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Uriah Heep Live
Uriah Heep

Mercury SRM 2-7503
Released: May 1973
Chart Peak: #37
Weeks Charted: 30
Certified Gold: 10/12/73

Almost every insult that could be heaped on Uriah Heep's heads has been during the last three years, some of the most imaginative being reproduced on the album sleeve to haunt their authors. Plague those writers these reviews might, because Uriah Heep has overcome some of the most virulent critical resistance in rock history to become a major concert and record attraction.

Uriah Heep - Live
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
That still does not make them good, but on this two-record marathon recorded at a January British concert the promise and the excesses of the group are laid bare. A highlight is "Easy Livin'," remarkably faithful to the hit single. In contrast to some of the woefully boring epic tracks, this one clocks in at 2:43, a reminder that the energy and power of rock is often best expressed in a compressed and coordinated explosion. Drawn-out poundaways almost invariably lack form and wind up exercises in artistic self-indulgence and consumer tedium.

Ever since Sixties pioneers proved that loud can be good, a portion of the rock public has assumed that loud is good. Uriah Heep often fails to make that distinction, which is unfortunate, because in less frenzied moments there is evidence that the jovial fivesome is capable of some subtleties. Ken Hensley's organ playing can be sensitive as well as powerful, and David Byron can sing in muted falsetto as well as tortured screams.

Byron's performance on this record is puzzling. (This is not a reference to his stage identity, defined in the liner notes as "the peacockish dresser who struts his stuff for the girls but who guzzles a bottle or two of Mateus Rose and shakes the mike stand hard, coming on heavy to let the lads know he's no effete poseur." Author, author!) He can be effective as a vocalist and his half-spoken, half-shouted introdution to "Look At Yourself" is clever. But he also hits wrong notes on "The Magician's Birthday" and on two occasions sounds like he's mimicking Yoko Ono's performance on Unfinished Symphony (Life with the Lions). One can only conclude that he is quite capable but in need of some self-restraint.

This album is Uriah Heep's farewell to Mercury. Perhaps if in their tenure at Warner Brothers they strike a better balance between the tastefully heavy and the clumsily overdone the critical abuse will cease. One prays so. Three years of slagging is more than enough to read about anybody.

- Paul Gambaccini, Rolling Stone, 8/30/73.

Bonus Reviews!

This double set by this exciting British hard rock band manages to capture all the feelings of a concert. Apparently very little of the overdubbing so common on "live" efforts has been done here, and the band sounds incredibly like their studio disks while still offering the in-person flavor. Highlights are the top vocals of David Byron and the exceptional keyboard work of Ken Hensley. Best cuts: "Easy Livin'," "July Morning," "Medley" (with classic rock such as "At The Hop" and "Blue Suede Shoes.")

- Billboard, 1973.

Uriah Heep may have been a popular concert attraction, but that doesn't necessarily mean their concerts were always entertaining, as the dull Uriah Heep Live proves. * *

- Daevid Jehnzen, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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