One of my decompression activities is reading old issues of "Heavy Metal" (the illustrated sci-fi mag) with any of the following albums playing: BLUE OYSTER CULT's "Tyranny and Mutation", KING CRIMSON's "Islands", GENTLE GIANT's "Acquiring the Taste" or either of these from URIAH HEEP: "Demons and Wizards" or "The Magician's Birthday". I've since added the more contemporary catalogs of BARONESS and THE SWORD to this exercise, but the intent is all the same: having a fantastical, driving soundtrack filled with prog and thunder rock to amplify reading material designed to lubricate brain cells while teleporting you anywhere but the moment.
URIAH HEEP is rightly cited by heavy metal and hard rock historians as one of the UK's most powerful acts. The band's legacy is firm; even if these days group has acquired more of a cult audience. Frankly, URIAH HEEP isn't for everyone. At times, the band is perfectly accessible, using "Lady In Black", "Stealin'", "Woman of the Night", "Firefly", "Free Me", "Can't Keep a Good Band Down", "It Ain't Easy", "Come Back to Me" and, of course, the band's calling card "Easy Livin'" as examples. Like most English heavy metal and hard rock acts attempting to stay relevant, SAXON and TYGERS OF PAN TANG coming to mind, URIAH HEEP embarked upon a botched campaign in the late eighties to morph into a mainstream synth rock band. This coming from a band evolving from a psych-blues, DEEP PURPLE wannabe band to a prog giant to a metal juggernaut to the curious equivalent of a prog-Broadway nightmare—all prior to 1985's astonishingly limp "Equator" and 1989's "Raging Silence". The six minute marathon of banality that is "Poor Little Rich Girl" nearly tainted URIAH HEEP's reps altogether.
All of these songs and more make up URIAH HEEP's 33-track "Your Turn to Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990". The band has been chronicled and compiled frequently in the past. Yet, this one bravely plots URIAH HEEP's full course; leaving the band's occasional scars, hiccups and churning falsettos trail amidst their meatier cuts. Members of the band (and there have been a ton) drop their intriguing reflections in the liner notes.
When examining the songs on "Your Turn to Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990", it's easy to hear URIAH HEEP mirroring their contemporaries throughout the course of the band's career: DEEP PURPLE, naturally, plus ELO; THE MOODY BLUES; GENTLE GIANT; STEPPENWOLF; EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER; QUEEN and BLUE OYSTER CULT. On the flipside, URIAH HEEP's contributions to rock and metal's future can be gauged with 1977's pounding "Free 'n' Easy", which is stuffed with riffs that might be looked upon as one of IRON MAIDEN's early primers. "No Return", from 1980's "Conquest", marks a radical departure in URIAH HEEP's sound. Yet its cinematic thrusts and busy-moving airs of metropolis—there's a wee hint of Billy Joel swirling in this cut—can be detected in popular eighties rock bands, SURVIVOR being one of the more obvious.
As soft and luxuriant as the unit's MOODY BLUES-kissed "Come Away Melinda" is, it's sulky and trippy instead of mainstream, a little too weird for even fans of mope supreme Nick Drake. "July Morning", 10-minutes plus, was pared down when released as a single. Despite the band's attempt on the track to replicate DEEP PURPLE for brainiacs, the late David Byron's plies to out-screech Ian Gillan and Ken Hensley's manic keys, it just isn't the stuff that keeps you on the Heatseekers chart for long. "Bird of Prey" may be the instrumental sound of prog heaven, but Byron's hellish shrieks would send any vanilla listener to seek therapy.
"Your Turn to Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990" picks two songs from each of URIAH HEEP's 17 albums, save for only one selection off of "Raging Silence", the numbed and dumb "Voice On My TV". For those seeking the harder doses of URIAH HEEP, the first disc is your habitat. It leads off with the massive, DEEP PURPLE-aspiring "Gypsy" from "…Very 'Eavy …Very 'Umble ". Mick Box, the last remaining original member since HEEP's 1969 inception, introduces the crashing riffs he divvies like ostinato here. This way of playing follows him into the future. Yet it's Paul Newton's lulling bass groove and, moreover, Ken Hensley's riotous organ slaying that gives "Gypsy" its proper din.
"Lady In Black" from 1971's album "Salisbury" may not carry the reckless boom of URIAH HEEP's first album. However, the track grows girth without walloping, as it drops a funky bass upon the edges of the song's Victorian acoustic tides and David Byron's soothing slithers. Daring the listener not to "ahh-ahhhh” along with it, "Lady In Black" is, for this writer's purposes, the masterpiece of URIAH HEEP's singles. Album-wise, that acclaim goes to both "Demons and Wizards" and "The Magician's Birthday", though "Return to Fantasy", "Look at Yourself" and "Wonderworld" are all contenders. And don't forget, one of 1970's most underrated slabs, "…Very 'Eavy …Very 'Umble", which today still waves for attention.
Yes, there was a lot of DEEP PURPLE worship in the band's earlier years. The song "Look at Yourself" tries its damnedest to be "Shades of Deep Purple", "In Rock" and "Fireball" smashed into one song. Perhaps URIAH HEEP's propensity to sound like their peers more often than innovating on their own—albeit "The Wizard" is as groundbreaking as anything of its era—is why the band is more for the discerning metalhead and prog junkie. Nonetheless, URIAH HEEP has earned its place in the pantheon of the genre, and "Your Turn to Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990" in an entertaining trip through the wayback machine, notwithstanding a few dips to be wary of if you're a newbie.