URIAH HEEP – CLASSIC HEEP LIVE FROM THE BYRON ERA (2004)

REVIEW BY KASSU KORTELAINEN / 2004

Heep keeps nowadays releasing a lot of DVD’s, while their next studio album’s release date having seemed to dissappear ever further to the horizon (new one should be out this year, though) . Though the new DVD’s are unexceptionally of very high quality and the varying setlist keeps them interesting, the fan starts to hope for something a bit different for a chance. And so, this collection made solely of David Byron era Heep material, is more than welcomed!

David Byron (1947-1985) was Uriah Heep’s first singer and with him the band recorded it’s most famous albums like ‘Demons And Wizards’ and ‘The Magician’s Birthday’ . Byron, as well as having very good vocal talents, has also been reported as a great live performer – a fact that only those who ever saw him on stage could ever have witnessed. Until now.

The film material from the Byron days has been very hard to find as there are not many remaining copies of Heep shows from 1972-1976. And the purpose of this DVD is nothing less than scrape together all the material of reasonable quality that could be found from those times. The compilers have done a huge work searching old Heep tapes from all over the world for many years and this DVD shows what they came up with. Not all that much, in fact – but what they found is well enough to fill a 2DVD package to bring the magic of Byron-fronted Heep available to everyone.

The actual DVD is a good mixture of Heep classics with a couple of more seldomly heard songs thrown into the mix. The sound and picture quality vary between different shows and to make the disc’s quality stay high throughout it’s length the producers have opted for a quite two-edged solution – that being the overdubbing of some songs. The overdubbing of course makes some videos look a bit silly as the vocals and playing of instruments don’t fit 100% together with the sound at some points – this makes it somewhat annoying. On the other hand – the original sound quality of these tracks had evidently gone so weak that with the original sound the clips would sound very weak, giving a false statement of such an energetic band. So, going for the less of two evils, the overdubbing was selected and in the end this solution was, in the end, perhaps the better one. On some songs it gets too visible, yet sometimes you can hardly notice it at all. And of course not all of the tracks are overdubbed, clips from 1975 USA tour for example have their original audio tracks and look and sound very good (apart from some now idiotic looking special effects on ‘Return To Fantasy’ , that were probably cool back in the 70’s).

But apart from the sound difficulties, the DVD is a real gem for any Uriah Heep fan. The band had a good fire burning and it is a pleasure to finally see David Byron in full swing, singing the songs with his legendary voice and showing some of his famous stage antics; the man is a real character on stage – in the midst of the songs he might first walk casually around the stage, then suddenly drop to the floor, pound himself to the head like a maniac or even throw a somersault! No wonder his stage presence was so highly appreciated. Some eerie chills take over the listener during the ’75 Stealin’ performance, where after the lyrics ‘Fighting, killing, wine and women are gonna put me to an early grave’ David utters prophetically ‘I’m going there anyway’ , quite excactly ten years before he was found dead in his home, his drinking problem finally having become his demise. Also, the material on this DVD is all that is left to show the fine talents of bass player Gary Thain, another casualty of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

The best songs IMO are from the ’75 US shows, very much because of the original sound – but the rest of the stuff is very enjoyable too. Heep’s famous show closer, Rock ‘n’ Roll medley with boosted-up 50’s rock songs for instance is nothing less than great, strangely edited ‘July Morning montage’ and ‘The Easy Road’ showcase Byron’s skills as a fine ballad singer, and heavier rockers like ‘So Tired’ and ‘Easy Livin’ make you nod your head approvingly.

In stores you will most likely find the normal one DVD package, but if you consider yourself a bigger Heep fan, you should definitely go and try to get your hands on the 2DVD special edition. The Limited Edition Bonus DVD features 18 more tracks and is basically all the rest of the stuff the producers found from the Byron times. Even in the back cover of the DVD the producers are sorry for the bad quality of many tracks (which is why they weren’t included on DVD 1) but still, they are not nearly as bad as you could expect – the sound is standard audience taped bootleg quality and thus quite listenable enough. There are even a couple of tracks from the ’74 Shepperton show, that was overdubbed on DVD 1, with their original sound – so the viewer can judge for himself which would’ve been the better option; overdubs or not. A couple of very short interviews, some guitar soloing etc. all kinds of bits and pieces the producers have been able to find. From a fan’s point of view this is a very considerate thing from them and the band – to release even the lower quality stuff for those fans who want to get it all. To end the Bonus DVD, are five promo tracks from David Byron’s Rough Diamond project that he tried to kickstart after he was kicked out of Heep due his tendency to be drunk most of the time. The Rough Diamond tracks are surprisingly good, both in quality and sound – also the songs themselves are really good (never heard them before myself). Once again Byron proves he was a top class vocalist, showing off his voice in these songs. If you need proof – check out the ballad ‘Seasong’ for instance. A chilling performance.

The overdubs are the biggest flaw on this DVD, also the sound and picture quality is quite poor at times (on CD2). But like the producers say, it’s either this or nothing at all – so I guess there’s no-one to blame about this, except the ruthless effects time itself has had on the film reels. Those who want to get a good quality (sound & picture-wise) Uriah Heep shows on DVD, should go for the one of the most recent ones. What this package is, though, is a great release for any bigger Uriah Heep fan and a much hoped for testimony of this band and especially of the great David Byron.

5k

UriahHeep

DVD 1
01. Sunrise ’73
02. Tears In My Eyes ’73
03. Traveller In Time ’73
04. Love Machine ’74
05. So Tired ’74
06. The Easy Road ’74
07. Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley ’74
08. Return To Fantasy ’75
09. Easy Livin’ ’75
10. Stealin’ ’75
11. Prima Donna ’75
12. Shady Lady ’75
13. July Morning Montage ’73-’76
14. Easy Livin’ ’74
15. Stealin’ ’74

DVD 2
01. High And Mighty Montage ’76
02. Midnight ’76
03. Sweet Lorraine ’76
04. Mick’s Guitar Workout ’76
05. Look At Yourself ’73
06. Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley ’73
07. Something Or Nothing ’74
08. July Morning ’72
09. US interview ’72
10. Easy Livin’ ’72
11. ABC Australia interview
12. I Won’t Mind ’74
13. The Wizard ’72
Rough Diamond (’77) :
14. Rock N Roll
15. Looking For You
16. Seasong
17. Scared
18. Lock ‘n’ Key

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About Kassu Kortelainen