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Uriah Heep

Classic Heep Live From The Byron Era DVD

Review by Greg Olma

Uriah Heep is one of those bands that have had many eras due to their longevity.  While you may like some versions better than others, there is a quality throughout their 50-plus-year career.  Forming in 1969, they were, in my opinion, the prog brothers to Deep Purple.  They both shared a sense of forging a new path in this thing called “hard rock” but Heep would add elements of prog and folk into their brand of rock.  In the early 70s, they sounded unique and managed to pull in some commercial success with shorter, more accessible material. 

This DVD captures footage from what is considered the “classic” era of Uriah Heep when David Byron was fronting the band.  The first three tunes are from a 1973 show at the famous Budokan in Japan.  The lighting for these older concerts is barely there, but for someone in my age group, it is just a treat to see any video from this era of the band.  I was too young to see this line-up in concert so I was really happy finally see it, albeit on the small screen.  “Sunrise” and “Traveler In Time” are especially good.  The next batch of video is from a show in Shepperton in 1974 where the band was promoting their Wonderworld album.  By this point, they were shedding some of their proggy bits but still managed to retain their sound and churn out classics like “So Tired’ from that record.  The video from this show suffers a little from editing choices, but again, I’ll take any footage from this timeframe.  One thing that I could definitely do without, though, is their “Rock N’ Roll Medley” which for some reason the band thought the audience would like to hear other people’s material than their own.  After the untimely death of their bass player Gary Thain, the band recruited prog legend John Wetton for a couple of years.  When it was time to tour for their 1975 release Return To Fantasy, they headed to the United States and recorded the next (and last) group of songs.  Wetton definitely brought some more prog elements back and also helped with backing vocals.  Watching Mick Box play with a cast is worth the price of admission alone.  The band sounded great, and the only issue I have is that the editors tried to add some psychedelic visuals at the beginning which really dates the already dated production. 

The focus of this DVD is to release whatever footage was available from the Byron era.  If you are looking for current production values and crystal clear images, then you need to skip this DVD.  This is designed for Heep fans who were either too young to catch the Byron fronted version live in concert or those who did but want to relive those memories.  When I got this DVD, I wasn’t looking for perfection, but it did give me a glimpse into that magical time when Uriah Heep was an arena act cutting a new path in hard rock.  If you are a die-hard Heep fan, this one needs to be part of the collection.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

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