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Head First

May, 1983

Head First cover
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Head First back cover
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Overview: Basically, Abominog part II. The two albums are nearly indistinguishable from each other (no bad thing, except for Heep traditionalists!). This means that Mick really shines once more. Unfortunately the lyrics are still not as strong as the Hensley-era and John's keyboards sound cheaper than before. However, this is a great album, one of the best from the early 80s of any rock band. Grade: A
Personal note: This was the only tour I've ever had the chance to see Heep as they opened for Def Leppard (and it was great - even the Def Leppard fans, which was most of the audience, were on their feet by the end). Their other tours here were so poorly promoted that I usually found out 2-3 months after they'd been to Seattle!

Goldmine Magazine recently (April 9, 1999) listed Head First as #22 of the 25 best Heavy Metal albums ever!! Here's Bryan Reesman's review:
Head First (Castle)
Recently reissued with three bonus tracks, this was the second album in a row that revitalised Heep's career in the early 80s. Peter Goalby's impassioned singing, Mick Box's snarling wah wah guitar, John Sinclair's classically-based keyboards and the sterling rhythm section of bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake all combined for a sophisticated yet radio-friendly sound.

1. The Other Side Of Midnight - One of Mick's best riffs ever. It's a shame that Bronze (Heep's record company) didn't listen to the band and release this as a single. It did quite well on FM radio (at least in Seattle) with its upbeat feel, great melody lines and Mick's fantastic solo and numerous fills. Grade: A+ Stay On Top cover

2. Stay On Top - Very funky rocker, Bob's bass has a great full sound and Mick's in top form while Pete swaggers as well as David Byron on this one. Wonderful harmonies as well. Another big FM hit despite John's cheezy keyboards. Grade: A+

3. Lonely Nights - A remake of the Bryan Adams hit and quite superior to the original. Pete sings with the same longing that Adams did but with a much better band to back him. Mick in particular plays with a sweet longing that really fits the lyrics. John's keyboards at the end, however, sound too cheerful. Grade: A

4. Sweet Talk - After a weak beginning, the band kicks in with power. That energy is lost in the chorus, however, due to the choppy keyboards and rhythm. Pete does a great job in matching his voice to the accusatory tone of the lyrics. Mick's solo is also excellent, sounding very angry. But then the chorus loses all that angry energy Mick has cranked up. Good ending, however. Grade: A-

5. Love Is Blind - Great melody lines on this one, but a lightweight arrangement that lacks the toughness of the rest of side 1 and sounds too much like Night Ranger or 38 Special. Mick's solo is really bland although he has several nice fills. Lee and Bob save this one with their energy. Grade: B+

6. Roll-Overture - Nice orchestral instrumental that segues into Red Lights. Essentially John's song, he does especially well on this in creating the orchestral effect. I always wish they had done more with the cathedral choir-type harmonies. Grade: A

7. Red Lights - Blistering riff that'll get your speakers smokin'! Mick grabs you quick with this and doesn't let go! With its Bird Of Prey-style harmonies, these are the best vocals on the album. John keeps his k eyboards out of the way. I'd put this up with Free 'n' Easy or Against All Odds as far as great Heep riffs go. Grade: A+

8. Rollin' The Rock - This starts out as a quiet, melancholy ballad before breaking into a strong rocker at the chorus. Excellent use of dynamics to help Pete bring out the emotions of this song. I especially like the background vocals behind Mick's solo. More great Bird Of Prey vocals at the end before seguing into Straight Thru The Heart. Grade: A

9. Straight Thru The Heart - Essentially a continuation of Rollin' The Rock, this maintains the energy built up on the previous song. Mick does a great job of sounding like he's fighting back on his solo. Grade: A

10. Weekend Warriors - More great riffing from Mick. The rhythm section of Lee and Bob powerdrive this song right to the end. Basically, a rewrite of Love Machine, the only weak parts are the dumb lyrics and John playing a synth where he should be playing a B3. Grade: A

Playing For Time - (Bonus track - 'B' side of Stay On Top) From the opening notes played on an organ, I knew I would like this song the first time I heard it. It maintains much more of the traditional Heep sound while keeping an 80's feel. John's organ solo is much too short but at least he's playing it and not a synth! Great energy that matches Red Lights in drive. This should've been the song chosen to end side 1 instead of Love Is Blind. Grade: A+

Searching - (Bonus demo backing track) An instrumental only, it does feature some fine band playing, especially by Bob. Without vocals or any melody guide from Mick or John, however, this piece remains but a curio for completists only. Grade: B-

The Wizard - (Bonus live track) While he does fine on his own songs, Pete just couldn't sing David Byron's songs and make them sound like Uriah Heep. Reminds me of Coverdale & Hughes butchering Deep Purple songs that had been originally sung by Ian Gillan. It also doesn't help that John is playing a synth instead of an organ for the first half of the song. Grade: B+

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