Uriah Heep
Uriah Heep - Official Web Site



November 1979 - May 1980

Mick Box, John Sloman, Chris Slade, Trevor Bolder, Ken Hensley.

Heep wasted no time in bringing ex-Lone Star vocalist John Sloman in as Lawton's replacement. Musically and visually, Sloman was the complete antithesis of Lawton - he was younger, better looking and he had all round musical ability; he could sing, play keyboards and guitar - he was, in the words of Box, "an all rounder". 

Sloman's recruitment was swiftly followed by the departure of Lee Kerslake, following "a blazing row" as reported in Sounds, with the songwriting issue coming to a head when the drummer accused Bron of favouritism towards Hensley's material. "I couldn't agree with the management's attitude - as far as he (Bron) was concerned the only person worth anything was Ken Hensley," complains Kerslake. 

Much of the recording for the next album had been completed but it was now a case of re-recording (again at The Roundhouse) with Sloman and new drummer Chris Slade, ex of Manfred Mann's Earthband and familiar to the band through Bronze, home of both bands. The resulting album, was emerging in February 1980. 

The very fact that it still rates as a good Heep album speaks volumes for the band's ability to come up with great songs in their own right even when perhaps the overall direction is at odds with itself. Record Mirror's Robin Smith could hardly contain himself, remarking on Heep's re-thought strategy and giving the record five stars. 

Some felt it was a confused Heep (and given recent events it had every right to be, Mick Box acknowledging it was "a very difficult album to record" while Trevor Bolder describes the period as "a mess") but tracks such as 'Feelings', a poppy kind of ballad that's commercial in the very best sense of the word, prising its way into your brain with every intention of staying there ("a minor masterwork" said Sounds), and Bolder's excellent 'Fools', featuring great guitar and brilliant harmonies, make CONQUEST a constant visitor to my turntable. 

Elsewhere, perhaps, it strayed into un-Heep-like territory, going a bit too soft in places; rather ironic considering that the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) was currently running at full throttle and generating the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard, most of whom were citing Heep as a big inspiration. 

Iron Maiden's Steve Harris remembers seeing Heep for the first time in 1975. "The thing that gets me is that they're still obviously enjoying themselves," he says today. "They're fighters but they're still having fun. " A '10th Anniversary' tour saw the band go out with Girlschool as support, pulling respectable crowds, but Hensley was very unhappy, primarily with Sloman: "The band had chosen John and I had opposed that decision. 

He was a good musician and he looked great but I thought he had little going for him vocally. The way that he interpreted songs were totally different to the way I had written them. I could understand wanting to move on but this was like the difference between Black Sabbath and Gino Vanelli. 

We weren't addressing our basic problems, in that we weren't re-establishing our musical direction and John definitely wasn't helping us to do that." And with the songwriting issue still creating dissention, a meeting was called up at Gerry Bron's office. Hensley had had enough, explained his reasons and promptly resigned from Uriah Heep. Ken Hensley has since recorded another solo album, FREE SPIRIT ("it wasn't very good"), briefly joined American rockers Blackfoot ("they asked me to help bring their music into the Eighties") and is today living very happily and successfully in St. Louis, arranging artist endorsements for a music company while occasionally guesting on albums - WASP's 'Headless Children' for instance. "Ken Hensley wrote the rule book for heavy metal keyboards asfar as I'm concerned", says WASP's mainman Blackie Lawless.


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