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Uriah Heep: The Classic Rock Years (6 Disc Box Set)

I've always felt Uriah Heep was one of the best bands to come out of Britain in the late '60s/early '70s. Their organ driven sound and excellent lead vocals along with more introspective acoustic jazzy elements add to the band's musical depth. Through it all remains the band's lead guitarist Mick Box, the glue that has kept the name going, enabling the band to release very strong albums even to this day.

The first disc of this mammoth set is titled Acoustically Driven, recorded live on December 9, 2000 at the Mermaid Theatre, London. The original CD/DVD was released in 2001 but if you don't have it in its original format this might be a worthwhile purchase. The band plays a variety of tracks taken from across their career and the acoustic treatment sounds great. Backing the band is a string section dubbed The Uriah Heep Classic Rock Music Ensemble as well as some special guests including Ian Anderson. Piano and organ get equal measure here so the classic Uriah Heep sound is maintained and the lead vocals of Bernie Shaw are nothing short of amazing. A case in point is the lovely "Why Did You Go?", taken from the Return To Fantasy album featuring fantastic backing vocals from Emma Robbins, Kim Chandler and Billie Godfrey. The pleading "Come Back To Me" has some country flavourings while "Echoes In The Dark" features wonderful electric guitar accompanied by piano. The wistful "The Easy Road" is another heartfelt track graced by the flute of Kim Chandler. More classics abound like the superb renditions of "Lady In Black" and "Traveler In Time" where Shaw's inspired vocal performance is spot on and the strings very prominent on the former while the latter is punctuated with that classic Hammond sound the band does so well.

A year later the band played a concert at Shepherd's Bush Stadium, London to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their classic album The Magician's Birthday. Special guests John Lawton and Ken Hensley, who appears for the show's second half made this even all the more special. Also appearing is Thijs Van Leer (flute on "Tales" and "Mistress Of All Time") from the band Focus. The band didn't play the full album but added other classics as well as some newer tunes. The performance opens with the infectious "Stealin", a good rave up to start the show. Raging organ and guitar riffs and soaring background vocals highlight the rocking "Return To Fantasy" before the band slow it down with the wonderful acoustic guitar led "Tales", the first track taken from The Magician's Birthday. Leer's flute is fabulous here. "Between Two Worlds" is another rocker with powerful guitar, stabbing organ riffs and those patented soaring vocals. The Deep Purple-like "I'll Keep On Trying" is another ripper. Hensley's keyboard performance, beginning with his Hammond work on the dramatic "July Morning" is outstanding. Shaw's vocals are wonderful and Box's guitar pyrotechnics is off the charts good. Hensley's slide guitar on "Paradise/The Spell" and "Circle Of Hands" is also impressive. John Lawton adds vocals to an incredible rendition of "The Magician's Birthday", the emotional "Sympathy" and the concert ending "Free 'n' Easy". The CD version is also included but has three fewer tracks than the DVD.

Disc 5 includes their 2004 performance in London titled Between Two Worlds and Live in the USA from the Classic Rock Festival of 2002. The London concert has the band playing with the Afro-Caribbean band Osibisa on the classic "Look At Yourself". You get the catchy rockers "Blood Red Roses" and "Cry Freedom" with its anthemic chorus and lightning fast guitar licks from Box followed by classic organ drenched Heep in the form of "Rainbow Demon". The blazing "So Tired", taken from the Wonderworld album is another real barn burner as the guitar and Bolder's (R.I.P.) bass shine brightly. The somewhat formulaic "When The War Is Over" is still a nice power ballad and is followed by the classic "Gypsy" that has the band going all the way back to the first album.

Highlights of the Classic Rock Festival performance include an impassioned rendition of "The Wizard", the organ soaked "Blind Eye", another classic from The Magician's Birthday, the catchy acoustic led "That's The Way It Is" and a ripping version of "Look At Yourself" with extended psychedelic jamming.

The last disc features the documentary Sailing The Sea Of Light and the band's 1999 performance in Sofia, Bulgaria. The documentary, narrated by Tommy Vance, will be worthwhile for fans as there is a boatload of information especially on the current lineup which dates back to 1986.

Sure there is some repetition here, songs appearing on different set lists and of course the matching CDs but that doesn't take away from the quality of this release. Throughout the set Uriah Heep prove what a great live band they are and why they continue to be a driving force in rock music. If you are a Heep fan and don't already own these albums The Classic Rock Years would be an excellent addition to your collection. Simply outstanding!

Track Listing:
Disc 1 Acoustically Driven (CD)
1. Introduction
2. Why Did You Go?
3. The Easy Road
4. Echoes In The Dark
5. Come Back To Me
6. Cross That Line
7. The Golden Palace
8. The Shadows And The Wind
9. Wonderworld
10. Different World
11. Circus
12. Blind Eye
13. Traveler In Time
14. More Fool You
15. Lady In Black
16. Medley: The Wizard/Paradise/Circle Of Hands
Disc 2 The Magician's Birthday Party (CD)
1. Return To Fantasy
2. Tales
3. Sweet Pretender
4. I'll Keep On Trying
5. July Morning
6. Paradise/The Spell
7. Circle of Hands
8. The Magician's Birthday
9. Sympathy
10. Free 'n' Easy
11. Sunrise
12. Easy Livin'
Disc 3 Between Two Worlds (featuring Osibisa) (CD)
1. Blood Red Roses
2. Cry Freedom
3. Rainbow Demon
4. So Tired
5. Words In The Distance
6. If I Had Time
7. Between Two Worlds
8. When The War Is Over
9. Only The Young
10. Gypsy
11. Look At Yourself
12. July Morning
Disc 4 The Magician's Birthday Party (DVD)
1. Stealin'
2. Return To Fantasy
3. Tales
4. Sweet Pretender
5. Between Two Worlds
6. Mistress Of All Time
7. I'll Keep On Trying
8. July Morning
9. Sunrise
10. Paradise/The Spell
11. Circle Of Hands
12. Easy Livin'
13. The Magician's Birthday
14. Sympathy
15. Free 'n' Easy
Disc 5 Live In The USA and Between Two Worlds (featuring Osibisa)
Live In the USA
1. Easy Livin'
2. Stealin'
3. Rainbow Demon
4. I'll Keep On Trying
5. Heartless Land
6. The Other Side Of Midnight
7. Return To Fantasy
8. Rain
9. The Wizard
10. Blind Eye
11. That's The Way It Is
12. The Magician's Birthday
13. Look At Yourself
14. Lady In Black
Between Two Worlds
1. Blood Red Roses
2. Cry Freedom
3. Rainbow Demon
4. So Tired
5. Worlds In A Distance
6. If I Had Time
7. A Year Or A Day
8. Between Two Worlds
9. When The War Is Over
10. Only The Young
11. Gypsy
12. Look At Yourself
13. July Morning
Disc 6 Sailing The Sea Of Light
Sailing The Sea Of Light (Documentary)
Bonus Concert: Live in Sofia, 1999
1. Between Two Worlds
2. Only The Young
3. Sunrise
4. The Wizard
5. July Morning
6. Gypsy
7. Easy Livin'
8. Bird Of Prey
9. Look At Yourself
10. Lady In Black

Added: April 30th 2017
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 2061
Language: english

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