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Uriah Heep’s Transatlantic Progress

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Audiences in their native UK were a little slower to pick up on the emerging rock force of Uriah Heep at the turn of the 1970s than their American fans. After two lower-charting albums in the US, on this day 43 years ago they entered the Billboard chart with what became their first top 100 album there, ‘Look At Yourself.’

Neither the band’s 1970 debut ‘Very ‘eavy, Very ‘umble’ nor 1971’s ‘Salisbury’ made the bestsellers at home, but the first (renamed after the band for the US market) reached No. 186 there and the second No. 103. Encouraged by their American recognition, Heep were releasing their albums in America, on Mercury, before they were available in the UK, on Bronze. Just eight months after ‘Salisbury,’ they returned with ‘Look At Yourself,’ their second album of 1971.

Uriah Heep single

Keyboard player and guitarist Ken Hensley wrote most of the new record, as he did with the majority of the band’s material in this period, with Mick Box on lead guitar and David Byron on lead vocals. Keith Baker’s place on drums had been taken by Iain Clark, with Paul Newton again on bass.

Remembered for songs like the title track, the ten-minute ‘July Morning’ and eight-minute ‘Shadows Of Grief’ (the latter two co-written by Hensley and Byron), the album also featured some notable guest appearances. Three members of Osibisa, the Afro-pop crossover band who themselves released their debut album that year, contributed percussion on the title track, while Manfred Mann, coming out of his pop era and heading towards the Earthband, played synthesiser on ‘July Morning.’

The album went on to peak at No. 93 in the US and, released in the UK in October, became their first domestic chart album, albeit very briefly, with one week on the survey at No. 39. Much better was to come, on both sides of the Atlantic: Heep’s next four albums all went gold in the US and, in the summer of 1975, they made the album top ten at home for the only time, with ‘Return To Fantasy.’

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. gordon campbell

    September 26, 2014 at 2:32 am

    Uriah Heep’s album Look at Yourself in my mind is 1 of the top 20 albums of the 70’s for sure. Would love to see this band live again in the USA… gc

  2. Keith

    September 27, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Only the 2nd album I ever brought, now have near on every album Uriah Heap produced. This however, is still in my mind one of their best!

  3. Steve G.

    October 30, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    One of the most underrated bands ever. Maybe they produced too much too fast but lots of excellent songs. July Morning is a classic!

  4. Paul

    January 20, 2015 at 5:04 am

    you said it Steve, Heep is one of the most underrated bands that came out of England, and some think that they are not that good. however, I tend to disagree on what the critics say, and that Heep put some well-known songs on the planet. and to have a lot of their albums that have gone gold (especially their early stuff), they have been eligible for the rock & roll hall of fame since 1995. it’s supposed to be that a group becomes eligible for the Hall 25 yrs. after the release of their 1st album. I know that if I were to go on wikipedia and look ’em up, I’ll be able to pick out what the real good ones are.

  5. Joe

    February 9, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Steve
    I agree with what you are saying about “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” (shame) But, don’t expect them to anything right in the near future….Heep is a great band, but if Deep Purple can’t get in….need I say anymore ? Damn shame.

  6. Ed Daly Folsom Pa.

    February 9, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Heep is very under rated mostly because their manager Gerry Bron was a moron and didn’t know how to promote them properly ! Magicians Birthday is also incredible. FYI there is also a DVD out of The Magicians Birthday.Recorded Dec. 7th 2001.Featured Ken Hensley,John Lawton,Thijs Van Leer(formerly of Focus).Great concert ! And yes they do Magicians Birthday!

  7. Mark Bonavita

    July 5, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    My cousin threw out 3 albums around 1973; McLoughlin’s Birds of Fire, Zappa Live at the Roxy and Elsewhere, and Uriah Heep Look at Yourself. I saved them, and it changed how and what I listened to. I became a long time Heep fan, buying anything on day one of release, sometimes defending my choice to my Top 40 friends! David Byron was the epitome of the ‘front man.’ Listening to Zappa and John M lead me on all kinds of music adventures, and it turns out I was born to Prog! Thanks cuz!

  8. brendan kilcoyne

    April 2, 2016 at 5:18 am

    I loved all those Heep albums, all the way through The Magician’s Birthday. I also loved Manfred Mann, and had no idea that the beautiful synthesizer work on “July Morning” was his. That makes me feel good to know. Modern rock music is an atrocity compared to the sixties through eighties. So many good bands in so many genres in those days.

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