BMG [Release date 31.03.17]
As we opined when reviewing the first tranche of Heep reissues, we would question the merits of adding a second disc with the “alternative” album version as reimagined by Heep fan and collector Robert Corich under the watchful eye of the band’s Mick Box. These can only be of interest to real completists.
At least 1971′s Look At Yourself comes in a repro silver “mirror” sleeve. The extra disc of their breakthrough album reorganises the running order and transplants different mixes. Only an unreleased live version of ‘July Morning’ bucks the format but the quality is pretty dire, if historical. Variations of the album sessions have been previously been issued in 1993 as ‘The Landsdowne Tapes’ and in 2003 for the deluxe edition ****
The band’s follow up Demons And Wizards saw Lee Kerslake (drums) and Gary Thain (bass) replacing Iain Clark and Paul Newton respectively. The album is usually considered the band at their best, with their “classic” line-up, and elicited such gems as ‘The Wizard’ and ‘Easy Livin”. The additional tracks on the second disc also include songs that have appeared previously – notably on the 2003 deluxe reissue - albeit in different mixes, such as ‘Home Again To You’ and ‘Why’. *****
This batch of reissues is completed by 1972′s The Magician’s Birthday – dominated by the 10-minute title track – and the eight original tracks are expanded on the second disc together with seven tracks that – in some form or another – have again been available previously (in 2004). ****
These three albums marked something of a golden and productive era for the band – with an album release almost every six months. However in the ensuing years they hit the skids. Thain died in 1975 from a drug overdose and charismatic vocalist David Byron was fighting alcohol abuse. 1973′s ‘Sweet Freedom’ was a more commercial offering and gave them their first U.S. album success whilst 1974′s ‘Wonderland’ is generally considered to be lack-lustre but no doubt both will appear in the future with the ubiquitous alternative versions.
All the original album discs have been remastered and there are new essays and interviews with Mick Box and Ken Hensley. Heep fans might grit their teeth over this constant recycling although they offer a reasonable catch-up to newbies. The band’s mix of heavy rock and prog was at its zenith during these years.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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