If you are looking to pick up some Uriah Heep records, there is no way around their 1972 piece Demons and Wizards. This one is probably one of the best, if not THE best album they made at that time. Or ever since for that matter, alongside The Magician’s Birthday, released surprisingly that same year.
And let’s not forget: The ’70s were the most productive set of years in the history of the band. On three occasions – 1971, 1972, and 1977 – Uriah Heep produced two albums. For each one of those years. And this is only for the studio albums, not counting the live productions and compilations. You need to muster the creative energy to get this done in the first place. I am impressed.
It is with Demons and Wizards, their fourth studio album, that Uriah Heep really took off. Creating their trademark sound that should accompany them throughout the ’70s. And all that after a somewhat rocky start with Very ‘eavy Very ‘umble, gallivanting around the musical landscape, unsure what the band wanted to become. And with their following albums still in soul-searching mode too.
Demons and Wizards – in contrast – showcases a self-assured swagger of a band sure of its capabilities. And really focused on creating the right sound for themselves. The success is of course based a lot on David Byron‘s stellar vocal cords, Mick Box on lead guitar, and Ken Hensley with his keyboard prowess and vocals. Not to forget Lee Kerslake providing the drum work. Lee – by the way – went on to feature on many of this band’s best-selling albums still to come in the future.
But not only that, the whole production demonstrates a chemistry that was not there before. A clear step up from the somewhat spotty Look At Yourself. This one – ironically – failed to do just what its title suggested, even if they scored two great hits. The title song and July Morning, which both resound to this day.
Demons and Wizards officially sold some 3 million records globally! A huge success. Of that number, about 500 thousand records were sold in the US alone. The record also hit the charts pretty hard, getting to rank 23 in the US and climbing to no 20 in the UK. Interestingly – or ironically – the Finnish nation of the cold North took Demons and Wizards on board at the top-level. These guys already showed an affinity of what was to become a powerful metal movement in later years. It is interesting to note that Uriah Heep remained at no 1 in Finland from Salisbury through to The Magician’s Birthday. After that, it appears that the band fell off Thor’s podium somewhat. A pity, but what can you do.
Roger Dean designed the album cover, apparently depicting a phallus and a hidden vagina in some of the versions. Be this as it will, the art is a trademark Dean creation of that time. He is by the way still active to this day and the original artwork still available for sale, if you are interested. The lyrics on the album are remarkably thoughtful, I like it.
Now, this really is Easy Livin’. Or is it?
Well, it kind of is. Uriah Heep start off with The Wizard and – bang – land a classic with their first song already. In essence, Demons and Wizards just kicks off with a hit. Going straight off to single stardom! You will even forgive them for their 2nd track Traveller in Time, which is bland and boring.
‘Cause then we will get to the real hit single Easy Livin’ that scavenged the charts like the fucking undead on a bad day. Already the first line “This is a thing I’ve never known before called easy livin”’ usually gets on my good side. The track hit straight at # 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Not bad for a startup at the time. Okay, I get it: They were not quite a startup anymore, but still. Now the US performance may seem impressive, but in Europe this single just stayed in the charts, hitting down from rank 23 to first in some countries. God, this is just up there with Look at Yourself (the title song of the 1971 album just a few months earlier).
Circle of Hands is pretty good, too, on Demons and Wizards. Some reviewers opine that this is the best on the album, but I would disagree. Whilst not bad, I cannot find the excitement that The Wizard or Easy Livin’ display. Also, on the progressive side, this is nothing to write home about. If you want progressive, then try Paradise/The Spell. This is funky and good Progressive Rock. Of course, somewhere in between, you have Rainbow Demon, which is somewhat subdued, but not bad after all. The only real filler I could find on this album is All my Life. The fuck were they thinking? On the other hand, if it is the only one, then these are only minor quibbles.
Demons and Wizards really got this steamboat called Uriah Heep firmly on its course to success down a stellar and distinguished career. Continuing, as it turns out, to this present day. And it came a very long way in a very short time. From some journalists wanting to commit suicide because of the bad quality of this band in the beginning, to high praise (by the very same outfit, by the way) for this very same album. You got it all.
Demons and Wizards let the band set sails to new coastlines and adventures unknown. But of course, nothing comes from nothing: Uriah Heep were able to finally hit pay dirt by mining their mutual potential and to create something special. A classic record in my book that should have a place in a music collection of any Rock and Metal fan. Enjoy!
Ed’s note: The album made it on the 10 Most Popular Posts @ RockmusicRaider, editions I and II. And on the Old’n’Tasty series as well. Also, if you would like to find out how the individual tracks on this album fared, do check out the Top 10 for Uriah Heep.
Record Rating: 9/10 | Label: Bronze Records | Web: Official Site
Release Date: 19 May 1972