Exposé Online banner

Uriah Heep — Totally Driven
(Uriah Heep Records no#, 2001/2015, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-01-16

Totally Driven Cover art

My history with Uriah Heep goes back to Demons and Wizards. Memory is hazy, but I might very well have bought the LP on a whim based on the Roger Dean cover art and the fantasy-oriented song titles. When I was a teenager, that could be enough. Luckily, I ended up really liking the album. The way the electric and acoustic guitars were combined, plus Ken Hensley’s Hammond organ work, hooked me. When The Magician’s Birthday came out, I scooped it up, and loved it too. On this one, Mick Box’s outstanding guitar solos were my favorite part, particularly the epic workout on the title track. I picked up Sweet Freedom on its release, but found it mostly a let-down, with more predictable songs – just all-around less inspired sounding. That was pretty much it for me. I’m not sure why I never went back and checked out the earlier stuff. I know they kept releasing albums, but never felt inclined to seek them out. In 2001, the then-current version of the band recorded Acoustically Driven and Electrically Driven, live sets covering tunes from the band’s entire history. During the preparations for those concerts, they recorded versions of the tunes, which were released on the Classic Rock Legends label with the misleading title Remasters.

With Totally Driven, the band has taken those recordings and released them in a lovely package with beautiful artwork. The band in 2001 consisted of guitarist Mick Box and drummer Lee Kerslake, who had been with the band almost continually since 1972, bassist Trevor Bolder (a member for most of the period since 1976), keyboardist Phil Lanzon, and lead vocalist Bernie Shaw (both of whom joined in the mid-80s). The band is augmented by a string quartet, flute, pedal steel, uilleann pipes, percussion, and extra acoustic guitar on various tracks. If the defining elements of Uriah Heep’s sound are Box’s distinctive guitar, heavy keyboards (especially Hammond organ), a wailing lead vocalist, and heavy reliance on multiple backing singers (the other band members), then this is quintessential Heep. The material reaches all the way back to their debut with “Gypsy” and “Come away Melinda,” and features the early 70s albums pretty heavily, followed in number by 90s tracks from Different World, Sea of Light, and Sonic Origami, with the 80s getting short shrift. When presented in this manner, all played by the same band, the compositions seem of a piece, without any jarring inconsistencies in style; they range from mellower tunes like “Rain” to all-out rockers like “Traveller in Time,” but all fit together. One thing I notice is that they avoid the clichés of the stadium-friendly power ballad even on the slower tracks (maybe those songs were on the 80s albums that aren’t represented, and the band wisely chose to ignore them, or maybe Uriah Heep never got into that). The added strings and other instruments are generally not obtrusive, though they’re used to good effect at times.

There are no multi-section progressive suites, no extended instrumental sections, and no odd meters, just a band who has survived showing us why classic rock became classic in the first place: Good songs well played, impeccably arranged but not too sanitized by production. The sound quality is outstanding, as befits a live-in-the-studio recording, and the musicians are spot on. The backing vocals are especially impressive, as they have been from the beginning with this band. As I said, I can’t speak to large segments of Uriah Heep’s discography, so this collection fills in the gaps just fine, providing a taste of what they consider their best moments. And I suspect that long-time fans will enjoy these renditions. My only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more emphasis on Box’s playing – his solo at the beginning of “July Morning” is a welcome taste of what he can do with a wah-wah pedal, but is all too fleeting.


Filed under: Archives, 2015 releases, 2001 recordings

Related artist(s): Uriah Heep

Latest news

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Anekdoten - Vemod – Anekdoten are a new four piece from Sweden. This album was recorded early this year, and from what I've heard, they have been highly revered by, among others, their countrymen Änglagård. What do...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues