2.5 out of 5 Stars!
Unfortunately, the “swan-song” release from the Dave Byron-era of Uriah Heep is a mixed bag.
If I was rating Side 1 alone, I’d give the album at least a “4.5” rating, since all of the songs are on par with the best of Heep from the early “glory days.” Although I was never a huge fan of John Wetton’s “borderline off-key” vocals, the opening song, featuring his voice, isn’t all that bad musically, especially since Dave Byron steps in and sings the bridge section, which saves the track and “ups” its overall rating. Also, “Misty Eyes” and “Midnight” (with its awesome bass riffs, ala John Wetton) are additional tracks that stand right up there with the other “best of Heep” songs. And finally, the last track off Side 1, the highlight song, is “Weep In Silence,” which in fact, is probably one of the best tracks they have ever recorded. It’s also probably one of the best songs to display Dave Byron’s chops as a lead vocalist, with great lyrics and song structure. Definitely one of the highlights of the band’s career.
But Side 2, however, is almost unlistenable, and deserves nothing better than a “2” rating—bordering on amateurish status, probably the worst set of tracks the band ever released, and certainly not songs you might expect from a band of this high caliber, but more from a garage band “attempting” to sound professional. This is definitely Ken Hensley at his most “uninspired” when it comes to songwriting—you can tell he was on the verge of leaving the band—an “either Byron gets canned or I leave in protest” statement if I ever heard one. Indeed, Side 2 stands about even with the horrific “Conquest” album that came several years later, just cringe-worthy overall, and the album that finally caused Hensley to flee for good.
To have such diverse collections of songs on opposite sides of this album is one of the most bizarre phenomena of this band’s career.
Therefore, Side 1 deserves plenty of praise, whereas Side 2 deserves all the slamming the world can conceive. A shame, since (as mentioned earlier) the song “Weep In Silence” is probably amongst the Top 10, if not the Top 5, when it comes to the best Heep songs of all time. It’s a shame that Byron’s last offering with the band is such a mixed bag, especially considering the previous album (Return To Fantasy) was one of their best.