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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ken Hensley

Blood on the Highway

Review by Gary Hill

I’m sure many of MSJ’s readers remember Ken Hensley from his days in Uriah Heep. Well, those times are long gone and Hensley has been producing his own brand of rock and roll for quite some time. Here we have the latest installment, but it’s more than just an album of songs. It’s a concept disc, but unlike so many that strive to tell huge overreaching “cosmic” tales, this album is a personal story. So much so that it is named after (and serves as companion to) Hensley’s new autobiography. So, this tells the story of Hensley’s life in the less than natural world of rock music.

The help Hensley complete his picture he’s assembled a number of guests throughout the disc. Perhaps the MVP of the project is Jorn Lande as he is both listed as a featured performer and does some of the song writing on the album. Also listed in supporting roles we have Glenn Hughes (the voice of rock), Eve Gallagher, John Lawton, Ovidio Lopez and The Alicante Symphony Orchestra. Together they have created an exceptionally strong disc that should appeal to fans of Uriah Heep, but more broadly, to all fans of killer classic rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
(This is) Just the Beginning
This just jumps right in with a pop rock sort of classic sound and a non-lyrical vocal line. It runs through like that for a time before dropping down to a more 1970’s rock ballad approach. They power it up with an almost metallic anthemic mode for the chorus.
We're On Our Way
A droning sort of approach serves as the backdrop for the balladic verse segment that has just a touch of country twang built into its arrangement. They power this up into a retro sounding anthemic rocker. If it was 1976 this track would be all over the radio. The non-lyrical vocal segment later calls to mind Uriah Heep quite a bit.
Blood on the Highway
This one comes in with a great bluesy texture and it’s obvious we’ve got a bit of a different tone in play this time around. The vocals come in spoken, almost like a rap, but the music is certainly in keeping with the bluesy rock of the 1970’s. You might even hear a bit of Pink Floyd on this, but when the chorus kicks in those Uriah Heep tendencies are back in spades. The guitar solo on this one is rather metallic and very tasty.
You've Got It
“You’ve Got It” pounds in with a more energized hard rocking texture. It’s a killer slab of classic rock that feels like it could have walked out of the pages of 1974. This one rocks out better than some of the other music here – and considering as strong as the rest is, that says a lot.
Doom (Scene 1)
This ambient sound effects with sound clip part brings back those Pink Floyd echoes to the forefront. This is an extremely brief little bit at only 18 seconds in length.
It Won't Last
We get a cool blues meets funk riff out of the starting gate, then a cool retro keyboard sound enters to carry the song forward. The vocals join over this backdrop and they modulate it out for rock and roll based chorus. This is another killer track and it is one my favorite tunes on the disc. It’s a bit metallic at times, but just plain rocks. The cool pop rock section later in the track, along with some of the rest of the music here, kind of reminds me of Grand Funk a bit.
Think Twice
In a major change of pace, this track comes in as a keyboard based ballad approach. It builds gradually on this basis, and while it does serve to provide some variety, I’m not sure it works that well for me. If there is a misstep here, this would be it in the mind of this reviewer. I have to say that when this powers up later to a more full-blown version of itself it gets batter and reminds me a bit of Meatloaf.
Doom (Scene 2)
Here we get another little piece of soundbite.
There Comes A Time
While this is another keyboard based ballad, it works far better. It is powerfully evocative and very pretty. Melancholy, this is a great tune. I hear a little bit of Alan Parsons on this one. The saxophone solo is a nice touch.
Okay (This House is Down)
This cruncher feels so much like Uriah Heep it’s scary. This is without question my second favorite track on the disc. This thing just plain rocks. It seems to be a live recording.
What You Gonna Do
Here we get another balladic cut, this one with the most modern sound of the whole disc. It’s soulful and pretty cool.
Postscript
This is just a short acoustic ballad approach that seems to lead straight into the next number.
I Did It All
Here we get another balladic piece, although this one does turn more anthemic and energized as it carries onward. It’s another strong track on a disc that isn’t suffering from any sort of shortage of potent material.
The Last Dance
The beautiful acoustic guitar that leads things off here lends a wonderful texture to the piece, setting a great mood. They build up gradually on this mode in the form a heartfelt ballad. At almost 8 and a half minutes in length this is the longest track on show here. They use this extra breathing room to build it up ever so gradually. The track becomes extremely powerful as it carries on, and it’s obvious they saved the best for last. Just before the three and a half minute mark they drop it back down for the keys to lead a revisitation to mellower, more evocative modes. Then they power it back out into a bluesy rocker. As it works its way back up guitar weaves soaring lines of solo melody over the top. Then a little before the six minute mark this is reworked into something that feels a bit like Emerson Lake and Palmer to me. They run through this section in instrumental fashion for a time before launching back out into the killer chorus segment. Just when you think this number has reached it peak, they find a way to make it climb even higher. You just can’t go wrong with this one. It’s such an incredible way to end the disc in great style.
 
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