Phil Lanzon Ditties
I have this idea that in 300 years older upper class women will drag their husbands to the symphony hall and make them sleep though and evening of Mahler, The Beatles, The Ramones and Run DMC. And here’s solid proof that any rock and roll musician can work hard enough to make complex, intricate music with a classical cast. I point to this sonically sharp effort by Uriah Heep’s present keyboard player Phil Lanzon.
Uriah Heep was an early British hard rock machine. Beginning in 1970, they had over a dozen successful albums. Lanzon joined in 1986, a time when the band was on the rocks and their hard rock sound over whelmed by punk, metal, and new wave. Lanzon joined for a tour that brought the band back, at least in Europe and the USSR. He’s stuck with them since then, no small feat in this tough business.
We have lots of music layers to dig thought here. Drums are always the foundation, and here we discover varied and complex rhythms, and the overall album has a musical theater feel with changing time signatures, harmonic backing vocals, and exciting tensions that constantly threatens to break in to a tap number. The elements of early progressive rock here come back to show us the rock and roll can be exciting and deliver complicated melodies without losing its “Hell, YEAH!” energy.
Story songs lurk in here, but none so heavy handed as to overwhelm the fun and excitement of a rock show. “48 Seconds” recaptures the tragedy of the 1906 earthquake that flattened a boom town made rich by the gold rush and the China trade. “Blue Mountain” opens with simple melodic guitar lines, and then takes us down the emotional rabbit hole of a man split from his Lady Love. Following it we encounter a political number that echoes of the British political struggles under energetic and well-constructed arrangements in “Look at the Time.” Then we enjoy a moving ballad “Road to London.” It’s a ghost story; someday you may meet an attractive and out of luck woman, but that doesn’t mean she can’t steal your soul. It’s more than a ballad and I sense a decent stylish mid-century horror film lurking here. If you’re a fan of complex, story based rock and roll 48 Seconds is one of those classic albums that gets better each time you spin it. Rock on, I will.