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Full Throttle Rock

Album Review: Uriah Heep - Outsider

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 12:30 AM

Uriah Heep - Outsider

Written by Antony Scholefield


For those who are too young to remember - or for those who are old enough to remember but were too busy having fun - I'll remind everyone that Uriah Heep are one pillar of hard rock's 'Big Four'. The others are Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. It's enviable company.

Uriah Heep's lineup has revolved over the decades, with guitarist Mick Box the only constant. Still, the attitude remains true, even in their 24th studio album, Outsider. It's not just a worthy successor to their previous work, but a ripping album in itself.

The record opens with 'Speed Of Sound', but it's not the tyre-burning metal-fest you'd expect. It's mid-tempo and upbeat, riding high on Bernie Shaw's smooth vocals and Phil Lanzon's breezy keyboard. The band have polished off their more abrasive edges and that's not necessarily a drawback.

Lead single 'One Minute' starts with a slow piano refrain, Shaw's vocals, and nothing else for the first minute. Eventually the heavy machinery joins in, but the lyrics are clever and powerful enough to carry the song through until then.

I'd argue that the lyrics are Outsider's greatest asset. They're smart enough to separate the similar tracks - and there are a bunch of those in the middle. They're still good, though. Most are built on the type of manic rhythm section that Winger have been working with recently, and 'The Law' features one of Mick Box's maddest, funkiest guitar breaks.

'Rock The Foundation', 'Jessie' and 'Looking At You' are three later-album highlights. They've got the groovy riffs and the sharp lyrics, but it's the keyboard work that makes them. It just ticks that final box. Full marks, lads.

The band cut loose with 'Can't Take That Away', a rollicking rocker that'd sound fantastic in a car or truck barrelling down the freeway at 120km/h. It's got the same frenzied energy as classic Uriah Heep track 'Easy Livin'.

Really, it's difficult to pick holes in the record. 'Kiss The Rainbow' is a tad corny, but it's the penultimate track on the album, and you're perfectly in the mood for corn at that stage. Closer 'Say Goodbye' ends too abruptly, but that's more quibbling.

I don't know whether Uriah Heep are aging gracefully, or whether Outsider is just naturally smoother than their other records. It doesn't matter. It's still brilliantly composed and executed. Whether you're young or old, I recommend you get amongst it.

Categories: Album Reviews

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