On Stage: Uriah Heep keeps it heavy for nearly 50 years

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Uriah Heep

In 1969, guitarist Mick Box formed a band in London called Uriah Heep – its name taken from a Charles Dickens character.

Box has remained the core element of the band and has kept it going for more than five decades.

On May 20, Uriah Heep visits the area for a show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

More than 25 musicians have passed through the band in the last 50 years. Over this period of time, Uriah Heep has released 25 five studio albums, two albumscomposed of re-recorded material, 18 live albums and 39 compilation albums. Twelve of the band’s studio albums have made it to the U.K. Albums Chart with “Return to Fantasy” reaching Number 7 in 1975.

Uriah Heep’s current lineup features Mick Box: Guitars, Vocals; Phil Lanzon: Keyboards, Vocals; Bernie Shaw: Lead Vocals; Russell Gilbrook: Drums, Vocals; and Dave Rimmer: Bass, Vocals.

“With this lineup, Phil and Bernie have been with the band since 1986. Russ joined in 2007 and Davey has been with us since 2007. I’ve been in it for 50 years.”

Uriah Heep’s debut album was “..Very ’Eavy …Very ’Umble” in 1970. The band’s 25th and latest LP is “Living the Dream,” which was released in 2018. The band’s two previous albums were “Outsider” in 2104 and “Into The Wild” in 2011.

“An album every couple years is fine,” said Box. “It takes a while to get back in the studio – usually every two years.

“We recorded ‘Living the Dream’ with producer Jay Ruston in January 2018 at Chapel Studios in England,” said Box. “It took us 19 days. We played as a band live in the studio – old school. A lot of people want perfection. They want a recording to sound just right – to sound perfect. We don’t do that. If you choose a backing track, it should always be the best – but it doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s more important to be real – to be organic.”

The album was released worldwide on September 14th, 2018 on Frontiers Records.  An extensive world tour is underway now to support the release.

“We play about 150 shows a year,” said Box. “We’ve played in 61 countries.”

Ever since the release of “…Very ’eavy… Very ’umble,” Uriah Heep has sold in excess of 40 million albums worldwide. Along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Uriah Heep helped invent a decorative and uniquely British form of heavy metal.

It is from those roots, with classic, crucial slabs of nascent metal such as “Gypsy,” “Bird of Prey” and “Walking in Your Shadow,” that Uriah Heep began its ascendance both at home and in the U.S., culminating in their most enduring works, “Demons and Wizards,” “The Magician’s Birthday” and “Sweet Freedom” — all of which went gold in the states and entered the Billboard Top 40.

Uriah Heep has been responsible for the most elevated and intelligent use of vocals in a heavy metal context among the major bands having invented the genre in the 1970s. It is for this reason Heep was referred to as the Beach Boys of Heavy Metal. The band was also one of the forerunners of using the Hammond organ.

“Our band has a lot of versatility by its nature,” said Box. “We play prog rock festivals. We play metal festivals. We play rock festivals. We’re quite malleable.”

In celebration of the release of “Living the Dream,” Uriah Heep is joining fellow British rock icons Judas Priest on an extensive North American tour.

“On this tour, we play a shorter set than we do when we’re headlining our own shows,” said Box. “On the Priest tour, we rock from the start.”

Fortunately for area Heep fans, the band’s show at Sellersville is its own headline show – meaning no truncated set.

“We’ll play some songs from the new album along with a lot of older songs that are fans’ favorites,” said Box. “For example, we always play ‘Gypsy.’ We never get tired of it.”

Video link for Uriah Heep – https://youtu.be/PHgDPxLlFW4.

The show at the Sellersville Theater will start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $65-$85.

Dressy Bessy

Dressy Bessy, which is opening for Filthy Friends on May 21 at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,

www.johnnybrendas.com), will be releasing its new album “Fast Faster Disaster” on June 14.

It is the band’s seventh studio album and second for Yep Roc Records. It comes as the band celebrates its 20th anniversary as “pioneers of the fuzzy, buzzy lo-fi rock.”

Dressy Bessy — Tammy Ealom, John McDowell Hill and Craig Gilbert — has released six prior studio albums – “Pink Hearts Yellow Moons” (1999), “SoundGoRound” (2002), “Dressy Bessy” (2003), “Electrified” (2005), “Holler and Stomp” (2008) and “KINGSIZED” (2016). 

“We recorded the new album at home – just like we did with ‘KINGSIZED,’” said Ealom, during a phone interview earlier this month from her home in Denver, Colorado. “We recorded it over the past couple years – after ‘KINGSIZED’ had run its course. John and I have a pretty nice studio in our house, and we recorded it there.

“We finished in October – right around Halloween. We did a cover of the Buzzcocks’ ‘What Do I Get’ as a tribute to their singer/guitarist Pete Shelley.”

Shelley passed away while Dressy Bessy was finishing the album. “What Do I Get” was recorded prior to Shelley’s passing, but then immediately adopted as a tribute following Shelley’s death.

The Buzzcocks were one of England’s all-time best punk/power pop bands and were an influence on Dressy Bessy – even though they disbanded more than a decade before Dressy Bessy started in the mid-1990s

Ever since its formation in 1996, Dressy Bessy has been one of the top music acts to come out of Denver, Colorado — joining a list that includes Lothar & The Hand People, Zephyr, Flobots, Kip Winger, Jill Sobule and The Lumineers.

“I met John back in 1995,” said Ealom. “I was in a band called the Minders. I quit that band and wanted to form my own band. That band was Dressy Bessy. Ironically, we’re still together after 20 years — as a band and as a couple.

“This is a great band. We actually all really like each other. We have a new bass player – Eric Allen. He’s from Denver and had played in the band Apples In Stereo. This is his first run with us. We have to get used to being on stage again and he has to get used to playing with us.

“KINGSIZED” was the band’s first studio album in seven years.

“I guess there was a little bit of a gap there between ‘Holler and Stomp’ and ‘KINGSIZED,’” said Ealom. “All of ‘KINGSIZED’ was inspired by the terrain of world society and American politics. When it came out, we thought the situation would get better.”

“Fast Faster Disaster” is a 12-track set featuring engaging new tunes like “It’s Not That Hard,” “Fearless,” “Cheer Up Teardrop” and “Stay True” —  songs that reflect on universal emotional foibles with the same pointed insight that Ealom has brought to her lyrics since the band’s early days as iconoclastic indie pop darlings.

According to Ealom, “I think this is our best album yet. There’s an undeniable sense of honesty and freedom to it, lyrically and sonically, and it came with a humbling ease. We pay close attention to current events, including politics, and have been profoundly impacted by the recent climate.

“There is nothing like the threat of losing your basic freedoms and realizing the fragility of democracy to open up your eyes and pull you out of your personal bubble. More than ever, we’ve come to appreciate the importance of family, friends and community

“I do the songwriting. The songs all came in a chunk. When the songs started to come, they just kept coming. When the muse arrives, I start writing. Something inside me has to come out and tell me to do it.

“I write mostly on guitar. It usually starts with chords and riffs and some sort of catch line. Usually, it all comes at the same time. The main thing is being in the mood. John’s parts come last. He gets inspired when he hears the bass and the melody.

“On this tour, we have a 45-minute set,” said Ealom. “We go all the way back to our early albums. We have a good mix. We have 22 years of songs and usually play a song or two from every album.”

Video link for Dressy Bessy – https://youtu.be/B8g_Yu9_OPk.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Filthy Friends as the headliner, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Jonatha Brooke

On April 19, innovative folk-rock singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke released her new EP “Imposter” via Bad Dog Records. Now, she is on the road playing a few shows to introduce the new EP, including a show on May 22 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

“I got all my ducks in a row and made the EP last fall,” said Brooke, during a phone interview earlier this month from her home in Minneapolis, Minnsesota.

Having lived in Minneapolis for two years, Brooke was eligible for – and received – a grant from the Minnesota’s McKnight Foundation.

Last year, MacPhail Center for Music announced the four recipients of the 2018-19 McKnight Fellowships for Musicians and Brooke was one of them.

Nine finalists were selected by a panel of national judges to audition. Following the audition, four recipients were awarded the $25,000 McKnight Fellowship for Musicians.

“I got an artist grant last year which allowed me to make the EP” said Brooke. “I had two days to do the whole thing. I had great musicians and a great arranger – Adi Yeshaya.”

“Imposter” is a Minnesota record. Recorded at Creation Audio in south Minneapolis, it features a cast of top-flight Minneapolis musicians including bassist Jeff Bailey, drummer Joey Van Phillips, keyboardist Adi Yeshaya and several string and horn players.

“I was sitting on these five songs,” said Brooke. “Adi was the perfect complement to my weird, quirky songs.”

The combination of Brooke and these fine musicians resulted in an EP that has been getting great reviews.

According to Brooke, “I explored a few different themes on ‘Imposter,’ — feeling like the emperor with no clothes, a very cinematic excursion into revenge, that ever-present struggle with faith and loss. These are songs I developed and fell in love with over a longer period of time than usual, so I had the luxury that they turned out exactly as I had hoped and dreamed they would.”

Formerly of the New England-based duo The Story, Brooke has been writing songs, making records, and touring since the early 1990s. After four major label releases, she started her own independent label in 1999 – Bad Dog Records — and has since released eight more albums.

“Being with four major labels was good,” said Brooke. “Bad Dog is my label. ‘Midnight. Hallelujah,’ which came out in 2016, is my most recent album. The EP is a good way to go now for me. It’s good to have something to sell at gigs.

Brooke has co-written songs with Katy Perry and The Courtyard Hounds among others. She’s also written for four Disney films and numerous television shows including composing/performing the theme song for Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse.” In 2014, Brooke debuted her one woman musical and companion album “My Mother Has Four Noses” at the Duke Theater in New York City. The show ran for three months to rave reviews and was a critic’s pick in the New York Times who called it “both funny and wrenching.”

“Writing is a constant thing for me,” said Brooke. “I write 50-50 on guitars and keyboards. My writing really varies. I like the sound of words and the way they fall together. As time goes by, the songs really evolve and take on their own meaning.”

Video link for Jonatha Brooke – https://youtu.be/BJaeaMBTLnA.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.

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