British rock legends Uriah Heep are well into the throes of their 40th anniversary celebrations. We've already had Celebration, which saw the current line-up of the band recording brand new versions of a dozen of their classic tracks, alongside two new tunes, and now there's a brand spanking new, 36 track compilation album for your delectation.
Now I know what you're thinking. And yes, you're right, there are about two hundred Uriah Heep compilations on the shelf. I mean, off the top of my head, and without craning my neck too far looking in the Heep corner, there's Loud Proud And Heavy: The Best of Uriah Heep, The Very Best of Uriah Heep, Revelations: The Uriah Heep Anthology, The Best Of… Part 1 and, of course, um, The Best Of… Part 2. Plus many, many more. But this one is actually a bit different.
For a start, there's at least one track from every studio album throughout the band's entire career. That takes us from their first full length album release in 1970 (Very '˜Eavy, Very 'Umble) right up through to their critically acclaimed return to the studio a couple of years back, Wake The Sleeper. Which means even Conquest gets a look with "It Ain't Easy" putting in an appearance on Disc 2.
As someone who first encountered Uriah Heep with a purchase of the Abominog Junior EP on vinyl, it also means there is an ample sampling of the eighties music I loved so much. In fact, they actually manage to get all the way to track 5 before David Byron puts in an appearance, after Pete Goalby (twice), Bernie Shaw and John Lawton take care of the first four numbers. A treat for me, and an unusual way for a Uriah Heep compilation to go.
The album avoids any notion of chronology, so the tracks can jump several decades from "Return To Fantasy" (1975) to "Words In The Distance" (1995), and then back to "The Other Side Of Midnight" (1983). It works to a point, although with early eighties Uriah Heep being a vastly different beast from what had gone before and what came after, it can come across as a bit disjointed. However, to a Uriah Heep fan, there is something delightful about the funk rock of "Stay On Top" going into the Lawton era "Fallen Angel" to be followed by the progtastic Byron era number, "The Wizard."
Sole remaining founder member, Mick Box, has been fully involved in the release, and the sleeve notes by Dave Ling are refreshingly honest, even acknowledging the bands post Conquest split. I did bridle slightly at the inclusion of "You Are The Only One" from the Wake The Sleeper sessions, which sees its very first release here, and pretty much ensures that Uriah Heep fans have to buy it.
That aside, this is a truly excellent compilation which picks up on a few tracks I hadn't played in years like "Blood Red Roses" and "Cry Freedom" from Raging Silence. It would have been nice to pick up on a few more of the relatively unknown songs. After all, "The Time Will Come" is here, and that was only the B-side to "Return to Fantasy" in some countries. I certainly would have included "Love Stealer," their non-album single from 1980. Because if ever a song was a low point in Uriah Heep’s career, then covering a single by "New York Groove" hitmakers Hello was it! Although getting from Uriah Heep to Kiss was made a whole lot easier in "Six Degrees Of Separation"! It also made the Abominog comeback all the more remarkable.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a great compilation, and probably Heep's best one to date. On The Rebound: 40th Anniversary Anthology is a worthy showcase for Uriah Heep's remarkable career in rock.