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Hensley, Ken: Tales Of Live Fire & Other Mysteries

The most curious thing about this new four album/five disc retrospective of some of the latter day work from ex-Uriah Heep/Blackfoot/The Gods man Ken Hensley is that the albums gathered together here - Love & Other Mysteries, Live Tales, Live!! and Trouble - all first saw the light of day across just a two year period. Then factor in that what’s brought together in this well crafted boxset covers a ballads album, an acoustic live solo show, a full band live extravaganza and a studio album of all new material and the eclecticism in evidence is quite something.

Thankfully the music is even more impressive, and through the very nature of the diversity on show it also covers a whole lot of different bases. The first of the four, Love & Other Mysteries, was released in 2012 and features a collection of music that’s close to the man behind it all’s heart. The candid and moving descriptions contained in a booklet that while not adding new insight, does fully reproduce all of the original CD notes from all of these releases in one compendium, explain the motivation behind both music and lyrics, and they also detail a call sheet that includes the likes of Glenn Hughes, Santra Salkova, Sarah Rope, Irene Forniciari and Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth). Hensley also adds his voice to a few of the songs and does so with a real passion and spirit. However, for me, it’s the Hughes/Salkova shared “Romance” that at first catches the ear, although as you dig deeper so “Respiro Tu Amor” with Tiranti at the mic, and the Hensley led “Come To Me” and “This House”, take hold. The whole mood of the album is heartfelt and deep, with the tone played out being more rock meets soul than what you might expect from an ex-leading light of Uriah Heep. For me, in a few places, things do maybe dwell a little too long in the arena of schmaltz but if you’re in the mood for something that comes straight from the heart and isn’t ashamed to share that fact, then this is a very interesting album indeed.

From there we move to Live Tales and a different tone altogether, Hensley alone on a stage playing acoustic versions of classics from his writing room and taking some light hearted questions from the audience as he moves between acoustic guitar and piano. Recorded in 2012 in Spain, what feels like quite an intimate affair proves a thoroughly engaging experience with Hensley’s underrated vocals shining brightly, while both his keyboard and six-string work is exemplary. Some of the more expected moments arrive in the shape of Heep’s “July Morning” and the show closing “Lady In Black” and yet deeper cuts like “Longer Shadows” from the Eager To Please solo album and “I Don’t Wanna Wait” originally found on From Time To Time, hit even harder. Acoustic shows can sometimes be a little hit and miss and often one man experiences like this lose something in translation but with Live Tales Hensley has negotiated those potential issues with apparent ease.

Discs three and four of Tales Of Live Fire & Other Mysteries come in the shape of the double album Live!! from the Ken Hensley & Live Fire band. Comprising Hensley on keys and guitars, Ken Ingwersen on guitars, Sid Ringsby on bass, Eirikur Hauksson on vocals and Tom Arne Fossheim on drums, the band recorded nights throughout their 2011 European tour and the best of the results are displayed here. Again, and as you might expect, Uriah Heep belters play a large part in this album’s success and it’s really difficult to argue with a straight dash through “Stealin’”, “Easy Living”, “Lady In Black”, “Rain”, “Gypsy” and “Love Machine” as being anything other than a perfect example of revisited 70s hard rock at its very best. Impressively the likes of “Set Me Free (From Yesterday)” from Hensley own back catalogue, stand up to that stiff test and with Hauksson giving a strong performance behind the mic on all eras of the music on show, Live!! is both a great tribute to the past and the present of an inspirational keyboard player at work.

With Ingwersen and Fossheim still in place Hensley slimmed Live Fire down to a quartet by bringing in bassist and lead singer Roberto Tiranti, who had previously featured with the keyboard player on the first album in this box. The result was the 2013 studio album Trouble and, considering the wealth of classic material contained in the excellent live sets, it proves to be the unexpected jewel in this box’s crown. “Ready To Die” kicks into gear with a real Heep like Hammond swirl but once Hensley and Live Fire have you where they want you, suddenly a few new flavours appear. “It” hits as though a slow Rainbow like groover had walked in the room, whereas “Please Explain” steps into a more straight ahead hard rock guise and looks rather resplendent as it does so. What is maybe less expected, as Tiranti does a very good job fronting the band and Ingwersen impresses on guitar, is just how much some of the other Heep like moments here sound like the sort of fare that band were doing long after Hensley’s departure, with “I Wanna Go Back”, for example, sounding like it would easily slide onto the Uriah Heep album Raging Silence.

It truly does show the depth of songwriting and performing talent at Ken Hensley’s disposal that the four albums presented here cover such a wide variety of attacks - balladeer, solo acoustic man, hard rock band in full live flow and hard hitting studio rocker. That in itself says a lot about a musician who does, for whatever reason, seem to have fallen slightly under the mainstream rock radar but when you factor in that each of those guises are handled superbly well, then you really should experience Ken Hensley whether he is augmented by his Live Fire or not.


Track Listing
DISC ONE KEN HENSLEY - LOVE & OTHER MYSTERIES (2012)
1. (THIS) BLEEDING HEART
2. ROMANCE
3. (PLEASE) TELL ME WHEN
4. NO MATTER
5. COME TO ME
6. THIS HOUSE
7. WALK AWAY
8. EYES (THE GIRL IN THE PURPLE DRESS)
9. RESPIRO TU AMOR
10. LITTLE GUY


DISC TWO KEN HENSLEY - LIVE TALES (2013)
1. INTRO
2. FREE ME
3. LONGER SHADOWS
4. THE WIZARD
5. I DON’T WANNA WAIT
6. WISE MAN
7. THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD
8. RAIN
9. COME TO ME
10. THERE COMES A TIME
11. JULY MORNING
12. SLIPPING AWAY
13. TALES
14. I CLOSE MY EYES
15. LADY IN BLACK


DISC THREE KEN HENSLEY & LIVE FIRE - LIVE!! PART 1 (2013)
1. INTRO/SET ME FREE (FROM YESTERDAY)
2. THE CURSE
3. LOOK AT YOURSELF
4. CIRCLE OF HANDS
5. JULY MORNING
6. THE WIZARD
7. BLOOD ON THE HIGHWAY
8. THE LAST DANCE
9. STEALIN’
10. EASY LIVING


DISC FOUR KEN HENSLEY & LIVE FIRE - LIVE!! PART 2 (2013)
1. LADY IN BLACK
2. RAIN
3. GYPSY
4. LOVE MACHINE


DISC FIVE KEN HENSLEY & LIVE FIRE - TROUBLE (2013)
1. READY TO DIE
2. TROUBLE
3. IT
4. TODO LOCO
5. I WANNA GO BACK
6. PLEASE EXPLAIN
7. YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MINE
8. I DON’T KNOW
9. DANGEROUS DESIRE
10. THE LONGEST NIGHT

Added: March 31st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Tales Of Live Fire & Other Mysteries @ Cherry
Hits: 250
Language: english

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