Ken Hensley – Past & Present (Songs In Time): An Anthology 1972-2021

Ken HENSLEY – Past & Present (Songs In Time): A Ken Hensley Anthology 1972-2021
Cherry Red (6CD Box Set)

Please watch the video above for the unboxing video

A name synonymous with Uriah Heep, Ken Hensley was a founder member of the British prog legends and, during the 1970s, was the keyboard player, occasional guitarist and principle song writer. Right up to his passing in 2020, he was a prolific performer and writer.

He recorded some solo work during his tenure with the band, and once the post split bad feelings eased, had been known to join the band on stage on occasion, and his solo work continued, as well as recording with John Lawton, John Wetton, Wasp and Blackfoot.

This fine fine box, up to the usual high Cherry Red standards and covers a breadth of material well. But with the plethora out there, it’s both a good summary and a good starting point.

Disc 1 covers some solo material, taking material from his first three solo albums as well as some Heep material. There’s some very fine craft here, both in song writing and playing. Even while in Heep, the solo material had more emphasis on the singer songwriter side, so don’t go expecting too much in the way of Rocking Out. Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf and Eager To Please are both albums essential to the collection and the proof is here.

Next up is Ken’s 1999 solo album A Glimpse Of Glory, which is not one many will be aware of. It has some ethereal moments, but is a modern sounding pop/rock outing. This was his first solo album since Free Spirit and his new found beliefs (a reborn Christian) are reflected here. Moving In is a solid song and typical of the more enjoyable tracks on the album. Some power and passion. This album has not been as commonly available as some of Ken’s other work so it’s good to have here.

Disc 3 is Ken’s Running Blind solo set, again it’s welcome due to longtime unavailability. A fine mix of keyboards, guitar and orchestration, it’s solid and at times heavy. A first time listen for me and I enjoyed it much more than the previous outing. As the album goes on, I thought more and more “Why haven’t I heard this before?”.
Likewise with disc 4, Ken’s solo The Last Dance album, and another album that not had the widespread acclaim, distribution or general availability of some earlier albums. Which (again) makes it all the more welcome here. Some excellent songs, a modern and well produced feel, and some good slide guitar too. There’s the usual mix of singer/songwriter/pop/rock and hard rock,

Disc 5 is 2005’s Cold Autumn Sunday, another solo album recorded while Ken was living in Spain; this one self released. A modern feel again, can’t fault the vocals or keyboards at all, but the drums (although a drummer is credited) sound programmed. And another album that’s not in general circulation so another first time listen for me. It’s good but some of the songs don’t come together as well as the previous outing. A couple of bonus tracks, and overall still very enjoyable.

The final disc is Collaborations, which features tracks Ken recorded with other artists. Does what it says on the tin? Not quite. Lovely though the music is, it is a missed opportunity. Most of the tracks are taken from two albums Ken recorded with Live Fire, some of which really do rock, and are an excellent listen. Then there are two tracks from My Book Of Answers, an album Ken completed just before he died.

A lovely package, some fantastic music, and given Cherry Red’s presentation, the quality of the songwriting and the obscurity of some of the solo albums, it’s a box that is essential to many a music fan. But given the number of solo albums and collaborations that are far from readily available, including live DVDs, there is definitely scope for a Volume 2.

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Joe Geesin | Now Spinning Magazine

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