Uriah Heep - Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble
Hard/Progressive Rock
8 songs (40:07)
Release year: 1970
Uriah Heep
Reviewed by Goat

Taking their name from the Charles Dickens character, British rockers Uriah Heep have been ploughing away quietly for years, never quite finding the massive fame or fortune of their peers but remaining an excellent band despite that. Mixing together elements of progressive and classic rock, the band were important in the formation of Heavy Metal as we know it, and debut album Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble is a surprisingly heavy release for the time. Fans will hate me immediately for saying that it's somewhere between Deep Purple and Black Sabbath in sound - in order to truly appreciate the musical and compositional skills of this band you have to immerse yourself deep into their discography, and whilst the 'Heep have produced many a fine aural platter, Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble remains one of their finest albums in my view. Much of this is thanks to vocalist David Byron, who you can see beneath a layer of cobwebs on the fantastic cover art. He has an amazing voice with excellent range, and is equally suited to Jazzy crooning and proto-Metal melodramatics, never sounding less than sincere and always giving his very best.

Not that the rest of the band are far behind - all are wonderful, and the variety in the songwriting present is tremendous. Metalheads will love the opening number Gypsy, a six-minute dramatic tale of star-crossed romance that features a guitar/organ stomp from Mick Box and Ken Hensley that's about as Heavy Metal as things got in 1970. The organ shoots off into a chaotic solo partway through that touches Avant-Garde territory and even today is pretty extreme listening, signalling a cutting of all the instruments to absolute silence before they rush back in, spiralling guitar solo and vocal wails ending the track on a high note. Walking In Your Shadow follows and may sound a little typical of the era at first, but that catchy riff and those vocals soon elevate it to classic status, a killer solo from Box the cherry of the cake. A sudden switch to emotional anti-war ballad on the following Come Away Melinda (a cover of American folk band The Weavers) annoys the casual listeners, but always enthrals fans, softly psychedelic mellotron and barely-present acoustic guitar backing Byron's voice.

One of the biggest pleasures of this album is simply to listen to him, here and on the following Jazzy swing of Lucy Blues, and the album soon returns to rock with the guitar-driven Dream Mare, a highly infectious lalala'ing chorus making it one of the best tracks present. Few will be capable of resisting the enjoyable Real Turned On, Box's fiery guitar heroics contrasting nicely with the following Robert Plant-esque wailing of I'll Keep On Trying, contrasting keys and guitar increasing the album's prog content. That's taken to a maximum on finale Wake Up (Set Your Sights) with its especially varied and interesting songwriting which incorporates jazzy piano tinkles behind the organ and drum-backed vocal gymnastics.

Both enjoyably experimental and mixing the best of the era's rock sound; Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble rarely hits best-of lists but still is more than vital listening for 70sheads and those interested in the early years of our beloved genre. It might not be the heaviest proto-Heavy Metal album around, but it's one of the most varied and enjoyable, and certainly kicked Uriah Heep's career off to a great start. An interesting footnote is that overrated mainstream rag Rolling Stone managed to massively outdo their usual lameness when their reviewer of the time said that she'd have to commit suicide if the group made it - "from the first note you know you don't want to hear any more", apparently. History and the internet have no record of the fate of the Melissa Mills who wrote that nonsense, yet Uriah Heep live on, having sold over thirty million albums and released twenty-one full-lengths to date, the most recent (2008's Wake The Sleeper) getting an enthusiastic thumbs up from our Marty. If you're new to the band then this is a great place to start, a mandatory stop on every self-respecting rocker's musical journey and an absolute classic.

Killing Songs :
All, especially Gypsy, Dream Mare, Real Turned On, I'll Keep On Trying, Wake Up (Set Your Sights)
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Uriah Heep that we have reviewed:
Uriah Heep - Living the Dream reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Uriah Heep - Salisbury reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Uriah Heep - Wake The Sleeper reviewed by Marty and quoted 87 / 100
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