The late Ken Hensley had completed work on his new album My Book Of Answers shortly before his untimely death on 4th November 2020. My Book Of Answers was released on 5th March 2021 as a CD/DVD and Vinyl Album with Lyric Book package through Cherry Red Records.
For half a century Ken Hensley was a major influence in the rock world. An original member of Uriah Heep, Hensley was keyboard player, guitarist, vocalist and principal song writer with Uriah Heep for ten years. His subsequent solo career saw Hensley work with leading artists across the globe and he became known as an inspiration for encouraging other talented artists.
Ken Hensley’s recently released My Book Of Answers comes with an amazing back story, and it’s something that Ken poured his heart in to during the pandemic, when many musicians / bands weren’t recording. Quite the project really, as this project came to him under very different circumstances.
The album is the intriguing result of a collaboration with one of Hensley’s fans, following a chance meeting at an airport, as he turns dreams into a reality.
This unique project came about following Hensley’s chance meeting with Emelin at Alicante airport in early 2018, as he explained. “Vladimir has a home up on the Costa Blanca and he’s here as often as visas will permit. I was flying to Moscow, he was on his way home and he saw me at the airport. I guess I’m his idol and he’s been a fan since he was a kid. Well, he asked me for an autograph and a picture, which I was happy to give him, and for an email address.”
At a meeting in Alicante, later in the year, Emelin asked if Hensley could turn a couple of his poems into songs. “I tried a couple of songs, although I didn’t know if I could do it because I’ve never done it before. He loved it and he wanted me to do more and more until we finally ended up with an album’s worth of songs.
“I made most of the album under lockdown, Coronavirus restrictions, which was easy because it was just file-sharing over the internet with the musicians, the singers and my engineer and it was relatively easy. What we had to do was make sure we didn’t compromise any quality. I popped it over to my manager Steve Weltman and typically, before I know it, he’s got the guys at Cherry Red interested in it! The whole thing takes on another dimension.”
My Book Of Answers might be the usual sorta mix of rock, pop, and ballads usually found on Ken Hensley’s solo albums, but there are some of the best tracks Hensley has written and produced in his post 2000 era. And though Hensley is singing someone else’s words, they are very fitting, and not out of the the style the man might’ve penned himself. Personally, and maybe because it is still new, I find this to be his most consistent album in years, and despite the latter half of it being mainly ballads, they are all very different, and with enough changes, without being just soft. Fans should easily recognize the music to the song “Right Here, Right Now” right from the start – it is Heep’s “The Hanging Tree”, from Firefly, but totally different words and meaning, and I really love this recording, great production, and fresh sounding, and it features some awesome heavy guitar added in after the final verse & chorus. For me the stand out tracks are the 2nd and 3rd videos released “Stand” and “The Cold Sacrifice”. The former is a ballad, but an anthem, dealing with fears; it features backing harmonies as a choir, and a vocal from Ken delivering words of encouragement. It is a song for these times, and one I think will sit comfortably alongside classic Heep songs he’s penned such as “Lady In Black” and “Tales”. “The Cold Sacrifice” is a rocker, probably the heaviest song here with a guitar intro that immediately made me think of Iron Maiden, before Ken’s vocal comes in and settles down a bit. There are many tales within the words, and I look forward to hearing more about Vladimir Emelin’s poems and what inspired the ones used that were translated to make this album. Musically, I think fans will really enjoy this album, it has pretty much everything the man was known for with his Hammond organ and slide guitar, as well as a pretty good vocal. It maybe could’ve used another hard-rocker, but oh well … tracks like “Lost” and “The Silent Scream”, both upbeat pop / rock songs, and as with many here there something different to his usual stuff, perhaps it the production or the bit of [almost] theatrical presentation on songs like “Light My Fire”, “Suddenly” and “The Darkest Hour” [!?] Either way, I am quite happy to hear this – not just for it being Ken Hensley’s last recorded album, but that I think it’s one of his best solo records, so I look forward to spending a lot more time with. The whole project may have started with a chance encounter, but he made the most of it, and his passion til the end shows.
“I’m really happy with it and I have a huge yardstick to measure it by! It seems as though it was meant to happen.” – KH
At the encouragement of Vladimir Emelin, a video was made for every track, as well there was opportunity during 2020 to put on a live concert [with social distancing ] , near Hensley’s home in Spain. This was filmed as well. So, despite his sad & unexpected passing that shook fans, Ken Hensley left us not only this unexpected fine album [and another to come], but he also had other things on the go for fans to look forward to.
“I’ve never done anything like this before and, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t recall anybody else who has,” Hensley added. “I’m also developing a lyric book which will be a beautiful piece. Each song feature’s the original Russian lyric, the translation by Vladimir’s friend in Siberia and my notated stuff where I changed the words of the poem into a song and created verses, bridges and choruses. The fans can see all the changes I made, and understand why I made them, and then there’s the final lyric that appears on the album. Alisia Vaselieva, a wonderful illustrator and friend of Vladimir’s, has done an illustration for each song, so five pages for each song and it will be a deluxe hard-back package – a collectors’ item.
RIP Ken. Thanks for this.
This is a recent in-depth interview with Steve Weltman – Ken’s manager & good friend. Part 1 of this interview is more so about Steve’s illustrious career, working with many big names in the music business since the ’60s. – (8) The Andrew Eborn Show GLOBAL LAUNCH Ken Hensley’s My Book of Answers with Steve Weltman – Part 2 – YouTube
This is another recent interview with Steve Weltman, who talks in-depth about his time with Ken, and how The Book Of Answers came to be. – (8) Interview with Steve Weltman – YouTube
*[Paragraphs in italic – taken from press release].