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Uriah Heep: Classic Heep Live From the Byron Era (DVD)

"This is it! ...The Holy Grail for every Uriah Heep fan!"

As true a statement as you will ever hear, as exclaimed on the back cover of this wonderful archival release from the folks at Classic Rock Productions. Love 'em or hate 'em, Uriah Heep were and continue to be a popular and active force in the hard rock/heavy metal/progressive rock community (and yes, a hard band to categorize), and perhaps their defining era was when David Byron manned the vocal chair from 1970 to 1976. Sadly, until now, there was never any decent concert footage of this era of the band available that was suitable for DVD format. Thankfully, an exhaustive search by Executive Producer Bob Carruthers turned up some wonderful live footage of the band from 1972-1976, as well as clips from Byron's post-Heep band Rough Diamond from 1977. You get here 2 hours of vintage Uriah Heep over two DVD's, as well as an intriguing 47 page booklet chock full of information, history, and photos, all encased in a hardcover book-like design that was obviously put together for the serious collector.

Disc One contains the meat and potatoes of the set, and all the restored and remastered material. Of interesting note are the couple of songs filmed in Japan in 1973, "Sunrise", "Tears in My Eyes", and "Traveller in Time", in which the audio was so poor that a new audio track from a different show in the same tour has been inserted. It's a little odd, as the audio seems a tad out of sync with the video, but surprisingly it's pretty close and not that much of any annoyance. How you feel about not having the original audio on these songs will be up to you. Part of me wished the original audio was used, or at least they could have included the un-touched versions on Disc 2, but nevertheless the end result is fantastic footage cut with superior audio. There's some great clips from 1974 that shows the band in great form (tell me Freddie Mercury did not learn a little about stage prancing and posteuring from Byron), but sadly you can barely hear guitarist Mick Box. It's also obvious that Byron's drinking problems were starting to show, as vocally he is not as his best, but the acohol certainly fueled his onstage antics! Bassist Gary Thain is featured on most of the 1972-1975 footage (he passed away shortly after being fired from the band in 1975 of a drug overdose), and seeing him in a live context you can see what a talented bassist he really was, and it is a shame that drug addiction robbed him of his talents and his life. John Wetton joined the band after Thain was booted, and is shown in the remainder of the 1975 footage as well as clips from 1976. A couple of different versions of "Easy Livin' " are included, as well as a very cool "July Morning" montage spanning the two different line-ups.

Disc Two is named the Collectors Rarities, and contains footage that was deemed unpresentable for the first disc, and mainly for the Heep fanatics and collectors. Here, the audio and video levels are of poorer quality, closer to bootleg, but still a must have. Check out the thunderous and rousing version of "Sweet Lorrainne" from an outdoor festival in Holland back in 1976, as well as an extract from the 1973 show in Japan of "Look At Yourself." On the latter, the original audio was left in, and while it is pretty rough you get the idea that the band was in peak form and had the crowd in its hand. There's also some interview footage, as well as the fun "Rock and Roll Medley" of 50's songs that the band always performed back in the early years, as well as "The Wizard" taped from a television show back in 1972, where the band is clearly lip-synching. Byron's band Rough Diamond is featured on the last five songs, and while their music was less interesting than Heep, he still applies his unique vocal styles to the bands more straight ahead British rock format.

For a glimpse of Uriah Heep in the seventies, this is a must have. Heep fans have been clamoring for something like this for years-Ken Hensley's raging Hammond organ and slide guitar, Mick Box and his thunderous power chords and wah-wah solos, Lee Kerslake's pounding drums, the nimble bass work of Gary Thain, and the hostrionic, pompous vocal style of David Byron. Now it's availabe in limited quantity, so better act fast. I'm giving this 4 out of 5 stars strictly because some of the material is of less than perfect quality, but regardless this is a most enjoyable and nostaglic look at a classic band in their element, the stage, at the most important time in their career. A very STRONG 4 stars-highly recommended!

Track Listing
Disc One
1) Sunrise 1973
2) Tears in My Eyes 1973
3) Traveller in Time 1973
4) Love Machine 1974
5) So Tired 1974
6) The Easy Road 1974
7) Rock 'n' Roll Medley 1974
8) Return to Fantasy 1975
9) Easy Livin' 1975
10) Stealin' 1975
11) Prima Donna 1975
12) Shady Lady 1975
13) July Morning Montage 1973-1976
Bonus Tracks
14) Easy Livin' 1974
15) Stealin' 1974

Disc Two
1) High and Mighty Montage 1976
2) Midnight 1976
3) Sweet Lorrainne 1976
4) Mick's Guitar Workout 1976
5) Look at Yourself extract 1973
6) Rock 'n' Roll Medley 1973
7) Something or Nothing 1974
8) July Morning 1972
9) US Interview 1972
10) Easy Livin' 1972
11) ABC Australia Interview1974
12) I Won't Mind 1974
13) The Wizard 1972
14) Rough Diamond-Rock 'n' Roll 1977
15) Rough Diamond-Looking for You 1977
16) Rough Diamond-Seasong 1977
17) Rough Diamond-Scared 1977
18) Rough Diamond-Lock 'n' Key 1977

Added: March 14th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Classic Rock Productions
Hits: 8872
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Uriah Heep: Classic Heep Live From the Byron Era (DVD)
Posted by Boris on 2004-11-23 23:26:16
My Score:

"Bassist Gary Thain is featured on most of the 1972-1975 footage (he passed away shortly after being fired from the band in 1975 of a drug overdose), and seeing him in a live context you can see what a talented bassist he really was, and it is a shame that drug addiction robbed him of his talents and his life".

It is a shame, yeah, not for Gary but for his nearest friends and collegues who didn't helped him to pull out. As a result the rock'n roll lost the best bass player of all times and peoples...

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