December 2001

Remasters cover


Overview: Donít be fooled by the title, this is not a remastering of Uriah Heepís greatest hits, but all-new recordings by the current (and longest serving) lineup. Taken primarily from rehearsals for the Future Echoes of the Past, Acoustically Driven, and Electrically Driven recordings, this is the first time a studio history of the bandís entire history has been put together with a cohesive sound quality. With all the legendary turmoil and lineup changes over the first half of Heepís career, every previous compilation has varied greatly in sound and performance quality. Remasters enables the listener to enjoy a wide spectrum of Heepís music without suffering through a wide spectrum of styles and production values.

Most of the songs have been enhanced in the studio by the band, such as new solos from Mick and Phil, and most of the recordings have not been released previously. Unfortunately, the liner notes leave out all the song-by-song details that were included on both the Future Echoes and Acoustically Drivenspecial editions, and there are no credits anywhere. Hopefully, future editions will rectify this.

The Roger Dean cover is, as always, as treat for the eyes, and mixes Heepís traditional fantasy element with a sci-fi element, something new for Heep, and a perfect match for what the band has set out to accomplish with this set.

But does the concept work? For the most part, the answer is a resounding yes. The biggest problems lie in the few instances when the band strays too far from the original, leaving a song sounding exactly like the current lineupís live version, or on an ill-chosen fadeout. But these difficulties are few and far between.

The other question is why is there only a single song to represent the years of 1976-88? With so much great music written during that period (High & Mighty through Live in Moscow), and with approximately 30 minutes of blank disc space, it is a shame the band chose not to head into the studio and record more songs from this period, or to include the Dream On single as bonus tracks. Grade: B

Disc 1

  1. Gypsy. Containing all the headbanging thunder of the original metal standard, Philís keyboard wizardry mixes the mind-blowing psychedelic Hammond of 1970 with his savvy synthesizer magic for what is undoubtedly his mightiest solo ever released. Beneath it lies Leeís complex powerhouse drumming and the finest wah-wah guitar work youíll ever hear from The Wizard, Mick Box. Unfortunately, this arrangement follows the single version, dropping the progressive intro and the psychedelic jam on the outro, although the Heep choirís final a cappella chord is an excellent touch.

  2. Come Away Melinda. The finest version yet of this classic, Bernie shows why he is the perfect interpreter of David Byron without sounding at all like a mere copy. Atop a marvelous band performance, Bernieís emotive reading is heart-rending. Headphones will provide you with an excellent chance to appreciate Mickís outstanding rhythmic technique.

  3. Lady in Black. Obviously taken from the Acoustically Driven rehearsals, this is without a doubt the best recording ever made of this song. The intricate string arrangement is well separated, allowing you to really appreciate Philís arranging ability for the first time, particularly the marvelous counterpoint between the violins and the viola/cello. At times, however, Bernie is mixed below the strings.

  4. Bird of Prey. While Mickís guitar contains all the crunch of the original, this song is the first problem track, beginning with a thin drum sound, and multiplied by Leeís disco rhythms and Philís lack of Hammond (he relies far too heavily on synths). Fortunately, everyoneís energy level is soaring, and Bernie nails all the high notes spot on, so those who enjoy the current lineupís revamped version (including the disco-ish second half) will have no problem dancing to this.

  5. Look at Yourself. Containing all the fury of the original, Lee more than makes up for the lack of the assisting percussionists of the 1971 recording. His drive and power will punish any listener who dares turn the speakers or headphones up to 11! Plenty of wah-wah and heavy Hammond, an especially strong performance from Bernie and the Heep choir, and wild freakout solos from both Phil and Mick. The song fades out just as Mick begins to really unleash a second, more powerful solo. This is unfortunate, as the perfect opportunity to unleash Mickís wizardry on the world was missed.

  6. July Morning. Finally, we get to truly appreciate the genius of Trevor Bolderís bass mastery as he and Phil trade off some of their finest solo efforts ever on the intro. But Trevor doesnít stop there; it is doubtful that there has ever been a more inspired studio performance by a Uriah Heep bassist than on this track. An excellent fadeout here, holding true to the original. And yes, Bernie nails the high note perfectly.

  7. Easy Liviní. An unexpected, but perfectly placed swirling Hammond intro leads into a fiery rendition of Heepís most famous song. Undeniably more energy than even the original, the band rips through this great rocker, Lee once more shining and proving how much he has improved as timekeeper since this was originally recorded. A decided low note, however, when the band begins their traditional extended live ending only to end rather abruptly.

  8. Traveller in Time. Another improvement over the 1972 version with Mick overdubbing an edgy electric wah-wah atop his acoustic as rehearsed for Acoustically Driven. Here, the abrupt ending works perfectly.

  9. Sunrise. While the original might have been considered a ballad by some, this emotional revision is anything but. One of the finest rearrangements on the entire set, the dynamics now burst with a sizzling energy that even Heep has rarely matched before. Although the quiet passages are not as soft as the original, they pulse like a caged beast waiting to escape so that when the loud passages burst out, the emotion of a sunrise breaking the crest of a hill is more fully felt than ever before. Of special note are Philís church-like organ on the quiet passages, Bernieís emotional reading, and Trevorís melodic-yet-puissant bass lines.

  10. Blind Eye. While the basic track was recorded during the Acoustically Driven sessions, the band obviously spent a great deal of time retooling this into what may be the definitive version. Beginning with some freaky sound effects ala Seven Stars, Mick has added some superb rhythm electric guitar and Trevorís bass has been strengthened. This song is further highlighted by the guest appearances of Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and his magic flute, and Steafan Hannigan and his bodhran.

  11. Rain. A bold effort on this duet between Phil and Bernie. Without losing any of the beauty of the original, they have decidedly reinterpreted it (Bernieís vocals, Philís piano). Astonishingly beautiful in 1972, it is just as remarkably exquisite here. If they havenít already, both should be able lay to rest the spectres of Byron and Hensley. Although obviously recorded during the Future Echoes rehearsals, this is quite different from the live version.

  12. Stealiní. Another energetic band performance highlighted by Trevorís marvelous bass work and Mickís great wah-wah solo, but unfortunately lacking in several areas. First, Philís Hammond work, particularly before the entire band comes in, is so different from the original that the song is nearly unrecognizable and the number nearly runs out of steam before it starts. Second, Bernie completely misses on matching the emotion of the words in the early verses, singing with far too much force. Finally, the song fades out, dropping completely the traditional ending, sadly leaving the listener completely unsatisfied.

  13. Sweet Freedom. Here Bernie redeems himself with a resplendent reading, matched by Trevorís impressive bass. The band plays with emotive exuberance, perfectly projecting the meaning of the lyrics. Philís synths, however, diminish the gospel metal tone that he establishes early on with the aid of Mickís chiming rhythm guitar.

Disc 2

  1. Wonderworld. An engaging version of this standard opens Disc 2, with Phil substituting acoustic piano for the cello part on the Acoustically Driven arrangement. Mick has overdubbed a subtle yet menacing electric wah-wah to create a sublime rendition of the most exquisite ballad Heep has ever done. While quite different from the 1974 original, the new aesthetic touches lend an elegance not previously present. Philís soulful piano on the verses in particular stands out, so different yet so apropos. Bernie croons like a gospel singer and the female backing trio is a perfect compliment. A perfect example of remaining absolutely true to the spirit of the original, yet rendering a new version that can stand as a classic in its own right.

  2. The Easy Road. As with the previous track, this maintains the originalís beautiful spirit, yet offers a fresh new arrangement. The main difference is the string quartet and flute in place of the full orchestra. Bernie and Phil once more prove their ability to not only master a Heep classic, but to improve upon the original. Bernie in particular has never interpreted a Heep ballad better. I actually prefer this arrangement, but it will depend entirely upon your taste.

  3. Return to Fantasy. This opens with Leeís ferocious new drum intro, and he continues to amaze throughout, proving that despite what most rock critics would want us to think, rock musicians do improve with age, just like every other area of music. Unfortunately, the production doesnít do him or the band justice, as the sound is thin, especially Leeís drums, and lacks the power of the live version. Phil does well with the Hammond, but without the Moog synthesizer, the song lacks the supernatural eerieness of the original. The bandís performance is superb, however, and provides a great new ending.

  4. Why Did You Go. With a few subtle differences, this is the most faithful version in the entire set. A great song, a great performance.

  5. Come Back to Me. Another song that, while there are many instrumental differences from the original, is superbly true to the spirit. This is actually better than the Acoustically Driven version. Bernie is at times indistinguishable from John Lawton, making me wonder why this lineup has never attempted any other songs from the Lawton era (or why they havenít performed songs from 1980-85 in the past several years).

  6. More Fool You. This track is quite different from both the Raging Silence original and the Acoustically Driven edition, and better than both. The acoustic guitar and added percussion of the latter adds an extra dimension, but Mickís overdubbed electric guitar and Philís better use of the Hammond fills the sound out even more. Bernieís performance is light years beyond his singing twelve years ago, further improving this new edition.

  7. Different World. Again, a vast improvement upon the 1991 song, creating another new Heep classic. A far more artistic use of instruments, and the studio setting allows us to better enjoy Philís creative string arrangement (as opposed to the live performance on Acoustically Driven).

  8. Cross That Line. One of Heepís most gorgeous ballads further enhanced by the string quartet and highlighted by a wonderful violin solo and the Uillean pipes on the outro.

  9. Time of Revelation. A new intro leads into a surprisingly altered version of this recent classic. There are many subtle changes that prevent this from becoming a retread. Mickís first solo and a stronger presence from Philís Hammond aid greatly, as does Trevorís nice fat bass sound. However, the big buildup to a powerful ending is instead faded out, leaving the listener feeling somehow cheated.

  10. Universal Wheels. Again, what couldíve been a virtual copy of the original is full of subtle twists, but the biggest improvement is a sound that is more faithful to the Heep of the early 70s, and sounds less like German metal of the 90s (always the biggest criticism of the Sea of Light album). Bernieís enunciation of the powerful lyrics is much more clear and Trevorís bass more thunderous.

  11. Love in Silence. Heepís most original song of the 90s, this is very close to the original, perhaps slightly better due to so many years of playing it live. Most of the differences come from Philís improved and more varied use of his keys (at times sounding like a full orchestra), but Trevorís bass and Bernieís emotion are stronger than the original as well.

  12. Between Two Worlds. This classic is virtually indistinguishable from the original, the biggest change being an actual fade out (well-done this time) rather than a segue into I Hear Voices.

  13. Only The Young. A bit more power and a few very subtle changes (particularly Lee), but otherwise essentially the same as the original.

  14. The Golden Palace. What a difference the string quartet and the flute make in place of the synthesizer used on the original! This is how this song is meant to be performed! Now a true masterpiece, if this arrangement had been released in the mid-70s, it would probably have become one of Heepís biggest hits ever. This new arrangement is the perfect ending for the set.

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