Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ken Hensley - Eager To Please (1975 uk, magnificent classic rock, 2010 bonus track remaster)

Following up his critically acclaimed debut solo album Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf from 1973, legendary Uriah Heep/The Gods/Toe Fat keyboard player/singer/songwriter/guitarist Ken Hensley unleashed record number two, Eager to Please in 1975, in between recording & touring for Heep's successful Return to Fantasy album. This time with ex-Heep/Colosseum bassist Mark Clarke on board, along with drummer Bugs Pemberton, pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole, and orchestral arranger/conductor Michael Gibbs, Hensley once again handles all the keyboards, lead vocals, lead & rhythm guitar on this very solid mix of atmospheric rock, prog, blues, hard rock, and country.

The title track kicks things off, somewhat akin to what you would expect from Heep, a rousing boogie rocker chock full of Hensley's slide guitar licks and Hammond, and "Stargazer" continues the rock trend with some great bluesy riffs and Ken's strong vocals. "Secret" is more of a country pop ballad, featuring Cole's yearning pedal steel guitar, while "Through the Eyes of a Child" has piano & strings supporting Hensley's soaring, heart tugging vocal melodies. It's one of the most gorgeous songs he's ever written. You'll be reminded of Crosby, Stills, and Nash on the breezy folk/pop of "Part Three", as Hensley's lush acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, and Hammond organ sweep you away. "House on the Hill" blends folk with prog-rock, another beautiful tune, while "Winter or Summer" takes things closer to Heep-ville, as rousing bass & drum rhythms drive some stinging guitar licks and insistent Hammond, Hensley's layered lead & backing vocals proving to be the icing on the cake. 

Haunting organ and tasty lead guitar work permeate the moody rocker "Take and Take", and Moog lines weave with pastoral acoustic guitar on the engaging "Longer Shadows", another great example of folky prog on the album. Clarke brings to the table the funky rocker "In the Morning", a groove laden number with some solid vocals from the bassist and more alluring lead guitar & Hammond from Hensley. The album closes out with the mellow "How Shall I Know" and the bonus track "Who Will Sing For You". The latter also rocks out in typical Uriah Heep fashion, as heavy Hammond organ and biting guitar feed off rich vocal harmonies for a winning formula.

Whether in Uriah Heep or solo, Ken Hensley has always been nothing short of an amazing talent. It's always surprising to hear just how strong his vocals were back in this time period, and when you toss in his thoughtful songs, commanding keyboard talents and tasty guitar work, it's not hard to see why he's been so respected by so many for over 45 years. Esoteric Recordings have done a great job on this remastered edition, giving the fan crisp, stellar sound and a booklet packed with lyrics and info. 
by Pete Pardo
1. Eager to Please - 4:54
2. Stargazer (Mark Clarke, Susie Bottomley) - 3:46
3. Secret - 4:02
4. Through the Eyes of a Child - 2:19
5. Part Three - 3:48
6. The House on the Hill - 3:17
7. Winter or Summer - 3:01
8. Take and Take - 3:41
9. Longer Shadows - 3:36
10.In the Morning (Mark Clarke) - 2:34
11.How Shall I Know - 4:06
12.Who Will Sing For You - 2:52
All songs by Ken Hensley except where stated

*Ken Hensley - Guitars, Keyboards, Synthesiser, Vocals
*Bugs Pemberton - Drums, Percussion
*Mark Clarke - Bass
*B.J. Cole - Pedal Steel
*Ray Warleigh - Saxophone

1973  Ken Hensley - Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf (2010 remaster)
Related Acts
1968  The Gods - Genesis (2009 japan extra tracks remaster)
1969  The Gods - To Samuel A Son (2009 japan bonus track remaster)
1970  Head Machine - Orgasm (2006 digipak edition)

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