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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Uriah Heep: 35 Years Since The Release of "High and Mighty", Byron´s last

"High and Mighty" is the ninth studio album recorded and released by Uriah Heep in 1976.
It was the last Uriah Heep album to feature vocalist and founding member David Byron, who was subsequently fired due to his troubles with alcohol.
The album was not terribly well-received, as stylistically it veers from the vein of experimental rock and ventures into slightly more mainstream territory, i.e. no overly lengthy compositions and a decided lack of songs dealing with fantastical subject matter.
John Wetton (bass) and Ken Hensley (organ) share vocal duties on "One Way Or Another".
The original vinyl release was a single sleeve, with the lyrics reproduced on the inner-liner.
The album got the deluxe treatment in 2004 featuring several bonus tracks.
Although they had scored a big success with "Return to Fantasy", the group was suffering from personality conflicts and division over their musical direction. This tension is visibly apparent on "High and Mighty", an album that shows flashes of the group's old firepower, but is ultimately sunk by a combination of unfocused experimentation and uneven song writing. There was nothing left of the unity of songs and band that was a character of the albums from "Salisbury". Nonetheless there are very good moments on this album.
It starts with the rocker "One way or another" where vocals are shared between Wetton and Hensley.  Even though it is a good song, it is not one of my favourites.
The second song is "Weep in silence". This was co written by Hensley and Wetton. When David sings : " Your life became a compromise" it was very prophetic of his own mind at that stage. The vocals on this song is very good. What a tragedy that this would be one of the last songs to feature Byron. 
"Misty Eyes" is an engaging up-tempo tune that trades the group's hard rock thunder for a sound built on some tasty acoustic guitar riffs. When Byron sings "it tasted so sweet" you can feel the sweetness of his voice. But when he sings "told me all was well " - not so convincing, because all was not well.  If this was the direction they had followed from hereon, it would have been a huge success. This was to be one of the last really great Heep songs for a while. The words "Farewell to that lonely road" was more then a prophecy, it was reality.
Side 1 completes with "Midnight". It is a meditation on the price of success that neatly balances Mick Box's soaring guitar leads with an array of lush keyboard textures from Ken Hensley. This song is also notable for the dramatic, heart-wrenching vocal it is given by David Byron. I have read Uriah Heep's biography and understand why Byron got fired, but hearing this vocals on these 4 songs, it still make it difficult to believe that the differences could not be overcome. There is a Beach Boy-feel to this song. This probably explains the differences. Still it is a good song.
And then there is side 2. It starts with "Cant keep a good band down". There is nothing special about this song. Nice up-tempo rocker. But forgettable. Only the message stuck. 30 Years down the road and we now it is true. "Woman of the world" saves the second side from being a total disaster. I love the middle part where he sings: "Are you wild or are you a woman of the world". "Footprints in the snow" is another Hensley\Wetton song and is very similar to "Lucky Man" by Emmerson, Lake and Palmer. I love the baselines in this song. The only thing is that you always feel the songs was not finished. Could have been a great song.
"Can't stop singing" surely was an experiment with the tribal intro and the funny keyboards. This was the closest that Uriah Heep came to a Barbados sound. It did not work.

"Make a little love" was possibly Hensleys attempt to copy the new found fame of Foreigner built on the Bad Company style. One can criticize this song as not typical Heep, but it is not a bad attempt at AOR.

"Confession" is a piano song that is a perfect ending to David Byron's career as vocalist of Uriah Heep. Just him and the piano - with a confession. Unfortunately there was no forgiveness to follow and so an era ends.
"High and Mighty"  has a lot in common with "Very eavy, very umble". Heavy started the Byron era and Mighty ended it. With heavy we saw a band trying a lot of styles to determine the future - the same with Mighty. If you look at this album that way, it is a very good album. Forget about the past, forget about the future - listen to a band trying new things. Then you will enjoy most of the songs.

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