Uriah Heep ‘Outsider’ – 5 Stars

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Uriah Heep are an institution in hard rock circles and as British as Yorkshire pudding – finishing every concert they play with the stirring Elgar classic “Land of Hope and Glory” blaring out of the speakers as audience members drag themselves away.

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Formed in 1969, the band took their name from a character in Charles Dickens’ book David Copperfield.  They took this one step further by naming their first album in 1970 “Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble”.  Since then there have been 25 studio albums, countless live recordings and compilations, plus 25 full time band members have passed through the ranks.  During this time Uriah Heep have sold over 40 million albums and played in 56 countries, but sadly only once in Thailand when they played to a sold out BEC Tero Hall in Bangkok in February 2006. (Time for another visit guys!)

Bernie Shaw belts out another tune.
Bernie Shaw belts out another tune.

From 1986 with the release of “Raging Silence” until 2007 the band line-up remained stable, only being broken by the retirement of drummer Lee Kerslake (you can only burn the candle at both ends for so long.)  By way of explanation, as well as being Uriah Heep’s long term drummer, during a break from the band between 1978 and 1981 he formed Blizzard of Oz with Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Daisley and Randy Rhoads, touring constantly and recording that band’s first two albums after which Ozzy Osbourne started going out under his own name, dropping the Blizzard moniker and relying upon Sharon for direction.  Lee Kerslake, who was known for liking a drink and some very ample sized dinners, was replaced in Uriah Heep by Russell ‘The Animal’ Gilbrook.

Davey Rimmer and Mick Box of Uriah Heep.
Davey Rimmer and Mick Box of Uriah Heep.

Then tragically in 2013, pancreatic cancer took away one of the world’s finest bass players and gentleman in the form of Trevor Bolder.  Whilst Trevor Bolder was off the road fighting illness he wanted the band to carry on and he approved of Davey Rimmer being his replacement, so when the position sadly became permanently open it seemed only natural for Rimmer to continue.

“Outsider” is the seventh studio album to feature the trio of Bernie Shaw, Phil Lanzon and founding member Mick Box.  It’s also Davey Rimmer’s first studio outing with Uriah Heep and whilst nobody could hope to fill the enormous footprints left by Trevor Bolder, the new boy does good.

Mistress of the Lens Harpic Bryant (left) with Bernie Shaw of Uriah Heep.
Mistress of the Lens Harpic Bryant (left) with Bernie Shaw of Uriah Heep.

The album opens in fine style and is instantly recognizable as a Uriah Heep offering, but then if you’re buying a Heep album what do you expect?  The lead off song “Speed of Sound” starts off with some heavy Phil Lanzon keyboards before the rest of the band come crashing in.  All the Uriah Heep trademarks are here; Bernie Shaw’s distinctive voice, harmonic backing vocals, heavy Hammond organ, a tightly locked rhythm section and some great wah wah guitar from Mick Box.

At the tail end of the album is the track “Say Goodbye” and that is exactly Bernie Shaw’s last words on the LP, so it’s a complete trip.  The album contains much variety and there are no filler tracks, but to these old dog ears there are three standout songs.  “The Law” is a great rocker and follows the tradition of every Uriah Heep song having its own story.  This one is about taking the law into your own hands and features some fine riffing between Mick Box and Phil Lanzon.

“One Minute” is the most immediate song on the album, is the only rock’n’roll song that comes to mind and is written about being patient (something this dog knows nothing about).  Listen to this track just once and you will be singing the chorus all day long.

The album’s title track is an out and out rock vehicle.  If we could liken it to the Starship Enterprise then Uriah Heep would be breaking the warp drive at factor 15.  The track heavily features Mick Box on guitar, proving once again he is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock music.  He should be held up in the same high esteem as Ritchie Blackmore and co.  Age has certainly not slowed him down and even at seventy-one he can rock out with the best of them, as he proves with a remarkable solo, fingers a blur in the middle section of “The Outsider”.

“Jessie” is another fine song (certainly not a soft rock song as the name would perhaps imply, the lyrical content is not innocent either.)  This track is a fine vehicle for all the instruments in the band; Davey Rimmer being given space to shine, whilst Mick Box unleashes another screaming solo, superbly underpinned by Phil Lanzon’s keyboards and Russell Gilbrook’s steady beat.

Finally, “Rock The Foundation” has already been getting a lot of radio play, which in these days of downloading is the same as being a hit single.

So 46 years in the rock’n’roll world, surviving the winds of fashion, Uriah Heep are still at the top of their game and not (as so many bands of their era are doing) resting on their laurels.  Their live set is constantly keeping up with the times and four of the songs from this album are in their current set list.  “One Minute” (having been played over one hundred times, which goes to prove what a hard gigging band Uriah Heep are), “The Law”, “Can’t Take That Away”, and “The Outsider!” (For some reason the album is called simply Outsider whilst the song title adds an exclamation mark!).  All these songs fit snugly into the set alongside long time classics like “July Morning”, “Easy Livin’” and “Lady in Black”.

The album has been cleanly produced by Mike Paxman (who has previously produced successful albums for Status Quo and Asia), keeping the band’s sound alive and fresh, whilst the striking cover art was designed by Igor Morsk.

As Mick Box would say, ‘Appy Days!

Track List:

Speed of Sound

One Minute

The Law

The Outsider

Rock the Foundation

Is Anybody Going to Help Me

Looking at You

Can’t Take That Away

Jessie

Kiss The Rainbow

Say Goodbye

(Written by Hells Bells and Mott the Dog, Photos By Harpic Bryant of Breeze Ridge Photography.)

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