The Magician’s Birthday

Uriah Heep

Mercury, 1973

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Only a couple of songs from Uriah Heep – “Easy Livin’” and “Stealin’” – ever get played on normal classic rock radio. The albums that those came from bookend The Magician’s Birthday, which was the band’s first of two albums from 1973, and although it didn’t have any hits, it remains a decent slice of secondhand progressive rock.

A Rolling Stone review once called this band the real-life Spinal Tap, and while that may be true as far as personnel, the music never really devolves into that level of camp or prog-rock cliché. The music here is mostly solid Deep Purple-influenced rock, up-tempo numbers trading places with some balladry, nothing exceeding five minutes or getting into strange lyrical territory until the closing title track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Sunrise” fails at its attempt to create an atmosphere or a sense of foreboding, mostly because of David Byron’s wailing. Not only does he come off as a second-rate Ian Gillan, but the song doesn’t deserve such a florid attempt. Better is the boogie rock of “Spider Woman,” the stately ballad “Rain,” and the driving acoustic guitars of “Blind Eye,” the best song here.

“Tales” is another highlight; while it never rises to the heights of anything on Machine Head, it offers solid ’70s rock all the same, and how you feel about that genre is how you’ll likely feel about this song. Filler cuts like “Sweet Lorraine” and “Echoes In The Dark” repeat the themes of the other songs, to lesser results.

The closing track is hopeless, a 10-minute story piece with three parts that have little to do with each other. The first part veers from a standard prog-rock intro (something about trolls, or magicians, or fairies) to the band playing kazoos and singing the words “Happy Birthday To You” over and over. It then veers into some jamming and Byron’s warning “By the powers of darkness, I will steal what is mine,” before the piece closes with an overblown climax that falls completely flat. By that point, you will be laughing too hard to care.

Still, that song shouldn’t ruin what comes before. With solid guitar work and a lack of clichés in the middle part of the album, The Magician’s Birthday offers a few gems for fans of this band, Deep Purple and/or ’70s hard/prog rock.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2013 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury, and is used for informational purposes only.