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Uriah Heep - 'Wake The Sleeper' CD

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Uriah Heep - 'Wake The Sleeper' CD
Sanctuary Records
OK, confession time. Over the years I’ve really not been the greatest Uriah Heep fan. So will die hard fans read this and give up on me before I start? My advice, don’t! This is an excellent release that has certainly grown on me.

Funny thing is, back in the late ‘70s, friends of mine were great Heep fans, but for me the early David Byron years material didn’t really grab me as it did their true fans, the ones who gave the band their success.

Heep Rock

Sure, “Gypsy,” “July Morning,” “The Wizard,” “Stealin’” and “Easy Livin’” are great songs, but they were never really enough for me to go out and buy their albums until Abominog came along. Absolutely terrible album cover, but what great songs and a strong band! Head First followed in the same fashion for me too, but was better still and likewise Equator, which still had awesome songs, but I felt the production / mix was lacking balance.

Mick Box has been the solitary mainstay of the band since its beginning in 1969. In 1986 they pulled in the original Grand Prix singer Bernie Shaw. This is Shaw’s fifth studio album with Heep, and the band’s 21st studio album. Shaw is their sixth (and longest serving) vocalist. Shaw’s voice, put simply, works great for Heep, a perfect fit.

Other reviews of this release have made statements along the lines of, “this album is more Deep Purple than Purple are these days.” I’d say that’s not far from the truth, but there’s more to this that just that. If you like a little Boston mixed with say, Purple, then you’ll love the opening title track, “Wake The Sleeper.” It totally rocks!

Tracking the Tracks

“Overload” is a phenomenally strong song with a crafted sound, not far from my earlier mention of Boston meets Deep Purple, probably due to the huge Hammond organ sound. The hook line in this track is an absolute killer.

“Tears of the World” reminds me of Rainbow, with hints of elements of “Starstruck.” I just love everything they have captured in the sound of this album, and Mike Paxman has the production totally nailed.

“Light of a Thousand Stars” sounds more like recent Heep outings, but Im also reminded of the Head First (1983) era of songs. In Shaw’s voice I hear similarities to the power of, say, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) without the screaming!

The next track, “Heaven’s Rain” almost scared me when I thought the intro seemed more than a little like the intro to “With A Little Help From My Friends,” but then it gets into its rhythm and it’s certainly nothing like that. It’s a slower paced melodic rocker with a great solo from guitarist Mick Box and another strong vocal from Shaw.

“Book Of Lies” hints to me of Grand Prix’s sound in places and has an excellent chorus. It’s a really strong mid paced melodic rocker, with catchy lines throughout.

Purple and Black

“What Kind of God” deals with some of the crazies out there and who on earth they do their dirty work for. It’s a topical issue for sure. Special praise should go to the phenomenal talents of new drummer Russell Gillbrook, replacing Lee Kerslake. I don’t see a weak track anywhere here. The whole album is very well thought out.

“Ghost of the Ocean” rips in, another strong song for old school fans, not far off some of the Equator material either.

Now I would never compare Heep to Black Sabbath, but something in the mix of “Angels Walk With You” kind of hints at Purple with a slightly darker feel to it, making me think of Sabbath. But then the keys solo is more akin to something Jon Lord would jam and totally rocks!

“Shadow” sounds more in keeping with older Heep and again, I am reminded of Rainbow and don’t mean any of these comparisons in a derogatory way. Tt makes the album sound so much stronger.

“War Child” is the closer and although I said I don’t think there’s a weak track on the album, I would say this track is perhaps the least commercial sounding track here, way more involved, darker prog rock.

Overall this was a surprise for me, as I really didn’t know what to expect, as I kept reading seriously mixed thoughts from old die hard Heep fans. I was very impressed with this release and hope we get a US tour to support it soon!

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