Forgotten Rock Bands of the 70s: Uriah Heep

Today, I’m going to start what I hope is something I write about once a week, something that’s near and dear to my heart and ears: 1970s rock, the era I grew up in. So much great music that has been forgotten or never known to the generations that have grown up since the arrival of Nirvana.

My rock collection dates back to the late 40s and early 50s, and I love much of the 60s, but the music of the 70s is what formed much of who I am, and I’d like to share some of what’s been forgotten. Maybe not by old rockers, but surely by those younger than 30.

I’ll start with my favorite band, Uriah Heep. They formed in the late 60s as Spice, developed from a typical R&B band to one of the earliest of proto-progressive metal bands. Then they added organist/guitarist Ken Hensley, and changed their name to Uriah Heep in early 1970, releasing their first album Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble (or just Uriah Heep in the US). The band centered around Ken’s songwriting and heavy Hammond B3, David Byron’s soaring vocals, Mick Box’s wah-wah drenched guitar, Paul Newton’s melodic bass, and an ever-changing lineup of drummers (four over the first three albums). Their albums were on par with early Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, but with vocal harmonies that rivaled the Beach Boys or Three Dog Night.

demons_and_wizardsThe biggest change came in 1972 when Gary Thain replaced Paul Newton and Lee Kerslake became their permanent drummer. This lineup created the band’s most famous album, Demons and Wizards, which included two of their biggest hits, Easy Livin’ and The Wizard. It also includes two of their biggest epics, Circle of Hands and Paradise/The Spell, the latter a progressive rock masterpiece. In fact, there’s not a single weak song on the album, and the non-album b-side (which is now included on most reissues), Why, features one of the best bass solos in rock history.

Uriah Heep’s sound had quite an impact on many bands, including Queen and Styx. The sound on both of those bands’ early albums owes a great deal to Heep’s early albums, but especially Demons and Wizards.

The band continued to release high quality albums throughout the 70s even as the lineup changed several times. Eventually, even Ken Hensley left, leaving Mick Box as the sole founding member. He has soldiered on, the band continuing to this day. The band is still releasing high quality albums, especially beginning with 1995’s Sea of Light up through 2014’s Outsider. You can check out more information at uriah-heep.com.

 

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