Uriah Heep's by-the-books progressive heavy metal made the British band one of the most popular hard rock groups of the early '70s. Formed by vocalist David Byron and guitarist Mick Box in the late '60s, the group went through an astonishing number of members over the next two decades -- nearly 30 different musicians passed through the band over the years. Byron and Box were members of the mid-'60s rock band called the Stalkers; once that band broke up, the duo formed another group called Spice. Spice would eventually turn into Uriah Heep in the late '60s, once Ken Hensley (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and bassist Paul Newton joined the pair. Former Spice drummer Alex Napier was the band's drummer for a brief time; he was quickly replaced by Nigel Olsson.
Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble
Uriah Heep released their debut album Very 'eavy...Very 'umble (called Uriah Heep in the U.S.) in 1970. After its release, Keith Baker became the group's drummer; he recorded Salisbury, the group's second album, before deciding he couldn't keep up with the band's extensive touring and was replaced by Ian Clarke. Salisbury, featuring a 16-minute title track recorded with a 26-piece orchestra, showcased the band's more progressive tendencies. Later that year, Ian Clarke was replaced by Lee Kerslake and Mark Clarke replaced Newton; Mark Clarke quickly left the band and Gary Thain became the group's bassist. This lineup of Uriah Heep was its most stable and popular; beginning with 1972's Demons and Wizards, they released five albums between 1972 and 1975.
After 1975, the band's popularity began to slip. Byron left the band in 1977 and was replaced by John Lawton, yet the group's fortunes kept declining right into the early '80s. However, Uriah Heep soldiered on, continuing to release albums into the '90s and 2000s. The album roster included Different World (1994), Sea of Light (1995), Sonic Origami (1998), and Spellbinder (1999).
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
THE MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY
It starts dramatically with "Sunrise," a spooky power ballad that alternates quiet organ-led verses with an emotional chorus and guitar-fuelled instrumental breaks topped off by David Byron's operatic wail. The remainder of the album divides its time between punchy rockers and spacy balladry before climaxing with another prog-inflected epic. Highlights in the rock arena include "Blind Eye," an acoustic-flavored rocker whose galloping pace is firmly anchored by Gary Thain's melodic bassline, and "Sweet Lorraine," a stomping good-time rocker that adds extra texture to its guitar-driven sound with some spacy synthesizer lines.
As for the quieter moments, "Rain" is a lovely piano ballad that makes surprising and impressive use of a xylophone in its sound and "Echoes in the Dark" is an eerie mid-tempo song that alternates stark piano-led verses with an emotional chorus cemented by Mick Box's searing guitar leads. There is also another multi-part epic in the title track, a prog-ish piece with fantasy themes.
It lacks a strong structure (it feels more like three songs grafted together than a true multi-part composition) and succumbs to a bit of aimless jamming in the middle, but it is redeemed by strong hooks in the opening and a spirited performance from the band on its space rock finale.
01. Sunrise 4:04
02. Spider Woman 2:25
03. Blind Eye 3:33
04. Echoes in the Dark 4:48
05. Rain 3:59
06. Sweet Lorraine 4:13
07. Tales 4:09
08. The Magician's Birthday 10:21
The Magician's Birthday Lyrics
In the magic garden
Some were singing some were dancing
While the midnight moon shone brightly overhead
The stars so gaily glistened
And the sphinx in silence listened
To the magician's tale of lives that he had led
Let the bells of freedom ring
Songs of love to friday's king
Let's all go to the magician's birthday
It's in the forest but not so far away
Much to do and so much to say
While we listened to the orchid orchestra play
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear magician
Happy birthday to you
Then at the dead of midnight
As we watched the dancing fire light
The air grew cold and seemed to dull the flame
The fire died the music faded
Filled with fear of death we waited
For now we knew some evil was to blame...
-I challenge you I challenge you all
For all you own and all you know
And by all the powers of darkness
I will steal what is mine
Surrender now or face my spite
I grant you it may be Friday night
But did you know this day
Also numbers thirteen
First I give you fire
-I turn your fire into a sleepy stream
-Yes but now I give you nightmares
-But from your horror I'll create a dream
-You cannot fight me for I have the sword of hate
-But one thing you can't see: my answer is simply
an impenetrable fortress of love - love
The fear went as quickly as it came
The air was clear the fire burned again
The flames leapt the organ played
The swan sang to greet the day
And then we knew that
Love will find love will find love ...