|Uriah Heep - 'Live In Armenia' (Frontiers Records)|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Tuesday, 30 August 2011 05:55|
It's difficult to pinpoint when Uriah Heep were last considered 'cool'. Possibly around 1972? But for those of us who wish it could be 1972 every year, being 'cool' doesn't really come into the equation. Originally formed in 1969, Uriah Heep have never really gone away, they've been doing their thing for over forty years for a loyal fan base and can rightly be considered as one of the true greats of British rock. Sure they've taken a few wrong steps over the years, but the past few years have seen a resurgence in the band's popularity and creative output. 2008's critically acclaimed 'Wake The Sleeper' was a real return to form for the band, easily their best for many years, and has led to an extensive tour schedule.
Uriah Heep are well known for touring in countries not necessarily a first choice for touring bands. Indeed they were the first western rock band to set foot in Soviet Russia, back in 1987. This live 2 CD/DVD set documents the band's first trip to the unlikely destination of Armenia.
The album is a mixture of the old bit-hitting Heep classics and material from 'Wake The Sleeper', with no less than seven tracks making the cut from that album. All the new tracks sound good, with 'Overload' and the excellent 'Tears Of the World', a track very much in the classic Heep mould, sounding particularly fine.
As good as the new tracks are, it's still the old David Byron-era classics that set this album on fire. It's great to see a steamin' version of 'Stealin' from '74's 'Sweet Freedom' make the cut, with Bernie Shaw putting in a stellar performance on this one. 'Gypsy' doesn't sound quite as heavy as the majestic proto-stoner original, but 'Look At Yourself' is bursting with energy and benefits from a superb bit of guitar work from founding member Mick Box. Prog heads will be happy to hear both 'July Morning' and 'Sunrise' hit all the right buttons, and 'Easy Livin' still boogies with the best of them. 'Sympathy', from the John Lawton era, makes a surprise appearance as an encore and sounds great next to the more obvious old classics.
'Lady In Black', closing the set, is a bit of an odd one. A huge hit for the band in the early seventies on mainland Europe, its folky pop feel isn't your usual Heep fare and in that sense it's a bit like Scorpions' 'Wind Of Change' - it divides opinion, but in the live arena you can't help but fall for its charms.
The only criticism I have of this album concerns a bit of a rant singer Bernie Shaw has before and after 'Stealin'. We've all been at gigs where the singer gets a little irate that someone is filming or taking photos in the audience, and it does bring the mood down a bit. Shaw obviously has a problem with someone doing this during this show (nothing to do with it being filmed for DVD, eh Bernie?). Ok, he doesn't like it and says so, but do we have to have his little moan saved for posterity on a live album? Surely a little bit of editing would have done the job there.
Still, 'Live in Armenia' proves that Uriah Heep, over forty years after their inception, can still very much deliver. The band sound rejuvenated in recent years, due in no small part to the addition of Russell Gilbrook on the drums which seems to have given them a whole new lease of life. Bernie Shaw is still in top vocal form and Mick Box still plays that guitar like a demon and a wizard. Long may it continue.