Originating from London, veteran progressive / hard rock band Uriah Heep were formed at the tail of end the Sixties. Guitarist Mick Box, lead vocalist David Byron, drummer Alex Napier and bassist Paul Newton were joined by keyboard player Ken Hensley in time for the band’s debut album “…Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble” which was released in the summer of 1970.
The group are still going strong in 2015, and in the decades since 1970 there have been numerous line-up changes, over twenty studio albums and nearly as many live releases. As with many successful acts that have been around for this length of time there are far more compilation albums around than albums of original material.
Box is the sole remaining founder member and has been joined since 1986 by lead vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboard player Phil Lanzon. All three appear on the band’s latest release, which is the double disc set “Totally Driven”.
The recordings on this album were actually made sometime around 2000 / 2001 by Box, Shaw and Lanzon together with drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Trevor Bolder – a line-up that existed from 1986 until as recently as 2007 – and were actually released in October 2001 under the bizarre title of “Remasters : The Official Anthology”.
That release quickly disappeared from view – likely due at least in part to it appearing to be yet another compilation of old material. And in a sense that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here. The difference being, of course, that these are not the original recordings but re-recordings made by the aforementioned line-up.
According to Box the band recorded these versions “…while we were in preparation for the ‘Acoustically Driven’ and ‘Electrically Driven’ concerts…” The band’s website states that the recordings were made in 2001 but the “Acoustically Driven” live album was recorded in December 2000 and the “Electrically Driven” one in March 2001.
Given Box’s statement I guess it’s more likely that these tracks were committed to tape in 2000. Certainly all but six of the numbers recorded then featured across the two live albums, so I can see that it would be relatively easy to make this album whilst preparing for the relevant gigs, especially in terms of getting to know the acoustic-based versions. That said, one of the tracks from the acoustic gig / album, “Traveller In Time”, is definitely an electrically based version.
I imagine that many listeners dislike re-recordings of earlier material, preferring the sound and magic of the originals. This is something I briefly touched on when discussing Whitesnake’s “Purple Album” earlier this year.
What makes this release slightly more perplexing I suppose is that although on the one hand I can see why the band may want to make these versions more widely available, on the other hand they have made further re-recordings since, on their 2009 “Celebration” album. That album was made by almost the same line-up (with current drummer Russell Gilbrook replacing Lee Kerslake who’d left in 2007 due to health issues) and duplicates 10 of the songs contained here within its 14 tracks.
Whilst the “Remasters…” version was sequenced with the tracks in chronological order in terms of their original incarnations, on “Totally Driven” they have been moved around, making the album feel less like a greatest hits record in some ways – which I feel is a benefit to the 2015 version. Where it falls down slightly is the inclusion of nine songs that were originally recorded by the line-up responsible for the re-recordings, making those seem rather superfluous.
None of those songs were re-re-recorded for “Celebration”, so of the remaining eighteen tracks, only eight are exclusive to this release. Having said all that, I believe that there is room in the band’s catalogue for both collections. “Totally Driven” gives a wider overview of the band’s whole career and, although it doesn’t contain any new material (“Celebration” has two new songs), the songs repeated in 2009 are different enough to stand up on their own merits.
There are a lot of classic songs here – “Gypsy”, “July Morning”, “Easy Livin'”, “Lady In Black”, “Sunrise” etc. etc. If you take the view that originals can’t be bettered and so bands shouldn’t try, then none of this will matter as you’ll stick with the source material. For a clean, audience free, collection by what was the band’s longest-serving line-up of many of the songs they performed in concert regularly, however, this ticks all the boxes.
“Totally Driven” tracklist:
1. Gypsy / 2. Traveller In Time / 3. Bird Of Prey / 4. Sunrise / 5. Rain / 6. Come Away Melinda / 7. Return To Fantasy / 8. Look At Yourself / 9. Come Back To Me / 10. The Easy Road / 11. Sweet Freedom / 12. Why Did You Go? / 13. July Morning / 14. Easy Livin’ / 15. Between Two Worlds / 16. Only The Young / 17. Different World / 18. Love In Silence / 19. Blind Eye / 20. Wonderworld / 21. Stealin’ / 22. Time Of Revelation / 23. Cross That Line / 24. More Fool You / 25. Universal Wheels / 26. The Golden Palace / 27. Lady In Black
1 and 6 originally from “…Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble” (1970) / 2 and 14 originally from “Demons And Wizards” (1972) / 3 and 27 originally from “Salisbury” (1971) / 4, 5 and 19 originally from “The Magician’s Birthday” (1972) / 7 and 12 originally from “Return To Fantasy” (1975) / 8 and 13 originally from “Look At Yourself” (1971) / 9 originally from “Fallen Angel” (1978) / 10 and 20 originally from “Wonderworld” (1974) / 11 and 21 originally from “Sweet Freedom” (1973) / 15, 16 and 26 originally from “Sonic Origami” (1998) / 17 and 23 originally from “Different World” (1991) / 18, 22 and 25 originally from “Sea Of Light” (1995) / 24 originally from “Raging Silence” (1989)