Although this actually goes down in chronological order as Uriah Heep's fourth album, it could in many respects be put down as their first. It was the first time the nucleus of the band, vocalist David Byron, lead guitarist and cheeriest man on the planet Mick Box, plus the man with the keyboard patent on heavy rock Ken Hensley, had found a compatible duo to fill the roles of bassist and drummer to form a rock like rhythm section. `The Thin Man' Gary Thain, and behind the bins the hard livin John Candy look-a-like Lee Kerslake, who is still in the band today after only a two year break at the end of the seventies. Something of a clean sheet for a band that have had 6 bassists 6 vocalists, and 4 keyboard players, and, surprisingly, the present lineup of Uriah Heep is probably their best, certainly musically, and their most stable having been together now for sixteen of the bands thirty-two year career.
But in the heady days of 1972, although the band had laid down the Template of the Uriah Heep sound with songs from their first three albums, noticeably "Gypsy" from `Very' Eavy Very' Umble' (70), "Bird Of Prey" and "Lady In Black" from `Salisbury' (71), and the title track plus the epic "July Morning" from `Look At Yourself' (71). It was only six months later, after three years of Saturation touring and recording, that this classic hard rock album was released to the public with its much imitated Roger Dean artwork. This album broke the band worldwide leading to Uriah Heep selling over 30 million albums globally. "Demons & Wizards" reached number 20 in the British charts, but, more importantly, was the first of five consecutive albums to go top 40 in the massive selling American charts.
The music stands up today as well as it did at the time. Opening song "The Wizard", with its acoustic opening before stepping up with rock guitar and keyboards, is the perfect opening for any album. The humour of the first lyrics leave you knowing that the band have tongue firmly in cheek.
"He was the wizard of a thousand things
And I chanced to meet him one night wondering
He told me tales and he drank my wine
Me and my magic man are kinda feelin fine"
"The Wizard", actually co-written with Ken Hensley by Uriah Heep's previous bassist Marke Clarke, who, though typically only in the band for three months, has left his impression on the band by writing one of their classic songs sung by every vocalist who was ever in the band and is still in the band's live set today. "Hope the royalties are still pouring in, Marke". Marke Clarke went on to play with Colosseum, Tempest, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and Ian Hunter.
Next up is the hard rocker "Traveller In Time" featuring all the guitars in the band. "Easy Livin'" is a thundering express train of a song, these days used to bring Heep's shows to a rousing conclusion, and it was also a surprise hit single in the States. "Poets Justice' showed off the amazing vocal range of Heep's vocalist David Byron (one of the finest front men this dog has ever witnessed live on stage), from throaty bass rumble to ear-spilling falsetto - all in full effect.
"Circle of Hands" is the first of the albums epics, showing Ken Hensley's more subtle piano playing until Mick Box's guitar solo takes us to a rousing conclusion. "Rainbow Demon" is very reminiscent of early Atomic Rooster with its dark and gloomy keyboard led riffs, which beat their way into your brain waves, and perhaps the album's most memorable track. After the light relief of the short sharp "All My Life", the album closes with two Hensley penned epics in "Paradise" and "The Spell", both using all of Uriah Heep's many assets. "Paradise" the softer side before "The Spell" comes rushing in.
Uriah Heep have never been the critic's darlings. Listen to the music yourself before you make up your own mind.
Mott the Dog.