The celebration of 50 years of Uriah Heep continues with the release of two of their 1970s albums in the shape of 1973’s Sweet Freedom and the 1975 album Return To Fantasy on limited edition heavyweight picture disc by BMG.
Uriah Heep – Sweet Freedom / Return To Fantasy (BMG)
Release Date: 20 January 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Both albums have been given a loving retouch and stand as true collector’s items. They also provide a real opportunity to revisit some of the Heep’s early works that may not hold as much affection as those classics, Demons and Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday or Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble.
Uriah Heep’s sixth album Sweet Freedom was originally released in September 1973. Although there was criticism from critics at the time about the domination of Ken Hensley’s keyboards throughout the album, for me, it’s one that still stands up fantastically today. The band are cohesive, the vocals of David Byron are superb, and there is some of the band’s heaviest material to date included. The thundering Seven Stars exemplifies why at the time, Heep could compete with the best around.
Sweet Freedom contains a couple of Heep’s most loved songs in the title track and the awesome Stealin’, which was still a highlight of the band’s shows in 2022. It’s a barnstorming rocker, which you can’t help but sing along to. Circus shows the other side of Heep, a psychedelic fused folk song that sees Mick Box flex his acoustic chops. It also featured in the acoustic part of Heep’s 50th-anniversary shows. A final highlight to select is the swirling Pilgrim, a brooding seven-minute story that sees Heep at their finest.
Sweet Freedom is available to pre-order from https://uriahheep.lnk.to/sweetfreedomPR.
Skipping past the disappointing Wonderworld, the second album in this latest release is 1975’s Return To Fantasy, the band’s eighth album and the first of two to feature the late John Wetton, probably most well known for his role in the band Asia who sold over ten million copies of their debut album Asia in 1982 [tell me you don’t singalong to Heat Of The Moment].
Return To Fantasy contains several choice cuts, and again Hensley’s keyboards are prominent throughout. That doesn’t really give me any problem, for the music here is once more beautifully crafted, and the keys have always been integral to Heep’s unique sound. Box’s guitar work on the title track and Shady Lady, a stripped-back rocker, always brings a smile. There’s also some creative interplay between Box and Hensley on Devil’s Daughter, which is very much of its time but still sounds great.
Jump across a few tracks, and there’s some exceptional slide work from Mr Box on Showdown, another track that demonstrated that when it came to solid rockers, Heep did it as well as anyone. It’s followed by the ballad Why Did You Go, which provides the ideal counterbalance, with Hensley’s keyboard work adding layered depth.
Return To Fantasy is available to pre-order from https://uriahheep.lnk.to/returntofantasyPR.
With both albums coming with the original audio and with retouched original artwork, Sweet Freedom and Return To Fantasy are both excellent additions to the collection.
As Uriah Heep ease into 2023, there is much more to come. Their 25th album, Chaos & Colour, is due out at the end of January, an astonishing achievement for one of the UK’s most loved and special hard rock bands.
Sweet Freedom tracklist
- One Day
- Sweet Freedom
- If I Had the Time
- Seven Stars
Return To Fantasy tracklist
- Return To Fantasy
- Shady Lady
- Devil’s Daughter
- Beautiful Dream
- P rima Donna
- Your Turn to Remember
- Why Did You Go
- A Year or a Day