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Uriah Heep - 1974 Wonderworld

ARTIST: Uriah Heep
ALBUM: Wonderworld
LABEL: Bronze
YEAR: 1974
CD REISSUE: 1987, Bronze, 260 134 (CD) * 1990, Castle Classics, CLACD 184


LINEUP: David Byron - vocals * Mick Box - guitar * Gary Thain - bass * Lee Kerslake - drums * Ken Hensley - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Wonderworld * 02 Suicidal Man * 03 The Shadows And The Wind * 04 So Tired * 05 The Easy Road * 06 Something Or Nothing * 07 I Won't Mind * 08 We Got We * 09 Dreams


Observing our output of 70's Uriah Heep reviews it's surprising only 'Demons And Wizards' is represented from what is considered Heep's most successful period, plus the David Byron years of 1970-76. Up until 'Wonderworld', the band had been immensely prolific, with this being their seventh album in just four years. That level of output was par for the course in the early 70's, with counterparts Deep Purple and Black Sabbath also making huge inroads into the lucrative U.S. market with their album (sometimes two) a year ratio. Heep had already reached a crossroad in their career, where they'd dispensed with the fantasy antics of 'Demons' and 'The Magicians Birthday' and taken a more traditional rock direction with 1973's 'Sweet Freedom'. That had also yielded huge sales on both sides of the Atlantic, but like most successful bands internal dissension had begun to erode Heep. By all accounts the recording process for 'Wonderworld' was fractious, with booze and drugs causing various rifts within the group. The album was recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, which was a popular haunt for many bands in the 70's. Most of them were drug addled and tortured too (Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones etc)

The Songs
This album is often cited as the start of Heep's downward spiral musically and commercially. There's definitely an element of truth to that, but only in the commercial sense I feel, as most of Heep's albums were consistent, even the weaker ones. This certainly wasn't the same band heard on 'Demons And Wizards' with more of a basic hard rock sound and less of the keyboard based theatrics. It's heavy enough, more so than 'Sweet Freedom' as proved by the likes of 'Suicidal Man', 'So Tired' and 'Something Or Nothing'. This is some of Heep's best work of that period, regardless of the circumstances they were recorded in. For 1974 it still sounds slightly dated when compared to Purple, but some of the keyboard and guitar duels rival anything Purple did. The epic sounding 'Dreams' is another choice cut, seemingly forgotten but full of delicate harmonies and Byron's piercing vocals. Box's guitar work on 'We Got We' has shades of Ritchie Blackmore and there's evidence of funk in Thain's bass work, making this a good rival for Purple's 'Stormbringer' that same year. The sprawling 'I Won't Mind' is a lengthy and drawn out blues jam, full of Box's readily identifiable soloing. The inevitable ballad is the orchestral 'The Easy Road' which doesn't really go anywhere melodically.

In Summary
Despite being fraught with acrimony, the album still sold well, but critics seemed unimpressed of course, nothing new there. The trouble spilled over tragically when Thain received an electric shock while touring the album, before being fired for excessive drug use which led to his death by overdose a year later. A sad end for one of New Zealand's greatest rock exports. That broke up the classic lineup and it wasn't long until Byron was booted as well. It could be traced back in part to 'Wonderworld' but the music was still of a high quality. It might not have the profile of this lineup's three previous albums, but it's still a perfect statement of what Heep represented during their heyday.

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#1 | gdazegod on February 03 2014 11:48:31
This is one I haven't played in ages..

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