Top 10 Uriah Heep Songs
The rock and roll gospel teaches us that the holy trinity of British heavy rock is comprised of Black Sabbath (heavy metal), Led Zeppelin (hard rock) and Deep Purple (some of both, plus a few wildcards), but where does that leave fellow genre pioneers Uriah Heep, then? Somewhere among the archangels, we suppose, since, like the ‘Big Three,’ they, too, contributed to the very foundations of heavy rock from the very start – way before future legends like Judas Priest, Motorhead or Rush even entered stage left. Suffice it to say that Heep’s position in the heavy rock firmament is unquestioned but often underrated and simply overlooked; so allow us to redress the balance by way of this list of the Top 10 Uriah Heep Songs.
One of the difficulties for fans wishing to approach Uriah Heep’s vast catalog is that it’s so darn, well, VAST. Still going strong both in the studio and on stage, despite advancing age and endless lineup changes, Heep have peppered the past three decades with some strong material. But when forced to highlight just 10 tunes, there was room for but-one from the post-David Byron era and we decided to go with ‘Abominog’s’ hard-charging opener, ‘Too Scared to Run.’ So sue us, or swap in ‘The Wizard,’ ‘Come Away Melinda’ or ‘Stealin’ instead of berating us below.
And what better way to dive into the multi-faceted wonders of the Byron-fronted Heep lineup than via this epic centerpiece of the ‘Look at Yourself’ album? Showcasing the band’s broad shades of dark and light and Byron’s formidable vocal acrobatics, ‘July Morning’ was such a massive hit in Bulgaria that its title has become synonymous with an unofficial holiday, which alone would justify its inclusion on our list of the Top 10 Uriah Heep Songs. Every year, scores of Bulgarians travel to the Black Sea for a glimpse of July’s first rising sun in reference to the song - no joke!
This second single from Uriah Heep’s fifth studio album, ‘The Magician’s Birthday’ barely edged out its first single, ‘Blind Eye,’ from our list (Aaargh! This is hard!) and climbed no further than no. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it has earned a place in the hearts of both fans and critics thanks to its distinctive, wavering Moog synthesizer melody and solo, courtesy of Ken Hensley.
Actually, for all this talk of David Byron thus far in our top 10 list, Uriah Heep was really Hensley’s band (he previously of Toe Fat fame, as his dominant songwriting, keyboard and guitar contributions spread across the band’s early catalog can attest. ‘Tears in My Eyes,’ again from 1971’s ‘Look at Yourself,’ offers particularly strong evidence to support his manifold talents, and its signature slide guitar part was pretty unique and innovative, to boot.
Perhaps Heep’s finest single of the mid-1970s, ‘Return to Fantasy’ helped push the album bearing its name into the U.K. Top 10 – the highest chart position of the band’s career to date. But it proved something of a last gasp for both the original core lineup and its increasingly troubled singer. Though he came through on record with a very poignant and sensitive performance, Byron was already locked in the grip of the alcohol addiction that would soon spell his ejection from Uriah Heep and, some years later, tragically take his life.
We have one more "candle" to blow out on ‘The Magician’s Birthday’ cake, and it had to be that album’s powerful opening statement, ‘Sunrise,’ an enduring staple of virtually every tour and live album later issued by Uriah Heep. Another Hensley tour de force, the song perfectly illustrates Heep’s uncanny ability to balance hard rock’s directness with prog’s dynamic variety, then pack it all into an instantly memorable gem.
Yes, we were saving our first mention of ‘72s stellar ‘Demons and Wizards’ LP for the final stretch of our list of Top 10 Uriah Heep Songs. ‘Easy Livin’’ could very well be the least adventurous composition in this entire list, but anyone of sane mind would agree that resistance is futile in the face of its inexorable attack and blunt force assault on the senses. It’s no coincidence that more bands have covered this song over the years than perhaps any other in Heep’s discography.
Proof that first impressions really go a long way, this opening track from Heep’s 1970 debut, the irreverently titled ‘...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble,’ remains many a diehard fan’s all-time favorite. While lacking in some of the subtlety, and certainly the refinements, of latter-day Uriah Heep, ‘Gypsy’ instead packs a wallop so fearsome and cruel, there’s no doubting its vital importance amongst the building blocks of heavy metal.
One of the most dramatic songs in Uriah Heep’s entire canon, and early heavy metal as a whole, ‘Bird of Prey’ speaks (or rather shouts) for itself on the strength of David Byron’s histrionic falsettos – not to mention Mick Box’s churning power chords and Ken Hensley’s paranoid, vertigo-inducing keys. First released as the U.K. B-side for the ‘Gypsy’ single, thus knocking it off the band’s debut full-length in that country, it did appear on ‘…Very ‘Eavy’s’ U.S. edition before resurfacing as the U.K. opener for 1971’s sophomore ‘Salisbury’ album…oh, never mind all that, just listen to the song!
The title track of Uriah Heep’s third album tops our list of the Top 10 Uriah Heep Songs by flawlessly coalescing the heavy-handed exploration of the band’s first albums into an irresistible commercial nugget. Yet it simultaneously points the way forward into increasing diversity, as evidenced by its coda’s manic percussive climax. Also one of the band’s sharpest pieces of social commentary, the song backed up its lyrics with the album cover’s clever reflective foil ‘mirror’ effect, which invariably produced a distorted image of anyone who looked at it. In retrospect, perhaps this too was a reflection of Uriah Heep’s distorted, unclear standing amidst the heavy rock pantheon.