The sixth studio album by Uriah Heep, SWEET FREEDOM is miles and above a better album than the former, creatively fractured THE MAGICIAN’S BIRTHDAY. The album is cohesive as a whole, as well as seeming to show the group working together as a whole; even though Hensley again writes the bulk of the material. Whether, he simply got better at writing for the group, or they rose to his style of songwriting; it works. Where the previous album suffered for the slow and lengthy mellow numbers, even when SWEET FREEDOM goes there, many elements of the Rock band behind it all, shine through; rather than lying stagnant in the water. Then there’s the fact that when SWEET FREEDOM rocks: it f**kin’ ROCKS! Even though Byron returns to that bristling flasetto, he tried using on an outtake from THE MAGICIAN’S BIRTHDAY (“Crystal Ball”); this time it made it to the album, albeit in a slightly modified and more palatable form. I will only say that TMB gets more credit than it deserves because of the superb Dean artwork.
Of the bonus tracks; “Sunshine” is a fantastic outtake that could only be improved by trimming the repeated chorus from the overlong ending. The full version of “Seven Stars” is a tasty treat for anyone who’s a big fan of Psychedelia, with it’s longer acoustic and synth driven intro. The album version is quite well served by the concise and abrupt intro that emphasizes the start of some serious cock-rockin’; but this lengthier alternate version continues on for more than a minute after the reciting of the ABC’s, and comes much closer to what Uriah Heep achieved live than most studio recordings. The extended version of “Pilgrim” differs at the 2:50 mark, where the extended version continues with another 29 second ‘Elfen’ chorus before the bombastic rockin’ organ solo. The guitar solo is extended by a full 32 seconds, however, and makes this version worthy of inclusion. The demo for “If I Had The Time” is a completely different arrangement, that bears little resemblance with it’s buried piano riffs, to the trippy synthesizer oriented album version. The vocals of the album track are produced enough to remind one of a Pink Floyd resemblance, while the demo vocals are hardly produced at all. The lyrics themselves are quite interestingly delivered in an entirely different manner. The album version is slightly slower and stripped down to it’s bare essentials, in order to emphasize the lyric and bring a depth that the demo hardly approaches. Even though the vocals for the demo start around the 30 second mark, where the album track doesn’t start till a minute and 15 seconds; the demo is a full 24 seconds longer! A fascinating window into the creative process of Uriah Heep. The live versions of “Sweet Freedom” and “Stealin” are fine additions to this great album; “Stealin” moreso, for the intro about cowboys and Texans! All in all, one of the best from The Heep Remasters series!