heep

"Spider Woman" is a song by the British rock band Uriah Heep, released on their fifth studio album The Magician's Birthday in 1972. The song was written by David Byron, Mick Box, Gary Thain and Lee Kerslake. "Spider Woman" was released as the third and last single from the album, reaching #14 in the German charts for twelve weeks. The B-side of the single is "Sunrise". The song was recorded in Lansdowne Studios, London, in September 1972. The song is played with eight chords: E7+9, D, A, E, G, F, G# and F#. There is an intro at the beginning of the song and an outro for the ending.

Return to Fantasy (song) single by Uriah Heep

"Return to Fantasy" is a song by British rock band Uriah Heep from their eighth studio album Return to Fantasy (1975). The song was written by David Byron and Ken Hensley and was sung by David Byron. The song was recorded in May 1975 in London in the Lansdowne and Morgan studios.

Wise Man (song) 1976 single by Uriah Heep

"Wise Man" is a song by British rock band Uriah Heep. The song was written by Ken Hensley and Jack Williams for their album Firefly, which was released on December 7, 1976, a day before their tour kicked off supporting Kiss in Macon, Georgia.* The song is also the first single from the album and the first single with the band's new vocalist John Lawton. "Wise Man" was recorded at Roundhouse Recording Studios in London during October and November 1976, and was written in the key of A major.

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