Uriah Heep - Your Turn To Remember: The Definitive Anthology album review

A heap of old Heep that could have been better

Uriah Heep band photograph

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Sometimes the numbers do not lie. The first CD in this collection spans the first six years of Uriah Heep’s career, during which time they released eight studio albums and had just one singer. The second CD covers the remaining 14 years and features five vocalists on the nine studio albums they released.

More significantly, if you go to a Uriah Heep gig tonight or tomorrow night (you might have to catch a plane; they could be playing almost anywhere on the planet) you will hear half-a-dozen or more songs from the first CD and maybe two or three from the second. That’s because for most of that time Uriah Heep were a shambles. The five singers was just the start of it. While the band’s professionalism never let them down on stage, off stage they lurched from one chaotic disaster to another, to the point where guitarist Mick Box was briefly the only member of the band.

Where this anthology really skewers itself is with its rigid format of picking two tracks from every album. If there is a reason for this, beyond anally retentive tidiness, it is not apparent. Some of the 80s albums are barely worth one track apiece, while some of the 70s albums have been short-changed. The result is a relentless plod through Heep’s first two decades rather than a romp through the highlights.

At least the foundations of the band’s legacy from the David Byron era – Gypsy, Look At Yourself, Easy Livin’, Sunrise and Return To Fantasy – are safely ring-fenced. But there’s no room to delve any deeper into what was the Heep’s most productive period. Tracks such as Tears In My Eyes (from Look At Yourself), Circle Of Hands (Demons And Wizards) and Spider Woman (The Magician’s Birthday) that could have added something fresh to the predictable are missing.

The second CD methodically chronicles their post-Byron/post-Ken Hensley decline, and it’s easy to miss the brief revival they had with 1982’s Abominog and singer Peter Goalby before the dark forces of slick 80s metal dragged them under once more. It ends with the arrival of singer Bernie Shaw and the beginning of the most stable line-up in their history, although their album renaissance is still another five years away.

Needless to say the track that gives this anthology its title – Your Turn To Remember from the Return To Fantasy album – is missing along with all the other opportunities.

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Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.