Thursday, July 10, 2008

Uriah Heep - Wake The Sleeper

They don't need introduction, the only rock band during the 1970's that in my opinion can match Deep Purple with the combination of Hammond organ and guitar. “Wake The Sleeper” is the latest album by British rock legend Uriah Heep. It has been many years since I heard an album by this great band, so playing their latest CD some sort of regaining the feel I used to have long ago when listening to songs from “Salisbury”, or “Demons and Wizard”, “Magician Birthday” and the magnificent “Wonderworld”.

Most of the songs were written by Mike Box and Phil Lanzon. The album kicks off with the title song, an instrumental that didn't carry that much, for me at least, yet, it is like ordering a delicious menu at a restaurant: the title song was just a starter, cannot be compared with the main course: Screeching guitar followed by the opening riff of “overload” (the second song). It is where the album really begins, embarks into a very powerful song that lasts for more than 5 minutes. Anyone listen to the song for the first time would think that the song ended till a striking Hammond proves it wrong and a marvelous solo that last for few second concludes one of the best harmonic songs ever. Beautiful!

"Tears of the World" is a hit on the face, a fast tempo song, rhythm is equally exchanged between Phil Lanzon's Hammond and Mike Box's guitar for more than 2 minutes then tempo changes to include some measured short breaks based on a three note guitar riff, a longer break to be shattered by a Hammond strike that paves the way to a superb guitar solo before signing the song off. The song ends with a second guitar solo and some wonderful filling in the background by Lanzon's Hammond.

The hit on the face song intro continues with "Light of a Thousand Stars", mid tempo heavy song, that illustrates the talent and musicianship of this band. The harmonies and the lyrics are stunningly excellent. However, I have to give credit mostly to Trevor Bolder for his bass playing on that song! "Heaven's Rain" is a Uriah Heep trade mark, in my opinion, so progressive with its semi-Celtic mid-tempo, harmonies and guitar arpeggios. "Book of Lies" is really depict a ride through the chapters of a book full of human nature, and love? The guitar solo on that song is short but beautifully put in place in perfect way, thanks, Mike Box! Not to forget the bass soloing at the end of the song, superb! "What Kind of God" is a slow melodic song, the longest song on the album, with a feel of story telling about faith, love, war, and people unity! The main rhythm part of the song is based on a sort of a army marsh beat that changes to a faster pace before the end of the song led by a wah wah sound guitar solo accompanied by a semi Ian Gillan screaming in the background. "Ghost of the Ocean" carries the same hit on the face formula: starts with heavy guitar lead, Hammond doing the rhythm and a bass guitar playing higher notes. This song is another Uriah Heep trade mark that reminds me of their music in the 1970's. "Angels Walk With You" is the only song written exclusively by Trevor Bolder on bass, one of my most favorite songs on the entire album, with its dark feel, not only that, it is on that song that Bernie Shaw on vocals shining most - I don't know, but the mixing of his voice sounded different than the other songs on the album, so powerful, higher tuning maybe? In addition, the guitar playing on entire song is superb: both filling the rhythm and lead showed how Mike Box is considered one of the best guitar players ever. "Shadow" is more of Glenn Hughes's style than Uriah Heep, honestly speaking, from singing to the main riff that the whole song based on. Finally, we have "War Child" and as the song title implies, it is about children who are used in wars and a message of hope and bright future. This song is another favorite of mine that highlights Bernie Shaw's voice with the rest of the band, from the haunting intro, through the superb drum playing by Russell Gilbrook along the main singing part, like a musical tornado that keeps on getting stronger and stronger till its ends with a fading out screeching guitars.

Uriah Heep proved on Wake The Sleeper that they are class artists and fabelous musicians. The previous album, Sonic Origami, released ten years ago is fantastic, but did not carry with it the same tightness and heaviness this one delivered. By the way, this is the second album with the same line-up of previous album, except for Drums, played on Sonic Origami by one of Heep's original members, the legendary Lee Kerslake. Uriah Heep is known around the years with their various line-ups which included giant musicians (in addition to permenant members) such as John Sinclair and Ken Hensley.

One last note, and a wish: that Uriah Heep won't wait for another ten years to enter the studio and make another record, because it is not fair at all to wait that long! Uriah Heep deserve big applause from me for their work on Wake the Sleeper.

The band:
* Bernie Shaw – vocals
* Mick Box – guitar
* Phil Lanzon – keyboards
* Trevor Bolder – bass guitar
* Russell Gilbrook – drums

Track Listing:
1. "Wake the Sleeper" (Box/Lanzon) - 3:33
2. "Overload" (Box/Lanzon) - 5:58
3. "Tears of the World" (Box/Lanzon) - 4:45
4. "Light of a Thousand Stars" (Box/Lanzon) - 3:57
5. "Heaven's Rain" (Box/Lanzon) - 4:16
6. "Book of Lies" (Box/Lanzon) - 4:05
7. "What Kind of God" (Box/Lanzon) - 6:37
8. "Ghost of the Ocean" (Box/Lanzon) - 3:22
9. "Angels Walk With You" (Bolder) - 5:24
10. "Shadow" (Lanzon) - 3:35
11. "War Child" (Bolder/Gallagher) - 5:07

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