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The Magician's Birthday

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(31 Reviews)

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  • The follow-up album to “Demons and Wizards”, recorded in the same year, and while still touring constantly (a grueling pace that was to lead to problems down the road for many of the members), this album maintains the quality of its legendary predecessor.”Rain” is a beautiful ballad, delivered perfectly and subtly by the now sadly overlooked David Byron, one of the greatest singers in rock history (all of Byron’s works should be required listening for modern vocalists, he was a master of dynamics, an art that has been sadly lost in recent years). “Sweet Lorraine” is incredibly catchy ear candy, and was the radio standard from the album. “Tales”, “Blind Eye” and “Echoes In The Dark” are moody, mystical, ominous, and emotionally moving, with Byron’s vocal performance particularly shining on them as well. “Spider Woman” is a bit of a throw-away, but plenty of fun, with some excellent slide guitar work from Ken Hensley.Which leaves the album’s opening and closing tracks: “Sunrise”, the opener, was the first Heep song I ever heard, and led me to become a lifelong fan; the group’s trademark vocal harmonies have possibly never been so well displayed as on this song, which became a long-time concert opener. The title track, which closes the album, is an epic, multi-sectional tour-de-force, with an excellent, blistering, extended guitar and drum duet by Mick Box and Lee Kerslake in the middle, and some amazing vocals from both the aforementioned Mssrs. Byron and Hensley. A more than worthy successor to “Demons and Wizards”, and a must-have album for Heepsters or classic rock fans in general.Oh, and for the few obnoxious reviewers of this album who felt the need to compare it derisively to Spinal Tap for the fantasy-oriented lyrics, I have two observations:1) It was recorded in 1972, when virtually *every* British band, including the universally acknowledged gods of Heavy Metal, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, were visiting various fantasy realms lyrically on virtually every song. To continue to slag Uriah Heep for being a product of their time in that respect, especially when similar bands who were doing exactly the same thing (and were similarly villified for it at the time) are now regarded as geniuses, is just petty and mean-spirited. Personally, I find the fantasy themes charming, in a Tolkienesque way. YMMV.2) For all the deliberate silliness of their lyrics, Spinal Tap is an excellent band from a musical standpoint: Guest, McKean, and Shearer are all extremely proficient at their respective instruments, and their compositional skills are top-notch, so comparing bands to them is not quite as insulting as musically clueless would-be critics might think.

    Posted on February 10, 2010