It struck me this past Autumn when I saw Uriah Heep play one of their 50th anniversary shows (they were late, but that was Covid’s fault) that there are certain bands who don’t get the recognition they deserve.
I mean, I don’t like The Beatles particularly but I’d acknowledge their legacy. Likewise, I can’t abide Queen, but you are forced to concede that many millions do, but on the other side of the coin there are bands that seem to just exist, always and go permanently under the radar. Saxon, maybe? Never heralded like Maiden, but brilliant. And to that, I’d suggest, you can add Uriah Heep.
Before they came out for that gig there was a video where a load of extremely famous people spoke about the work of Mick Box and their assorted cast (Brian May was one, so the Queen thing above was apt) and they played two sets of stuff that was as good as any you’ll see.
And whilst you don’t get to be a band for half a century without a signature sound, you don’t get to keep yourselves fresh if you aren’t consistently making music – and that’s what UH do so well. They recognise their history while pushing on into the future.
Which brings us to “Chaos And Colour”. Their 25th album. Produced by Jay Ruston, who’s recent credits include Corey Taylor and Black Star Riders. That alone underlines that this is no nostalgic cash in.
Instead, “Save Me Tonight” (which Box is already promising is in the live set for 2023) could only be Uriah Heep, because only they and Deep Purple have the ability to meld organ together quite like this. Adding a groove and a sense of fun too, it’s a fabulous opener, but more than that, it is a signpost to the rest of them.
“So many doors to open, I gotta choose which one” sings Bernie Shaw on “Silver Sunlight” and that perhaps is the choice for the band. They’ve chosen hard rock, though and new hard rock at that. I’d wager too, that Box enjoyed the solo.
There’s a few near metal moments, too. “Hail The Sunrise” is one, Steve Harris probably wishes he’d thought of writing about Stonehenge, but ultimately this is Phil Lanzon’s record. His organ work is supreme and forms the bedrock of “Age Of Changes” amongst others.
“Hurricane” is a chugger, “One Nation, One Sun” is an epic, the piano, Shaw’s voice, it sounds like a soundtrack for a film that was playing in bassist Dave Rimmer’s head as he co-wrote it. He collaborates with Jeff Scott Soto and this would work on one of his albums.
If those anniversary gigs illuminated the different strands to Heep’s work – especially the acoustic section – then that’s true here too. For example, “Golden Light” lets its hair down, but “You’ll Never Be Alone” is almost eight minutes that Dream Theater fans will enjoy. You need skill to pull it off, as you do “Fly Like An Eagle” as well, which adds a real sense of foreboding.
“Freedom To Be Free” is more than just the longest. Maybe the most personal? “Everybody has to have a dream in life to chase” goes a line here and maybe it’s a key one? Maybe they’re still chasing theirs? “Closer To Your Dreams” might be the other side of the same song (the b-side if you will?) it’s a real joyful shuffle, part blues, part jazz, part rock n roll, it also has this at its heart: “some get famous overnight, others take much longer”. But there’s no regret here. Just a lifetime of great music.
In that respect, “Chaos And Colour” is just another mighty record from one of the best, but its actually so much more. It’s proof that you don’t have to wallow in nostalgia just because you can.