Uriah Heep - Magician's Birthday (1972)


 

Review

This was the fifth album by Uriah Heep. With this album Uriah Heep sticks to the template that they have determined with Salisbury. There are the rockers, the ballads and then the progressive epic song. The Magician's Birthday, is not as consistent or cohesive as Demons and Wizards but stills offers plenty of highlights. It was the last of the four albums that would form the pillars for the Uriah Heep legacy. From here they would stray from the winning formula and show some vulnerability.

It starts dramatically with "Sunrise," a spooky power ballad that alternates quiet organ-led verses with an emotional chorus and guitar-fuelled instrumental breaks topped off by David Byron's operatic wail.

The remainder of the album divides its time between punchy rockers and spacy balladry before climaxing with another prog-inflected epic.

Highlights in the rock arena include "Blind Eye," an acoustic-flavoured rocker whose galloping pace is firmly anchored by Gary Thain's melodic bassline, and "Sweet Lorraine," a stomping good-time rocker that adds extra texture to its guitar-driven sound with some spacy synthesizer lines.

As for the quieter moments, "Rain" is a lovely piano ballad that makes surprising and impressive use of a xylophone in its sound and "Echoes in the Dark" is an eerie mid-tempo song that alternates stark piano-led verses with an emotional chorus cemented by Mick Box's searing guitar leads.

There is also another multi-part epic in the title track, a prog-ish piece with fantasy themes. It lacks a strong structure (it feels more like three songs grafted together than a true multi-part composition) and succumbs to a bit of aimless jamming in the middle, but it is redeemed by strong hooks in the opening and a spirited performance from the band on its space rock finale. This song comes to its right when Uriah Heep performs it live. I have seen them in Sweden on the day that Lee Kerslake had his birthday in 2003. What an experience.

All in all, The Magician's Birthday never quite hits the consistent heights of Look at Yourself or Demons and Wizards but remains a solid album.

Rating: 8.5/10

Album Cover:

Uriah Heep - Magician's Birthday
 

Release date: Feb 1972

Band members:

Mick Box Guitar
Gerry Bron Producer
David Byron Vocals
Brian Cole Pedal Steel
Peter Gallen Engineer
Ken Hensley Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Moog Synthesizer
Lee Kerslake Percussion, Drums
Gary Thain Bass, Guitar (Bass)

Songs:

1 Sunrise Hensley 4:04
2 Spider Woman Box, Byron, Kerslake, Thain 2:25
3 Blind Eye Hensley 3:33
4 Echoes in the Dark Hensley 4:48
5 Rain Hensley 3:59
6 Sweet Lorraine Box, Byron, Thain 4:13
7 Tales Hensley 4:09
8 The Magician's Birthday Box, Hensley, Kerslake 10:19

Best Songs:

Sunrise
Rain
Sweet Lorraine
The Magician's Birthday

Summary

All in all, The Magician's Birthday never quite hits the consistent heights of Look at Yourself or Demons and Wizards but remains a solid album.


 

 

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