I wore out my copy of Uriah Heep’s debut album Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble in my teens. I absolutely adored Gypsy and in those days, you could borrow LPs and cassettes from Coventry City Lending Library for pennies.
Seduced by the Chieftain tank cover on their second offering, Salisbury, and the song Lady In Black from it, I got quite into Heep and soon had amassed a vinyl collection of every studio album up to 1980s Conquest.
Then I lost touch (although I did replace those albums with CDs in the mid-1990s) with the Heep machine until 2011’s Into The Wild. I liked it but it didn’t grab me.
My preference seemed to be the earlier stuff. Heep was one of those bands living on former glories, who had peaked too soon and could never quite again attain that level of musical excellence.
Well, that’s what I thought until I heard Outsider. A chance listen to the radio got me straining my ears and musical memory to recognise a voice. The energetic drumming, the powerful riffs, melodic chorus…faint echoes of something that struck a wonderful chord inside my head.
Typically, I’d missed the announcement as to who it was. That came before the record played and I was left in an awful limbo, desperately trying to piece together who it might have been.
Not being a radio listener, I tried to catch as much as I could. Kerrang, Radio Two, local radio. Nothing. Nada.
By accident more than design I listened to Gypsy on Youtube, allowing autoplay and, while shaving one evening, the mystery song propelled itself into my conscious never to leave. Can’t Take That Away. By Uriah Heep. Wowsers.
A new album I didn’t know about and a song that threw me against the wall, span me around and sat me on my arse.
And the drumming? My God I had a reaffirmation that day.
Russell Gilbrook smashes it. I’d first come across Gilbrook as a Camel afficionado and he played drums on former Camel keyboard player, Peter Bardens’ Speed Of Light album. But this was the first time I’d heard his work in this setting.
It’s 100mph, seat of your pants stuff on Can’t Take That Away. The type of drumming that makes you want to go and play.
So the verdict, having duly purchased and played the album? Brilliant. A masterpiece from Heep and Gilbrook. Musicianship of the highest order, cracking rock tunes and a comforting feeling that you’ve heard them before. No endless plays to decide whether you like what’s on offer here.
Gilbrook’s work on the opener, Speed Of Sound, is typically solid, driving the band like a band should be driven. He’s well and truly in the pocket on One Minute, on and ahead of the beat on The Law and just setting standards everywhere. For the title track he is dizzyingly busy and you begin to get a sense he and the Heep boys enjoyed putting this one together.
Gilbrook throughout is clean and clear in his drumming, powerful, pushing, prodding the music forward, like Cozy Powell used to. Rock The Foundation is bread and butter drumming, but here it sounds fresh, compelling.
There is light and shade on the album and in the drumming. Is Anybody Gonna Help Me? is laid back, before the speed builds on Looking At You and then into Can’t Take That Away. There’s little respite in Jessie or Kiss The Rainbow, with its tight tom work exploding into a rock beat that lifts the music as it goes.
Say Goodbye, the closing track with its Aerosmith-reminiscent riffs is a final chance for Gilbrook to impress, which he does with style.
Outsider is a drumming masterpiece and a rock masterpiece. It’s now my ‘go to’ Heep album and I fancy I’d love to be in a Heep tribute band just to enjoy playing these tunes.