Tuesday, 4 April 2017

"Demons And Wizards: Deluxe Edition" by URIAH HEEP (2017 BMG/Sanctuary 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Reissue with 14 PrevIously Unreleased Tracks and Andy Pearce/Matt Wortham Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Me And My Magic Man...Doin' Fine..." 

Uriah Heep fans could be forgiven for sighing into their already severely depleted wallets. CD Reissues of the band's most popular album - 1972's "Demons And Wizards" - have been hitting their laden shelves since 1987 - and I calculate four other times since - 1996, 2001, 2004 in the UK alone and 2010 in Japan on one of those natty SHM-CD reissues with repro artwork. Well here we go again in the spring of 2017. But is this latest version actually worth buying - trading up to? Well I'm glad to say a resounding 'yes' is the answer.

Although it doesn't say DE anywhere on the packaging - this 3 April 2017 'Deluxe Edition' actually offers fans a whole lot of what they want - a fabulous and definitive Remaster on Disc 1 care of noted Audio Engineers ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM - repro packaging that shows off the lovely Roger Dean artwork that made the original vinyl gatefold album so appealing in the first place - and a whopping 14 Previously Unreleased Alternate Versions of original 1971 and 1972 tracks on Disc 2 (only recently found). And all of it has been newly remixed and remastered for this release. It's a slam-dunk for lovers of the David Copperfields of Rock (Uriah Heep is a character in the famous Dickens novel). Here are the wand-waving details...

UK released Friday, 31 March 2017 - "Demons And Wizards: Deluxe Edition" by URIAH HEEP on BMG/Sanctuary BMGCAT2CD58 (Barcode 4050538187441) is a 2CD Reissue and Remaster with 14 Previously Unreleased Tracks that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - Original LP Remastered - 39:47 minutes:
1. The Wizard [Side 1]
2. Traveller In Time
3. Easy Livin'
4. Poet's Justice
5. Circle Of Hands
6. Rainbow Demon [Side 2]
7. All My Life
8. Paradise
9. The Spell
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 4th studio album "Demons And Wizards" - released June 1972 in the UK on Bronze Records ILPS 9193 and June 1972 in the USA on Mercury Records SRM-1 630. Produced by GERY BRON – it peaked at No. 22 in the UK and No. 23 in the USA.

Disc 2 – An Alternative Demons And Wizards – 75:57 minutes:
1. Easy Livin’ (Alternate Version)
2. Rainbow Demon (Alternate Version)
3. Traveller In Time (Alternate Version)
4. Paradise (Alternate Version)
5. The Spell (Alternate Version)
6. All My Life (Alternate Version)
7. Home Again To You (Alternate Version)
8. Why (Alternate Version)
9. The Wizard (Alternate Version)
10. Poet's Justice (Alternate Version)
11. Circle Of Hands (Alternate Version)
12. Proud Words (Alternate Version)
13. Green Eye (Alternate Version)
14. Why (Alternate Single Edit)

DAVID BYRON – Lead Vocals
MICK BOX – Lead Guitar
KEN HENSLEY – Keyboards, Guitar and Percussion
LEE KERSLAKE – Drums and Percussion

The three-way foldout card digipak (pictured below) is a pleasingly in-depth affair. Using worldwide 7" single picture sleeves for the two big singles from the album - the far left flap shows a Dutch issue of "The Wizard" while equally rare Japanese issues of "The Wizard" and "Easy Livin'" adorn the flaps beneath each see-through plastic tray. Each blue-tinted picture CD features Roger Dean's wonderful 'wizard' artwork - as does most of the digipak itself. Inside is a 20-page booklet with new interviews and reminiscences from original band members Mick Box and Ken Hensley as well as a slew of rare Euro and Worldwide pictures sleeves for more singles some of which uses the 'Very 'Eavy Very 'Umble" artwork. There's a cool photo of the Lansdowne Studios master tape for Side 1 of ILPS 9193 that the album's original inner gatefold is spread across the centre pages. While the interviews are very insightful, the credits full and overall presentation in keeping with Dean's artwork - the lyrics that came with the US issue on Mercury Records are missing - which is dropping the ball a tad.

But all of that pales into the background once you lay your weary lugs on the new remaster. I've been hearing this Prog-Rock album for over 45 years now – CDs from Essential and Sanctuary – but I've never heard it sound this good. Both ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM have been building up a formidable Audio Engineer rep these last few years. They handled the Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Kinks and Wishbone Ash catalogues with much praise (Pentangle, Bert Jansch and The Bible too). But their recent work in 2015 and 2016 with ELP, Budgie, Free and now Uriah Heep has seen their names used as a way to plug sales in Record Collector adverts. I love what these guys do - they make the music feel alive - not over-trebled for the sake of it or clinically clean - just 'there'. Take the guitar and piano battle that takes place at the end of "Circle Of Hands" or that huge chunky organ sound at the beginning of "Rainbow Demon" - the acoustic guitars of "The Wizard" – the wild guitar playing and sheer pace of "All My Life" - it's all so damn good now. Let's get to the music...

There can't be too many UH fans who won't shed a little Proggy tear as that brilliant opening to "The Wizard" fills their man-cave - and when the huge chorus kicks in - grizzly shapes will be thrown on the carpet whiles wives look on and worry about hip-replacements. In a similar vein - "Paradise" over on Side 2 ploughs the same Acoustic-Rock terrain - and man does this builder sound good as the vocalists pan and flange from left to right singing about secret hearts and sorry tales. There's monster riffage ahoy on "Traveller In Time" while the catchy chorus of "Easy Livin'" was a worldwide hit for them and broke the album everywhere. The gorgeous five minutes of "Paradise" segues into the near eight-minutes of "The Spell" - a piano and guitar boogie that's way more commercial than I remember it. Fans will be glad to know that the central piano solo is now clear and clean.

Fans will rightly flip for Disc Two - 14 fully formed 'Alternate Versions' from the period - versions only recent found after a home trawl. Not surprisingly it opens with a storming mix of "Easy Livin'" that races harder and faster than the released version - bigger voices and more guitars. There's a suitably doomy "Rainbow Demon" - six minutes of that huge ELP-like organ and layered vocals - amazingly punchy. I have to admit I went straight for "Paradise" and "The Wizard" both of which have those beautiful acoustic strums but with extra bass and vibes and slightly altered keyboard pieces. The vocals in "The Wizard" aren't much altered - the echoes on 'thousand kings' and so on - but there's grungier guitars as they go into that 'voices in our hearts' chorus. "Home Again To You" is a straight-up Rock song - like Badfinger gone over to Nazareth - I love it - what a find. "Proud Words" is the same - an almost poppy Rock number that would have made a very cool B-side - it's almost Bad Company first album in its tight-trouser riffing way. "Green Eye" is probably the worst sounding of the Bonus Tracks but that doesn't stop it from being a huge riffage tune. Most interesting to me is the non-album "Why" - the B-side of "Easy Livin'" in August 1972. Here you get a more Funky Bass-Driven mix where Uriah Heep seems to be a Soul-Rock version of Rare Earth all of a sudden.

Hensley is still with us - but Thain and Byron passed in 1975 and 1985 - while a version of Uriah Heep featuring Mick Box still tours to this day. The Heep would go on to an unsightly number of 2-to-3 star albums in their 26-album career – but for most this Prog-Rock fourth studio platter was their peak.

Remember them this way. And for fans and the curious alike - this new variant of 1972’s "Demons And Wizards" is the best ever. Well done to all involved...

UK 2016 and 2017 2CD URIAH HEEP Reissues 
in this BMG/Sanctuary 'Deluxe Edition' Series so far include...

1. "Very 'Eavy...Very 'Umble" (June 1970 debut) - 2CD set released 16 Sep 2016 on BMG/Sanctuary BMGCAT2CD55 (Barcode 4050538187205)
2. "Salisbury" (January 1972 2nd LP) - 2CD set released 28 Oct 2016 on BMG/Sanctuary BMGCAT2CD56 (Barcode 4050538187281)
3. "Look At Yourself" (November 1971 3rd LP) - 2CD set released 31 March 2017 on BMG/Sanctuary BMGCAT2CD57 (Barcode 4050538187366) 
4. "Demons And Wizards" (June 1972 4th LP) - 2CD set released 31 March 2017 on BMG/Sanctuary BMGCAT2CD58 (Barcode 4050538187441)
5. "The Magician's Birthday" (November 1972 5th LP) - 2CD set released 31 March 2017 on BMG/Sanctuary BMGCAT2CD59 (Barcode 4050538187526)

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