CD Review: Uriah Heep – Live at Koko

CD Review: Uriah Heep – Live at Koko
Frontiers Records Srl
All Access Rating: A-

Uriah Heep - Live at Koko 2015
Most of the face of that clock on the cover of Uriah Heep's upcoming two CD/DVD concert release Live at Koko is gone, revealing rusty gears and a shoeless man walking the rim, his arms mimicking the hour and minute hands above him and seemingly struggling against time like a mime pretending to be at the mercy of a strong wind.

One of the flagships of '70s progressive hard-rock, although they were actually formed in 1969 by guitarist Mick Box and vocalist David Byron, Uriah Heep has better things to do than count the days, weeks, months or even years until its certain end, as the invigorating and unbridled Live at Koko resuscitates their reputation as a driven and powerful concert act – no matter their advanced age.

While their middling 2014 studio album Outsider indicated that maybe they were running out of ideas, this career-spanning set from Frontiers Records Srl at the very least confirms the notion that Uriah Heep's combustible band chemistry has never been more dynamic – the pulse-pounding, one-two punch of opener "Against All Odds" and "Overload" hitting listeners right in the chops and buckling their knees. Their skillful brilliance is still miles ahead of most of the competition, with Box's solar-powered, squealing guitar forays and Phil Lanzon's smoldering, storming organ making roaring sonic furnaces out of "Between Two Worlds," "Can't Take That Away," "Free and Easy" and, of course, the driving, ever-popular closer "Easy Living."

"Sunrise" and "Stealin'" – the latter a major Top 40 hit in both the U.K. and the U.S. off 1973's Sweet Freedom album – emerge from their condition as slumbering legends and grow into tuneful awakenings in the this sultry London 2014 performance, raising up with sweet vocal harmonies and dewey, yearning melodies. On a quiet and calm "July Morning," the crowd can be hearing singing along joyously, just before the song surges with power, transforming into a fervent and glorious hymn. Poetic and deeply reflective, "Lady in Black," so beautifully written by former member Ken Hensley, drifts in next, with its infectious acoustic guitar strumming and expansive instrumentation enhancing the telling of this lyrical tale through the superb interpretation of vocalist Bernie Shaw, who is absolutely sublime here.

Contemporaries of iconic bands Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the durable Uriah Heep never quite seems to get its due from critics and rock historians. The sweltering Live at Koko offers them a chance to reassess what has always been an underrated catalog, with few missteps.
– Peter Lindblad

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