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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ken Hensley

Tales Of Live Fire & Other Mysteries

Review by Gary Hill

This is a great new box set from original Uriah Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley. The mix of sounds here runs pretty wide. In fact, I have debated whether to land it under progressive rock. The first couple CDs don't fit there. The double live album that makes up discs three and four does fit as AOR prog. Much of the final disc does, too. However you label it, though, this is good stuff. Some of it feels a lot like Uriah Heep, but much of it doesn't. The packaging with a massive booklet and each set in cardboard sleeve is great, too. In fact, there is a Youtube un-boxing review video of it on our Youtube channel.

You will find that video footage of this release is available at the Music Street Journal Youtube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG0P-9GZtd8

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
CD1: Ken Hensley - Love & Other Mysteries (2011)
           
(This) Bleeding Heart

Percussion brings this into being. It works to more of a mainstream rock sound from there. As the vocals join I'm reminded of David Bowie. This has a bit of an adult contemporary vibe to it.

Romance
A balladic number, this features classical strings in a beautiful arrangement. The duet of Hensley's voice with female vocals (which featured in a less prominent way on the opener), works quite well. The sort of Spanish acoustic guitar soloing mid-track, along with the powering up to more rocking stuff later are great touches. This number does call to mind Uriah Heep to some degree.
(Please) Tell Me When
The lead vocals on this tune are of the female variety. The tune has a mainstream rock sound and is quite effective.
No Matter
Jazzy piano leads this cut out of the gate. The female vocals come in over the top of that backdrop. As Hensley's vocals join, the cut takes on a real showcase kind of feeling. The duet on this number works quite well. It's a ballad with some chorale vocals and classical strings serving as the augmentation for the piano and vocal arrangement.
Come to Me
Another mainstream rock balladic cut, this has a soft  or folk rock vibe. It's well done, but not really a standout.
This House
Here we get another balladic piece. There are even hints of country music in the mix here. The cut turns into more of a power ballad as it continues. The electric guitar, organ and other elements lend power and class to the piece.
Walk Away
The country element is all over this cut. It's playful, and fun, but not really my think. It's not quite a ballad, but it's also not a rocker.
Eyes (The Girl in the Purple Dress)

Here we get another balladic cut. This features acoustic guitar, vocals and organ.

Respiro Tu Amor
As you might guess from the title, this cut is in Spanish. It's another ballad.
Little Guy
This ballad is a sad song. It has both male and female vocals, horns, gospel styled backing vocals and an arrangement that gets more powered up at times.
CD2: Ken Hensley - Live Tales (2013)
            
Intro

This is just what you'd think, an introduction to bring Hensley to the stage. From there Hensley himself introduces the show by explaining what's to come.

Free Me
This tune is a balladic rocker with Hensley on acoustic guitar and vocals. The audience sings part of this, but they are definitely not loud enough, or that mic is too far down in the mix, for it to really work that well in this recording.
Longer Shadows
This number is in the same acoustic guitar and vocal motif as the opener, but has a bit more of a rocking element at play, too.
The Wizard
Here is the Uriah Heep classic, delivered as just acoustic guitar and vocals. The number works well in this format and performance.
I Don't Wanna Wait
Another acoustic guitar based rocker, this is pretty solid.
Wise Man
This time around it is piano and vocals at the heart of this tune.
Through the Eyes of a Child
I like the melodies and emotion of this cut. The arrangement again is just piano and vocals.
Rain
A pretty piano and vocal ballad, this is great.
Come to Me
The studio version of this is on the previous CD of this set. This cut is set in the same motif as the last few tracks. It has quite a bit of emotion built into it. It's a particularly pretty tune.
There Comes a Time
This is no big change, but it works well.
July Morning
I've always loved this Uriah Heep song. Stripped to just piano and vocals, it is quite compelling here.
Slipping Away

Back into the guitar zone here, this number has a real folk rock vibe to it.

Tales

I like this tune quite a bit. It has some great melodies and passion built into it.

I Close My Eyes
Much more of a mellow ballad, the song concept on this makes me think of the soft rock acts like Bread.
Lady in Black
The closer is another classic Uriah Heep number. Hensley plays is on acoustic guitar as his accompaniment. It works well in this format. Then again, it's just such a well-written tune, how could it not?
CD3: Ken Hensley & Live Fire - Live!! Disc 1 (2013)
                   
Intro/Set Me Free (From Yesterday)

This rises up gradually. The crowd sings along as it grows upward. After this mellower intro they fire out into a smoking hot jam that definitely feels like Uriah Heep. While the stripped back arrangements of the previous disc were cool, it's great to get some rocking treatments here.

The Curse
I like this hard rocking number a lot, too. This is another tune that very much feels like Uriah Heep. It has a cool dropped down section built into it. This number has some screaming hot guitar soloing.
Look at Yourself
A Heep classic tune gets a great live rendition. This is so powerful and well done. I really love this version. It sounds like Uriah Heep.
Circle of Hands
Another classic Uriah Heep tune, this starts with the organ and powers out into a killer rocker that makes good use of the contrast between louder and mellower modes. This version has so much of that classic sound built into it.
July Morning
Here we get another powerhouse Heep classic. I love the guitar work as it leads out of the gates. It drops to just the potent keyboard elements to continue. This is another tune that makes great use of the balance of soft and hard rocking sections. To me that was always one of the best parts of Uriah Heep. I remember Chris Squire saying that he felt it was one of things that made Yes great, and I think Uriah Heep were another band that was particularly good at that. This song is a great example of it. This performance again really sounds like it could be a Heep recording. I love the sort of neo-classical break in this thing.
The Wizard
This version of another Heep classic seems a bit updated, particularly in terms of the electric guitar sound. The song works well here, while sounding a bit less like Uriah Heep doing it. They also add an audience participation section.
Blood on the Highway
This title track from Hensley's solo career has a lot of that Heep sound built into it, too. They put in a great live telling of the tune here.
The Last Dance
The first parts of this cut are more in the zone of ballad, but it powers up further down the road. This is another that has a bit of a Heep sound built into it. It has a dropped back section for a piano solo further down the road. As it rises up from there and the guitar solos, I'm reminded a bit of Pink Floyd in some ways. The build up that takes it to the next vocal movement has a lot more pure prog in the mix. The jam that follows that vocal section is on fire.
Stealin'
Another Uriah Heep classic, they turn this into an extended jam. There is an extensive organ based introduction to the piece. The introduction really holds it for a long time, but it eventually gives way to a more classic Heep like sound for the song proper. Again, it's a smoking hot live performance.
Easy Living
They close the third CD of the set with another hit from the mighty Heep. It's a great live performance of it, too.
CD4: Ken Hensley & Live Fire - Live!! Disc 2 (2013)
Lady in Black
The bass starts this classic Heep tune. Then acoustic guitar joins. It's obvious as this gets going that it's a modernized version of the number. That said it does get into a bit more classic Heep-like territory as it continues. There is a drum solo before it's over. This was the closer before they came out for an encore.
Rain
Piano and vocals hold the early portions of this number. The cut gets a bit powered up at times, but overall remains a ballad throughout. I think I prefer this live version to the earlier one.
Gypsy
Here we get another live performance of a classic Uriah Heep stomper. They update it a it, and put in a killer live rendition.
Love Machine
A hard rocking tune, this has a lot of that Uriah Heep sound at its heart.
CD5: Ken Hensley & Live Fire - Trouble
     
Ready to Die

Coming in with a powerhouse hard rocking mode, this works out from there to some killer music that leans toward heavy metal. It is definitely meaty and crunchy. Links to Heep are still there, but this is much more metallic in texture than that. There are some neo-classical heavy bits on this that remind me of a harder rocking version of Dio era Rainbow.

Trouble
This earns a parental advisory for the lyrics. It is a catchy and proggier number. It feels more like Uriah Heep. There are some definite psychedelic elements at play. I love the vocal arrangement on this thing, but the whole piece is dynamic and potent. The more metallic movement is a real powerhouse, too. The slower moving, dramatic and melodic section later in the tune is a great touch. The cool instrumental coda does a great job of combining a nearly metallic element with hard-edged prog.
It
I love the keyboard dominated arrangement on this thing. The tune has a lot of that hard rocking Uriah Heep sort of sound to it. It's another strong number with prog elements. It's a classy cut. The extended instrumental movement late in the track is particularly cool.
Todo Loco
Organ is the dominant instrument for the first vocal section on this number. The tune has a real blues rock vibe. It feels a bit like both Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. While this isn't the proggiest thing here, some of the instrumental work, especially later in the piece, bring some prog to the game. There are some group vocal bits that lend a bit of a hair metal vibe. The shift later to a dramatic, hard rocking movement is a bit proggy, too.
I Wanna Go Back
I love how the keyboards at the start seem to be exploring, or working as a search light. The cut eventually works out from there to a fast paced stomper that is so cool. It drops to more of a straight-ahead hard rock mode for the entrance of the vocals.
Please Explain
This rocker definitely makes me think of Uriah Heep in a lot of ways. They turn in some powerhouse jamming later along the musical road.
You Will Always Be Mine
Here we get more of a power ballad kind of number. It has a real 1970s rock vibe to it, but with a bit of a modern edge.
I Don't Know
Keyboards and vocals make up the first movement of this cut. It works out to harder rocking prog leaning rock music from there.
Dangerous Desire
A mainstream rocking vibe is at the heart of this cut. It leans toward metal in some ways.
The Longest Night
The closer is more or less a power ballad. It's a cool tune. It also works well as a parting shot.
 
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