Way back in 1983, Uriah Heep released “Head First” – their 2nd album with Peter Goalby as frontman, Bob Daisley on bass, and John Sinclair on keyboards. Nearing the end of it’s recording, the band’s label – Mercury in North America, would be going through a restructure and would do a poor job promoting it and getting it out [after the initial success of “Abominog”], coupled with the band’s home label of Bronze going under, it all left the band looking for a new label. “Equator” was issued on Portrait in 1985, but it’s blatant commercial approach and uneven material wasn’t a success and the band moved on. Equator remains an album, that many life-long Heep fans care not to remember [I like a number of moments on this one though]. After extensive touring Goalby and Sinclair would leave [sadly, Goalby was never to return as a singer in any other band, effectively retiring from performing]. After a brief tour with American Stephen Fontaine on vocals and no label, the band by the end of 1986 would include Mick Box [founding member], Lee Kerslake, Trevor Bolder, Phil Lanzon [keys, ex Grand Prix], and Canadian born Bernie Shaw [ex Grand Prix, Stratus] on vocals. And thus began the band’s longest standing line-up. However, for all their 20 years together, recordings would become few and far between, and the band would become mainly a heavy touring act, playing everywhere possible [first band in Moscow in 1987]. 1989’s “Raging Silence” received great reviews, but it didn’t seem to put the band back to where they had been in ’82, and 1991’s “Different World” was almost non existent in many parts of the world. The band’s label Legacy being pretty ineffective at any promotion or getting it to the shops. From this point the band would carry on touring for years.
In 1995 the band released “Sea Of Light” [tho not originally released in North America], and it was so damn good – it drew back legions of old fans. The band taking inspiration from early Heep recordings, delivered an outstanding album of heavy rockers, progressive masterpieces, and a couple of memorable ballads. Heavier guitar, acoustic guitar, more Hammond organ, really bringing Heep’s trademark early sounds in to the 90s… and all covered with Roger Dean artwork! It really exceeded long time fans expectations at the time. 1998’s “Sonic Origami” though would take a lighter approach, with less rockers, more acoustics, more ballads… and as much as I like this album almost as much as it’s predecessor – it would split many fans, who thought it was too lightweight. And when the band’s single, a cover of the Survivor ballad “Across The Miles” didn’t generate the expected interest in the US, the label pulled the band’s North American tour just days before; ending the momentum they’d gained with the latest 2 albums!
Soon after the band signed on to Classic Rock productions, and although this period til 2005 saw no new studio releases, it was significant for the yearly live albums taken from special shows. And this brings us to this ‘new’ release, really a re-release, but the first on the band’s new and own label! But first … “Remasters : The Official Anthology” was originally released in December of 2001, featuring artwork by Roger Dean. It was the third release in a year and based on the band’s 2 previous live recordings “Acoustically Driven” and “Electrically Driven” [recorded just 3 months apart. Following on from the 30th Anniversary live release “Future Echoes Of The Past” [i never understood why the long title!?, Acoustically Driven was a stunning show, mixing up some rarely played classics and newer tracks, with string accompaniment, backing singers and a few guests, most notably Ian Anderson]. Both of these releases also featured Roger Dean artwork.
The original CD release [Remasters] states on the back cover – “..a stunning new set which features new re-mixes, alternate versions and re-recordings of classic Heep material from 1970 to 2001. Every single song has been recorded by this, the longest serving line-up of the band.” At the time, I admit – I passed on this release, seeing it as a sort of repackaging of the latest live sets, and rehashing of what we already had essentially. But apparently I was wrong, with these songs presented as a sorta studio release, taken from rehearsals and such from the previous 2 live albums. Now issued as “Totally Driven”, this is an outstanding set of classic Heep. The album features new cover art from Igor Morski, who did covers for ‘Outsider’ and ‘Live At Koko’, and the track running order has been altered.
Mick Box – “The ‘Totally Driven’ recordings were made while we were in preparation for the ‘Acoustically Driven’ and ‘Electrically Driven’ concerts. Previously these 2001 recordings were released under the confusing name ‘Remasters’, but that title went out of print very quickly. This re-release has had the band’s full input, including in its re-branding as ‘Totally Driven’ and will be the very first release on our own Uriah Heep Records. ‘Appy Days!”
With 27 tracks featured here, Totally Driven touches on plenty of different albums, though sadly omitting anything from 1980-85. It is however worth hearing for the band’s fresh takes and Bernie Shaw’s vocals on such classics as “Sweet Freedom”, “The Easy Road”, “Why Did You Go”, “Traveler In Time”, “Wonderworld”, and “Come Back To Me”. And songs from this line-up’s era [at the time] also come off outstanding with “Cross That Line” [a song never played before from ‘Different World’], “Only The Young” [from ‘Sonic Origami’], and the epic “Love In Silence” [from ‘Sea of Light’] – frankly, I prefer this version to the original.
Following Acoustically Driven and Electrically Driven, Uriah Heep would do what were named “The Magician’s Birthday Party” shows for a few years – these would feature guests and a few former band members [most notably a one-off reunion with Ken Hensley, and John Lawton more than once]. Hensley would join the band on stage in Russia a few months ago, once again [along with Lee Kerslake]. It would be great to see more such shows, featuring a few others, such as Peter Goalby perhaps [!?], John Wetton [?], Iain Clarke [?], Paul Newton [?], John Sloman [?] … why not!? [Goalby had mentioned that he’d been invited to a Magician’s Birthday Party, but had to decline. At the time he said he would be happy to do a Heep show that featured the band’s other singers, as well as Hensley].
The early 2000s may not have been a very productive one for Heep as far as anything really new went, but it sure was an interesting one for fans with a series of outstanding live albums, reunions, and product. Classic Rock Productions, who did such a nice job of putting on these events and promoting the band through their color magazine / catalogue would soon disappear after 2005’s “Between Two Worlds” [dvd only release]; Lee Kerslake would retire before the band’s next studio album, and thus marked the end of a long era for Uriah Heep. The newly branded “Totally Driven” is a nice celebration of that era.
To order Totally Driven –