Review Summary: Another excellent addition to Uriah Heep's collection. Magician's Birthday, while not as strong as its predecessor, still offers plenty of highlights and is an excellent release on its own.
For Uriah Heep, 1972's Demons And Wizards
was a massive statement. After multiple lineup changes and an uncertainty about the future after a departure of bassist and founding member Paul Newton, as well as drummer Ian Clarke, Uriah Heep stuck together, recruited Gary Thain and Lee Kerslake (then completing the "classic" lineup), and managed to write Uriah's definitive album. Demons And Wizards
was a result of the band's constant development in terms of songwriting and musicianship found in previous albums, ultimately becoming one of the band's most diverse and inspired releases ever. An amazing increase in album sales and a newfound critical acclaim proved that, now more than ever, Uriah Heep was a band to pay attention to.
The tough task now was to follow it up. The chemistry quickly found between the newly established lineup, definitely Heep's most effective, may have facilitated the songwriting process, as D&W's successor Magician's Birthday
was released merely 6 months after. All in all, Magician's Birthday
follows the footsteps of its predecessor, only slightly more heavy and, occasionally, slightly more experimental, especially in the title track. Despite the relatively small gap between the two albums, it doesn't feel rushed at all. Though probably not as cohesive as it could be, it still offers plenty of highlights, earning its place among Heep's finest albums, remaining an excellent listen for any fan.
Starting off on a high note, Sunrise
kicks off the album excellently. An emotional ballad alternating between quiet verses, highlighted by Ken Hensley's melodic organ playing and Byron's powerful vocal delivery, and a raging chorus powered by Mick Box's energetic guitar playing, Sunrise
is a highlight in Heep's catalog and one of the band's finest progressive rock ballads. From there on, the album goes back and forth between agressive, and somewhat dark at times, hard rock tunes and soulful acoustic ballads, both of which showcasing some of the band's best abilities. Save for the ocassional filler, the main offender here being Tales
, there are a couple of standout tracks to be found.
and Sweet Lorraine
are examples of short and catchy rockers, executed perfectly by the band. The piano-driven ballad Rain
proves to be a pleasant surprise as well. But the album's most admirable moment is probably the closer, title track. At 10 minutes long, it is definitely the most progressive and experimental moment of the album. Not all passages of the song are memorable, as it all feels a bit glued together sometimes, but a very strong riff, a catchy chorus and a spectacular solo, a true faceoff between Mick Box's roaring guitar and Lee Kerslake's loud drums, make the title track an admirable creative moment of the band and an interesting closer.
Overall, Magician's Birthday
is truly a rewarding listen for fans of the band and the genre. Riding on the momentum of the classic masterpiece Demons And Wizards
is in comparison not as strong and consistent sometimes, but it's an excellent release on its own, and certainly a highlight in the band's career, one of its best albums.