In recent months a new series of Uriah Heep remasters began being issued on BMG. The series began with the 2 CD compilation Your Turn To Remember and the band’s 1970 debut Very Eavy..Very Umble. In chronological order, the band’s Salisbury most recently came out, and Look At Yourself is all set to go. Each of the these releases come packaged in a double disc digi-set, with the first disc being a remastered version of the original album release and disc 2 being labeled “an Alternative…”. Producer Rob Corich provides us with some insight into the new round of re-issues, as he’s been involved in the band’s catalogue reissues since the early 90s [going back to vault releases The Lansdowne Tapes and Ken Hensley’s From Time To Time]. Your Turn To Remember is not your standard Uriah Heep ‘best of’ compilation, and aside from the obvious choices the set includes two tracks from each of the band’s albums up to 1985’s Equator, and 1 from Raging Silence [not sure why!? and it’s not the obvious choice one either]. A few odd choices, such as the Japanese edit of fan favorite “July Morning”. The packaging, aside from a cool display of images of picture-sleeve singles and adverts, also features new and lengthy insight and stories from founding members Mick Box and Ken Hensley.
With the studio re-issues – while the first disc is a fine upgrade, it is the second disc that offers something new and interesting. It consists of the rare tracks, and previously unreleased mixes. Corich is adamant there is enough material for two disc sets for the band’s entire catalogue – “To my knowledge, yes. There is certainly enough. Honestly I have more stuff after this lot…one could easily make 3 disc sets or more ..That’ll keep you all talking for a while!” But he adds, it’s up to the record company if the 2 disc sets will remain throughout or if the series will even stay in order or jump to a different era. Fans wondering if this set will offer anything new or interesting to make it worth buying into another set of the band’s albums up to Raging Silence [and hopefully including Different World].
I inquired if these are from the same tapes [as previously released] or if there was things not previously used[?] – “Bits of both, some were from same multi tracks, others from different ones depending on what I was working on at the time or had recently discovered. Honestly I have so many mixes of stuff that I did or tried to do back then… I did go to town on some of the tracks back then… Often recalling what my best mate Warren and I would discuss ‘should’ve been done’ when we were kids… Years later when I had a chance to do just that I sometimes did.. Some I did far more with than others as you’ll see as the catalog continues.” As for the first two alternative discs, fans will definitely hear the difference – especially on tracks like “Born In A Trunk”, “Time To Live”, “Bird Of Prey”, and “Salisbury”. The songs jump out a bit more and the changes bring up vocals, guitar parts, or Hammond previously not heard or heard from a different angle. Salisbury also includes a ‘live’ version of the title track [so, no orchestra], taken from a tape from the era. It also begs the question – if there’ll be more such tracks or why not just issue a few whole shows. “Just remember this.. These were never meant for anyone else to hear apart from my mate (Warren Eady) from childhood (and probably the biggest Heep fan ever) in his last few years.. He was very ill with incurable cancer at the time and subsequently died.. I just did many of these to cheer him up. Who knew they would ever get used, I certainly didn’t, but when I was asked to view the choices the record company had come up with last year I told them no way would people want a re-release of the same old things we did around 2003. I went back to check what else I had in the vault (a lot!) then I remembered these and once we listened to them they actually sounded pretty good. Mick agreed and here we are…”
The topic of unreleased live Heep and previously unreleased Heep material is a hot topic amongst die-hard fans. Just to recap what there is [and not commercially available] – numerous live shows [bootlegged, radio, soundboard…] most notably the 1976 show from Boston [which surfaced in recent years – and I’m sure many of my fellow Heep fans could recommend a few others!?], the last album’s worth of stuff recorded with John Lawton on vocals – which is easily available [in bootleg quality] on youtube, save for the few tracks that were mixed and included on the Time Of Revelation box set in ’94, and the Chapter & Verse box set years later. Corich notes that what is available is not exactly the actual album but tracks from a 3 year period. There was also an album’s worth of material recorded with the John Sloman and Gregg Dechert line up [not heard anywhere], the first recordings for Abominog – which were rejected and redone [a few of these have surfaced].
The Lawton album was prepared for the last batch of remasters over 10 years ago but was never cleared for release. “I worked on this over twenty five years ago but no one was interested in the idea back then. I’ve suggested it a few times since including the remaster batch ten years ago. Frankly it would make an excellent release and probably one of the most interesting historical releases for the band. It would certainly generate pretty serious interest in my opinion. “ There was also a live album from the Sloman era recorded, from which 2 tracks were used years back on “The Best Of Uriah Heep” remaster. Corich also mixed this some 20+ years ago, claiming ‘it sounds really good’ – but it too has never been up for release. “There is after all a full concert that I mixed years ago with John Sloman just before Ken left (his solos are amazing on this) just sitting in the vault unused.” As well, a live recording of the band from Auckland, New Zealand in ’84. The Auckland show was aired on TV, and in an interview leading up the show it is revealed the shows are being recorded for a live album! Corich attended all those New Zealand shows, and sees this as something that could easily be released, if OK’d.
The next two releases are the band’s finest albums from the Byron days [IMO] – Look At Yourself is ready to go in the new year, followed by the band’s biggest album – Demons & Wizards. According to Corich there is an abundance of material for an alternative album option – “there are quite different versions, edits, mixes etc.. Demons & Wizards, for instance runs in at nearly 80 minutes.” As a collector, my only let down is in the packaging. First – the vinyl option! Perhaps someone didn’t think it was warranted, but these would look fantastic with more pics and a huge gate-fold cover, much in the way the latest set of Black Sabbath remasters are being put out. Corich does believe there will be a ‘special’ release for Record Store day coming up though with Live January ’73, and possibly plans for vinyl later in the year.
I’m also wondering why someone couldn’t include any band pics featuring the band-members that played on these albums. Very Eavy…Very Umble includes the centre shot from the album’s gate-fold, but it’d be nice to see original drummer Alex Napier from the day, and it’d be cool to see a band shot with then-drummer Keith Baker, on Salisbury [as opposed to 2 pic-sleeves featuring the classic Thain/Kerslake line-up]. Anyway, they do feature new quotes from founding members Ken Hensley and Mick Box, which make for interesting reads [though it would’ve been nice to perhaps hear from bass player Paul Newton as well!?]. These releases are ‘must haves’ for Uriah Heep fans. If you think it’s just a re-hash or another cash grab, I’d say you’re very wrong! And honestly – as the band and many former members are still active, it’s important to have new reissues when there are many still discovering the band. Here’s looking forward to the obtaining the catalogue…again…and hopefully some surprises thrown in!
*thanks to Rob Corich for his input and photos
for more on Rob’s projects, check out http://www.redsteelmusic.com . His latest project is producing the new album from Looking For Droids [check ’em out on youtube or at http://www.lookingfordroids.co.uk]