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February, 1980

Conquest cover Lineup: *Greg Dechert (K) on Think It Over & My Joanna Needs Tuning

Overview: Like its predecessor, Fallen Angel, this is a vastly underrated album as far as the quality of songs is concerned, especially the arrangements, which are the most progressive since The Magician's Birthday. The problem, however, is John Sloman. While an undeniable talent, he doesn't know how to sing hard rock or to match his emotions to that of the song's. As one critic put it, he sounds like Glenn Hughes (of Deep Purple) trying to sound like Stevie Wonder. Sloman's vocals would also drive out primary songwriter and founding member Ken Hensley before the year was out. The band stumbled on for a few more months with Greg Dechert but by mid-1981, Heep had fallen apart and only Mick would be left to pick up the pieces. Grade: A-

note: On The Best Of...Part 2, there are two live tracks with this lineup, Easy Livin' and Suicidal Man. On these songs, it becomes obvious why Ken didn't care for Sloman's vocals. John sounds tired and flat, and he lacks the passion to really deliver these songs. Even Steff Fontaine (Pete Goalby's brief replacement) sounds better on the bootlegs I've heard. When compared to Sloman's performance on these tracks and Goalby's live performance on Head First, most Heep fans will probably agree that Bernie Shaw is Heep's best vocalist since John Lawton.

Chris Slade, on the other hand, does a fantastic job on those two live tracks. It's no wonder why he was chosen by The Firm and AC/DC to be the drummer for both those bands.

1. No Return - One of the best Heep songs after Byron's departure. Fantastic arrangement and an outstanding band performance. Chris shows that he is more than an adequate replacement for Lee. John, however, butchers the song. Grade: A

2. Imagination - Again, another wonderful, imaginative arrangement. Again, a great band performance. Again, butchery by John, save for his ad libbing at the end. Grade: A

3. Feelings - This is very much a traditional Hensley song with a nice Feelings cover riff, great melody and beautiful harmonies. But compared to the version with John Lawton on Fallen Angel, this is nothing, again due to Sloman's inability to sing rock. The arrangement is not nearly as progressive as the first two songs and the fake crowd sounds don't work. Grade: A-
note: There is a single edit of this song on The Best Of...Part 2. It is a simple early fade so there's no unexpected cuts like in most Heep edits.

4. Fools - Here Sloman's vocals do work, as he tempers his emotions to fit that of the song. Great haunting guitar riff and chorus. Wonderful harmonies. Powerful solo (as usual, too short) from Mick. Still, one wonders what this progressive piece would've sounded like in the hands of Byron or Lawton, especially the ending. Grade: A

5. Carry On - Good lightweight rocker with lots of energy from the band. The harmonies are especially good on this one. Ken really shines on the keyboard work here. Grade: A-
note: There is a single edit of this song on The Best Of...Part 2. Like
Feelings, a good edit, as far as edits go.

6. Won't Have To Wait Too Long - This song seems to be have written with John in mind. Unfortunately, he gets carried away with vocal theatrics. Still it's a decent mid-tempo rocker with some funky bass work by Trevor and lots of energy from everyone. Grade: A-

7. Out On The Street - A progressive, emotional piece that finally fits Sloman's ability. Great use of color and dynamics by the band and Sloman. The fast middle section features outstanding work from Mick, Ken and Trevor and is easily one of the highlights of the entire album. Grade: A+
note: This is the last Hensley-penned piece to appear on a Heep album. :-(

8. It Ain't Easy - A lovely melancholy ballad that includes Trevor on some of the lead vocals. Very powerful song with more great harmonies. At times you can almost hear David Byron singing this, especially when Trevor is singing. The ending is so sad that it's almost a requiem to the Hensley-era. Grade: A

Been Hurt - (Bonus track - 'B' side of Carry On) Laid-back yet funky mid-tempo rocker. Another creative arrangement and another vocal butchery by Sloman. Ken's guitar solo is quite good, although there's no slide work. Grade: A-

Love Stealer - (Bonus track - 'A' side of non-album single) As ill-advised as this cover song is, it's still a great arrangement. This song is more a precursor to the Pete Goalby era, especially in Mick's guitar. It's too bad Pete didn't sing this one; it would've fit his voice nicely. Excellent synth solo from Ken. Grade: A-

Think It Over - (Bonus track - 'A' side of non-album single) The best song Think It Over cover Heep recorded with Sloman, this shows his song-writing ability. Although this single quickly disappeared, it was thankfully resurrected for Abominog. In comparing Sloman's performance with that of Goalby's, it's pretty obvious how big a mistake the band made in choosing John over Pete for this album. Still, this arrangement is excellent and possibly better than the Abominog version. Grade: A+

My Joanna Needs Tuning (Inside Out) - (Bonus track - 'B' side of Think It Over) Heep does Toto. A good rocker featuring Greg's piano work but nothing to write home to ma about. It should be noted that this is one of the few songs that Sloman doesn't butcher. Grade: B+
note: The band apparently recorded an album's worth of demos with Greg before falling apart. Hopefully, Mick will let the fans hear these someday!

Lying - (Bonus track) A promising beginning, especially Trevor's bass work, but possibly the most un-Heepish song ever. Nice to have as a bonus track but it certainly won't get much attention on my CD player. Grade: B

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