Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Uriah Heep - Lady in Black

If a respected rock and roll magazine were to publish a list of the top 100 songs of all time, what would you expect to see at the top? Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven, Neil Young – Keep on Rocking in the Free World, Black Sabbath – Paranoid, Aerosmith – Dream On, stuff like that right? Well it depends where you live.

If you lived in Finland you would swear up and down 80’s one hit wonder Europe (The Final Countdown) was actual a fantastic rock band with a must have discography. If you live in Romanian you probably consider Isis to be gods. If you lived in Japan you may consider songs about “Super Robots” an appropriate sub genre of rock and roll. If you live in Canada you actually know who the Tragically Hip are. If you live in central Europe you would consider Uriah Heep one of the greatest bands of all time.

I was watching Uriah Heep videos on youtube and started reading the comments left by others. In the live video for “Lady in Black” there was a long conversation between people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and Denmark, going on, and on, about what they considered the three greatest songs of all time. Reoccurring songs included, Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven and Black Sabbath – Paranoid, makes sense so far right? Also Nazareth – Holy Roller and of course Uriah Heep – Lady in Black. I’ll talk about Nazareth some other time.

I knew Uriah Heep was popular in places like Denmark and Switzerland, that’s how I discovered them, but I never really appreciated how popular they were. Uriah Heep is only kind of know in their home country of England, but is considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time in central Europe, right on par with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, crazy right? On top of that “Lady in Black” is considered one of the greatest songs of all time and has been covered by other rock groups in multiple languages, even by a group of monks who performed a strange chanting version of the song.

You know what? They’re right, Lady in Black is one of the best songs of all time, and no one in North America knows it; that is until now, now about forty of you know it.

It is a very simply song from a performer’s point of view, there is only like three cords for each instrument within the song. If I had a better ear or perhaps I better understanding of the actual workings of music I could probably pick out the specific notes and give an exact calculation of just how simple the song is, but you don’t need that to hear what I’m talking about. Actually it is very similar to the Canon in this regard now that I think about it.

Lastly, the lyrics, the lyrics in Lady in Black are superb, so good in fact I’m just going to give them to you; I haven’t done that in a while;

She came to me one morning
One lonely Sunday morning
Her long hair flowing
In the midwinter wind
I know not how she found me
For in darkness I was walking
And destruction lay around me
From a fight I could not win
Ah ah ah ...

She asked me name my foe then
I said the need within some men
To fight and kill their brothers
Without thought of love or god
And I begged her give me horses
To trample down my enemies
So eager was my passion
To devour this waste of life
Ah ah ah ...

But she wouldn’t think of battle that
Reduces men to animals
So easy to begin
And yet impossible to end
For she’s the mother of our men
Who counselled me so wisely then
I feared to walk alone again
And asked if she would stay
Ah ah ah ...

Oh lady lend your hand outright
And let me rest here at your side
Have faith and trust
In peace she said
And filled my heart with life
There is no strength in numbers
Have no such misconception
But when you need me
Be assured I won’t be far away
Ah ah ah ...

Thus having spoke she turned away
And though I found no words to say
I stood and watched until I saw
Her black coat disappear
My labour is no easier
But now I know I’m not alone
I find new heart each time
I think upon that windy day
And if one day she comes to you
Drink deeply from her words so wise
Take courage from her
As your prize
And say hello from me
Ah ah ah ...

It’s a perfect piece of music, give it a listen and you will hear a perfect sound for a perfect moment, Uriah Heep’s Lady in Black really is that good.

Uriah Heep did a fantastic retooled version of Lady in Black on their “Celebration” album, but that is a conversation for part two of this music in review.

Happy New Year.

- Colin Kelly

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