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Random Album Review: Uriah Heep- Demons and Wizards (1972)
By 1972, UK hard rock/progressive rock band Uriah Heep had three studio albums under their belt. However, it wasn't easy: since their formation in 1969, the band had gone through several line-up changes- with singer David Byron, guitarist Mick Box and keyboardist Ken Hensley the only constant members. By 1972, the band's rhythm section consisted of drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Gary Thain. For many, this line-up of Heep is considered to be their classic line-up as the band were at their commercial peak during this time. The line-up's first album, Demons and Wizards, is considered by many fans to be one of the band's best; if not their best. Nevertheless, Demons and Wizards is a great album.
The album opens with "The Wizard," a magical tune telling the tale of a man's meeting with mysterious man with a "cloak of gold" and "eyes of fire." The lyrics are wonderful, although the lyric "Me an my magic man kinda feeling fine" might raise a few eyebrows today! Musically, the song could be thought of as a folk tune being played by a progressive rock band. Mick Box gets to show off his guitar playing on "Traveler in Time," a song about a man trying to pay for his crimes. In a way, some people could relate to it. Byron's vocal delivery is also strong here. This is followed by "Easy Livin'," perhaps the band's most popular track. When released as a single, Heep had cracked the US charts in the Top 40 (at #39). It's easy to see why the track became a hit: take the Ken Hensley's keyboard work, Gary Thain's walking bassline and the simple lyrics- you have a hit single.
Heep are known for their hypnotic vocal harmonies. This is certainly the case for "Poet's Justice" and "Circle of Hands." The former features some funk-tinged guitar work from Box while the latter's lyrics are a cry for peace. Some meaning can be found in this lyrics, especially the chorus which ends with the lyric "And today is only yesterday's tomorrow." "Rainbow Demon" is a spooky keyboard droning number while "All My Life" could be considered filler. The album ends with "Paradise/The Spell," a strange twelve-minute mini-epic that starts off as a progressive folk ("Paradise") until it slowly morphs into an old-time rock n roll number. Byron's vocals are soothing in the former while Kerslake and Hensley shine on the latter. It's a strange way to end such a spacey album but Heep managed to pull it off just fine.
Demons and Wizards was success in the UK and the US. As of this writing, the album has already been certified gold. The classic line-up of Heep would make a couple more albums. Only months after Demons and Wizards was released, the band released the follow-up- The Magician's Birthday. This would be followed by a 1973 live album and two more studio albums- 1973's Sweet Freedom (which featured the hit single "Stealin'") and 1974's Wonderworld. The line up ended in 1974 after bassist Gary Thain was fired, due to his drug addiction- which he would unfortunately succumb to after a heroin overdose in 1977. As of 2015, Uriah Heep are still together albeit with a completely different line-up from the one on Demons and Wizards (with the exception of Mick Box, who is the only constant member in Heep's 45 year long career). In 2014, the band released their 24th studio album Outsider.
Sadly the classic line-up would never be able to reunite, given Thain's death and singer David Byron's passing in 1985 to a heart attack. Still, the current line-up of Uriah Heep are still touring and keeping the music alive. As for Demons and Wizards, Heepsters can look back on it as a classic album not only from Heep but from any rock band in the 1970s.