Album review: URIAH HEEP – The Classic Rock Years (6 Disc Box Set)

In June 2014 David Randall chatted to Bernie Shaw for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio and in this exclusive edit Bernie chats about setlists and his own early involvement with the band. (6:21)

URIAH HEEP - The Classic Rock Years (6 Disc Box Set)

The Store For Music [Release date 24.06.16] CD/DVD

This 6 disc boxed set (3 CD/3 DVD) is essential if you need to catch up with what Uriah Heep have been doing live since the start of the millennium.

The Heep live catalogue is frequently overwhelming and whilst fans will almost certainly have these albums, they are complementary to the ongoing ‘Official Bootleg’ series. They also serve as a reminder of the various line-ups.   Not least those with the late Trevor Bolder and Lee Kerslake who left the band due to ill-health in 2007.

The three albums are taken from the band’s annual “party” bashes which are either themed or feature special guests/former band members.

In 2000 the band pared things down a little for Acoustically Driven.  It’s not really unplugged, but the songs have been re-arranged for a less frantic delivery.  Not least they are an excellent showcase for Bernie Shaw’s vocals and the whole set bolstered with a string quartet and female backing vocalists.

There’s a guest appearance from Ian Anderson on the songs ‘Circus’ and ‘Blind Eye’ and heavy involvement from Pip Williams (who has also worked with The Moody Blues and Status Quo) in the arrangements and production.

A year later The Magician’s Birthday Party brought together special guests, former Heep vocalist John Lawton and Ken Hensley, together with Thijs van Leer (Focus) who acted as my guide at the show’s press call and introduced me to the late Tommy Vance.

All the classics from the Hensley era are here including ‘Tales’, the epics ‘July Morning’ and ‘Paradise/The Spell’, ‘Sympathy’ and ‘The Magician’s Birthday’. With the added bonus of Ken Hensley on guitar adding more bite to many of the songs, and again current vocalist Bernie Shaw does great service to these classic songs. John Lawton guests on the all out rocker ‘Free ‘n’ Easy’ before the album closes with ‘Easy Livin’.

For Uriah Heep fans this is well worth getting not only as it is a cracking live CD but also as it features Ken Hensley’s ‘official’ farewell with the band.  It is also featured in the box set as a DVD with additional tracks. 

Disc 3 features the band’s Between Two Worlds tour, recorded in 2004 with members of the band Osibisa and is included as a DVD together with Live In The USA which comes from a Classic Rock Festival gig in New Jersey in October 2002.

To round out the package the sixth disc is a DVD, the Sailing The Sea Of Light documentary (covering the years 1987-1998) and Live In Sofia (from 1999) – essentially another Greatest Hits set.

Inevitably there’s much duplication, especially as in truth Heep’s setlist has always pivoted on the classic seventies albums.  It is typical – for example – that the band were promoting the excellent Sonic Origami album in 1999 but that year’s Sofia gig features only two tracks.  This also underlines why bands should play more of their current album on tour at least for posterity when the show is recorded.

Culled from the Classic Rock Productions era of CD and DVDs, the addition of the band’s ‘Magic Night’ gig (2004) would have made this package more complete.

Recycled but well presented, although the liner notes – extracted from the band’s official history – only cover Discs 1 and 2.  A worthy investment nevertheless.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Album review (Anthology, Very ‘eavy…’very Humble)
Album review (Salisbury)
Album review (Look At Yourself, Demons And Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday)

David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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