URIAH HEEP — Look At Yourself (review)

URIAH HEEP — Look At Yourself album cover Album · 1971 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
After diving first into the possibilities of progressive rock mixed with the heavy blues rock of the 60s on the band’s first album of 1971 on the utterly unique “Salisbury,” URIAH HEEP crafted yet another album the same year. On LOOK AT YOURSELF, the band stepped back from the progressive rock influences a bit and went back down the road of hard rock with prog elements. The result was an album that would steer the course of the band’s sound of permanently settling into the hard rock style that would cement the band’s success beginning with the following “Demons and Wizards.” In between the two albums of 1971, drummer Keith Baker left the band not because of any dramatic altercations with the band or the musical direction but because he didn’t want to endure the extensive tour schedules. He was replaced by Ian Clarke of Cressida who turned out to have the extra drumming fiery passion that was conducive to the harder rocking style the band was settling upon.

While prog lovers salivated over “Salisbury,” the rock world wasn’t so keen upon this bizarre musical statement so early on and has to be relegated to classic status over time rather than having achieved instant success for URIAH HEEP. Seeing the writing on the wall, the band opted to pursue the more commercial approach of honing their chops into the less progressive arena rock which proved to be the right move financially speaking however on LOOK AT YOURSELF there are still plenty of progressive rock moments churning about despite no 16-minute closer with orchestral effects in sight. While the feisty guitar driven title track bursts onto the scene and sets the tone for the album as an organ driven heavy rock band that was in many ways similar to Deep Purple, the album’s two most progressive moments shine on the two tracks over eight minutes in length, the sublime “July In Morning” and “the heavier “Shadows of Grief” which exercised lengthy excursions into psychedelic space rock.

The album is dominated by heavy guitar driven blues rock with organ bombast. The title track starts things off whereas the following “I Wanna Be Free” displays the bands hard rock dynamics of mixing heavier rock with softer passages. The other major heavy rocker is the arena rock friendly “Tears In My Eyes” which breaks out the slide guitar effects and purveyor of massive walls of wah-wah which is perhaps the most Led Zeppelin sounding track of the album. Once again the dynamics alternate between the heavy and intermissions of space rock with interesting vocal changes. Although Mick Box’ guitar antics along with Hensley’s organ prowess dominate the URIAH HEEP sound, David Byron’s multi-octave vocal style also takes the music to higher levels than it could’ve achieved otherwise. The other heavy rocker is the closer “Love Machine” which pretty much portended the direction the band would continue for the rest of its career. The only track that doesn’t do it for me is the piano ballad “What Should Be Done,” which signifies the more commercial direction the band would settle upon.

For prog lovers, it doesn’t get any better than the third track “July Morning” which found a cameo appearance of Manfred Mann creating bizarre calliope riffs on a Minimoog synthesizer. The track starts out slow and seductive with Byron’s lyrics tenderly ratcheting up the tension as the track alternates between verses and chorus before erupting into a frenzy of virtuosic organ and guitar tradeoffs that make up the last four minutes of the track which continuously build up the tension until the track fades out. While it is absolutely phenomenal i find it odd that some of the lyrical content suddenly drops out in mid-verse only to be replaced by a series of la-la-la’s. For true URIAH HEEP fans, this one has been deemed the equivalent to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” or Deep Purple’s “Child in Time.” The track was even the inspiration for a Bulgarian event called Julaya where participants gather on the Black Sea coast on the 1st of July to watch the sun rise over the waters.

While the other prog standout is the almost 9 minute long “What Should Be Done” it is primarily based on an organ driven heavy rock standard but deviates into the realms of psychedelia which ultimately find their way back to the main rock theme. Lots of interesting musical interaction on this one with strong riffing, call and response instrumental prowess and interesting dynamic shifts. LOOK AT YOURSELF is easily one of the best albums in the entire URIAH HEEP canon. While i find “Salisbury” to be just a wee bit more interesting, there is no doubt that LOOK AT YOURSELF is an outstandingly crafted example of early 70s hard rock with prog influences and most likely the album of choice for those who didn’t appreciate the meandering nature of its predecessor. For my money, it plays it too safe at times but still offers an excellent tightrope act of progressive and hard rock with this album on the hard rock side of the fence. One thing is for sure. The year 1971 was when the band’s musical mojo was at fully fueled. Two excellent albums in one year is no small task and this band dished them out in near perfection.

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