Thursday, June 2, 2011
Uriah Heep - Into The Wild - Album Review
Into The Wild is a very, very good album. It stands on its own without condition, regardless of when it saw its release. The title tune begins with the Hammond organ tone you always want to hear from a classic British rock band, and the heavily overdriven intro is kicked into gear in fine fashion by stalwart guitarist Mick Box, drummer Russell Gilbrook, and bassist extraordinaire Trevor Bolder. Cool harmonies, a singable chorus, and lead vocalist Bernie Shaw make this a memorable song, not just something attached to a great riff. This is too energetic, too melodic, and too exciting to be coming from a band that's been on the boards for 40 years, but fact is, it is all of this.
I'm Ready is a great example of Box's take on Uriah Heep, 2011. His tone is familiar, yet it's a new tune, and his soloing sounds like the guy who played those old hits, then spent the next 30 years working on his craft, and is continuing to grow. Surrounded by the massive tones provided by keyboardist Phil Lanzon, and the explosive drumming of Gilbrook, Box comes through shining. The tune sounds warmly familiar to any longtime Heep fan, but only in style and tone.
Uriah Heep's stock in trade has always been the keyboard and vocal driven madrigal. Here, Trail of Diamonds takes its place alongside such heralded songs as Sunrise, and July Morning, when suddenly Mick Box tears off a volley of notes that are as Ozzy as anything, before taking the tune down a rockier trail that guarantees a smile from any fan of David Byron. Byron's work was often great, and the band does his memory justice in a manner that surely has David smiling down upon them. This tune is a Heep classic, and maybe even better than its predecessors. The vocals, and melody are truly astounding, and I smile to think of the joy this must bring to the entire band.
Nail On The Head starts the album, and if there were still such things, this would be the single. It's very immediate, a straight ahead rocker that if I had to qualify, I'd say it sounds like Billy Squier writing for Deep Purple circa Perfect Strangers, a very cool swagger going on. Again, Mick Box is soloing like man half his age, and shaming most of the fodder that makes up modern rock radio along the way.
Strong choruses are in abundance, and nothing here is more appealing than the unexpected twist of the tale that takes I Can See You, into the land of milk and honey - as gorgeous a refrain as I've heard in too many years. Excellent writing that is once again familiar, but new.
Ensemble vocals have always been a large factor in the Heep DNA, and they've certainly taken their time here to create a consistently interesting and compelling blend on most every song on Into The Wild. Southern Star is a great sample of the boys doing what great British rock bands have done better than anyone else since the mid '60s.
Fans of melodic AOR will love Believe - I hope the new Journey record can keep up with this platter. If so, 2011 will be the most exciting year for new material in some time. Stylistically every song sounds like it comes from the Heep factory - forged of solid steel, with a large dose of rock and roll heart. The tune is another grand sample of the finest this genre has to offer. It features a huge dollop of wah encrusted licks from the guitar of Mr. Box.
Kiss of Freedom closes out the album, and it may be the finest piece on a record full of fine pieces. It has hit single sensibilities, amply demonstrates the superb technical skills of all involved, and fits the definition of epic. Christ, it even modulates, and not in a hokey way, but in a manner most majestic - maybe the hardest trick in the whole rock and roll playbook. If you're not a Bernie Shaw fan by now, my heart breaks for ya. The guy just sang the album of a lifetime.
This may be the finest Uriah Heep record. I know that to state that may be blasphemy to some Heepsters, but I'm pretty sure I'm right on this one.
Regardless of where you wish to place it in the pantheon of Uriah Heep, a listen to Into The Wild will reveal that this is a longstanding band continuing to make great music long after most of their contemporaries have lost their creative way.