Uriah Heep - Salisbury
Vertigo
Hard/Prog Rock
6 songs (37:59)
Release year: 1971
Uriah Heep
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The second album from perennially underrated British rockers Uriah Heep is a bit of an unfortunate one. It’s not Salisbury’s fault that it’s wedged between two of the band’s acclaimed classics, but stuck there it is, and so it can’t help but feel slightly inferior to them. Whether you prefer Very ‘Eavy... Very ‘Umble or Look At Yourself, you will like it better than Salisbury – a shame, as fans of the band will doubtless be aware, as it has more than enough to make it worthy of your time. More firmly in the Prog zone than before, it features a sixteen minute epic on one side, and streamlined the songwriting on the other to somewhat avoid the high drama of previous epics like Gypsy (as much as I like that classic tune, I can’t fault their decision) in favour of solid, heavy, rock songs that still stand with the best nearly forty years later.

For what it’s worth, you can partially blame Salisbury’s less-than-brilliance on keyboardist Ken Hensley getting the majority of writing credits this time around. Don’t be put off, however, as it’s hard not to be pleasantly overwhelmed by the falsetto overload that greets you on opener Bird Of Prey’s arrival, the band heavy as ever and more than capable of setting into a captivating rock groove behind vocalist David Byron, although it’s not the greatest opening track ever. In some ways, I’d have preferred following track The Park to open the album, starting off as it does with gentle acoustic guitars and very soft organs, building into a rather gorgeous ballad with a great bit of proggy keyboard action partway through. Time To Live is where things really kick off, guitar and organs backing a gloriously upbeat performance from Byron with a great solo from guitarist Mick Box. It’s annoyingly short, just under four minutes long when it could have gone on for another ten, but is followed by the great Lady In Black, which has a melancholic feel aided by the extended, and awesome, group wailing.

Everything throughout is very melodic and laid-back, with little of the stomp that fans of the band’s debut will expect, although the soloing that kicks off the excellent High Priestess (my personal favourite track from this album) makes up for it. The main attraction is, of course, the flamboyant sixteen-minute title track, which features a twenty-four piece orchestra and sounds more like the soundtrack to a Pink Panther film than you’d expect. It’s quite surprising how buried the band are beneath the orchestra (it takes about ten minutes to get a guitar solo) yet you don’t find yourself minding, but be forewarned that the non-band instruments do dominate for most of it, and those of a less classic cinematic mindset may find themselves bored, the sillies – experienced proggers should love it if they let it carry them along.

Annoyingly, there are substantial tracklisting differences between the usual and US versions of this album, the Americans not just getting some rather Metal artwork, but also High Priestess at the start of the album instead of Bird Of Prey and inserting Simon The Bullet Freak before the title track. If you come from my side of the pond, be sure to check the latter track out, as it’s a good one. Finally, stepping back and considering all in its whole, it’s hard to sum Salisbury up. Bear with me; I find that the more I listen to this band, the easier it gets to appreciate them. It’s certainly not a simple matter to churn out quality rock n’roll, and that the ‘Heep were doing it so expertly just two years into their career says a lot for them. Rock bands from the 70s are, of course, far more numerous than the Sabbath/Purple/Priest triumvirate that Metalheads typically worship, and although some names forgotten are best left that way, I can’t imagine many devotees of the decade would say the same for Uriah Heep. This is definitely worth hearing, but ultimately not worth hunting down unless you’re going through the ‘Heep discography as I am. Detract 15 from the score given if you are skipping around.

Killing Songs :
The Park, Time To Live, Lady In Black, High Priestess, Salisbury
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Uriah Heep that we have reviewed:
Uriah Heep - Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Uriah Heep - Wake The Sleeper reviewed by Marty and quoted 87 / 100
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