Artist: Uriah Heep

Album: Salisbury

An odd, somewhat uneven blend of heavy metal and progressive rock (sometimes within the same song), Salisbury kicked off a prolific period for a band that released six albums over the course of four years.

Uriah Heep is probably most notable for the number of musician that have gone through the band over the course of its 35 years – 30, including founding member David Byron. By the time Salisbury was released, while the group’s second album, Uriah Heep had already been through three drummers; after Salisbury’s release in 1971, the drummer on the album had to be replaced because he decided he couldn’t keep up with the frenetic pace of touring (the replacement drummer being replaced himself later that year; the cycle of drummers likely the inspiration for one of the themes of rock mockumentary This is Spinal Tap).

But on to the album.

Salisbury kicks off with High Priestess, a fairly heavy, guitar-driven piece with relatively idyllic lyrics. The album downshifts significantly with the second track, The Park, which for the casual listener can be quite jarring; in fact, the unevenness of the album makes it difficult for anyone other than a hard-core Uriah Heep fan to digest.

The remainder of side one is ‘keyboard-heavy’, rather reminiscent of similar prog-rock bands such as Yes.

Side two kicks off much as side one, with a harder-edged, bluesy piece, Simon the Bullet Freak (that’s the U.S. release; track one on second side of the British release is Bird of Prey).

The title track on side two completes the album, a 16-plus minute opus leaning heavily on keyboards and a 26-piece brass and woodwind orchestra. What results is not so much a series of interconnected movements as a rather complex jam session that builds at several points as the organ and parts of the orchestra trade solos. Otherwise, there is no common thematic element to truly link the movements; a casual listener could be forgiven for mistaking it for several tracks.

Overall, a must-have for the Uriah Heep fan, but an album that demands several hearings in order to be fully appreciated.