Although not a radio staple like “Easy Livin” or “Stealin” – any remote Heep fan knows and loves “July Morning”. It was the band’s epic track from their 3rd album Look At Yourself. That album would be the last to feature original bass player Paul Newton, as well the only one to feature the drumming of Iain Clark. The album as a whole set Heep in the direction of being a heavy band who could also be just as great with a ballad or more progressive track. July Morning was not a worldwide single, but it has been and remained a highlight of the band’s live show since it’s debut.
The song was the combining of a few different pieces at the time – written by keyboard player Ken Hensley and singer David Byron. Clocking in at 10 and a half minutes it features everything Heep would be known for with that classic Hammond intro, David Byron’s soft vocal in the beginning, which builds as the song picks up and quiets down again, band harmonies, a great melody, acoustic guitar, and a guitar and organ mix that – although this is really a ballad – shows how heavy and powerful the band’s sound could be, and here – it is the last 4 minutes of the song. It also includes mini-moog synthesizer from Manfred Mann [then also on the same label as Heep].
The song is huge in parts of Europe, particularly Bulgaria, and has been covered most notably by German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell, there’s also a dance version by Sonic Perception, and there are numerous covers on youtube, many by European bands.
Uriah Heep recorded a few lengthy epics from their Mercury Records days [pre-1973] – Salisbury [being the longest], as well as Shadows Of Grief, and The Magician’s Birthday. Pilgrim [from Sweet Freedom] would clock in at nearly 7.5 minutes, but by then the day of the band’s lengthy experimental epics were gone as subsequent albums would focus on shorter tracks, more fitting to radio formats. [*It should be noted that The Golden Palace from 1998’s Sonic Origami And Rocks In The Road from 2018’s Living The Dream – both excel well over 8 minutes!]
July Morning remains the greatest of these early Heep epics; many rock writers and fans have put it alongside Deep Purple’s “Child In Time” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”. It may not have met with the same media fare, but it is to most Heep fans – the band’s greatest recording from an amazing era of progressive and heavy rock.
Here’s a few great versions of the song… enjoy.
Although a very different singer, I think John Lawton did a fantastic job with it –
One of a very few Heep songs that David would ever perform in his post-Heep years –
Ken Hensley has also continued to perform this since his return in 2000 –
And always in the band’s set …
*Any favorite versions I missed? [would be nice if someone posted good quality versions with other Heep singers, thanks]