Ken Hensley

Band members                             Related acts

- Ken Hensley -- vocals, keyboards 


  backing band (1973)
- Lee Kerslake -- drums, percussion
- Dave Paul -- bass
- Gary Thain -- bass 




- Blackfoot
- The Gods

- Head Machine

- The Hensley Lawton Band

- The Rebel Rousers
- Shotgun Express

- Toe Fat

- Uriah Heep

- Weed




Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Proud Words On a Dusty Shelf

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SRM-1-661

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: bullet hole bottom right; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3295

Price: $20.00




Best known for his work with The Gods and the ever-subtle Uriah Heep), 1973 saw vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Ken Hensley sign a parallel solo deal with Mercury Records (coincidently Uriah Heep's label).  Responsible for much of Heep's better material (the top-40 hit 'Easy Livin'' quickly coming to mind), even the Heep's biggest critics (hard to imagine anyone taking a shot at the band ...), had to admit Hensley had more than his share of talent.

Produced by Uriah Heep manager Gary Bron and backed by several of his bandmates (drummer Lee Kerslake, and Dave Paul and Gary Thain on bass), it shouldn't have come as a major surprise that 1973's "Proud Words On a Dusty Shelf" bore a mild resemblance to the Uriah Heep catalog.  Expecting me to slag the set?  Guess what?  It wasn't half bad.  Sure, Hensley's lyrics were occasionally overblown and pompous (shades of Heep - "Fortune"), but on originals like "When Evening Comes", "Rain", "Proud Words" and "King without a Throne" he kept things short, tight and far more melodic.  Maybe due to the fact I associated him with being Heep's keyboardist, for me the biggest surprise came in discovering what a talented guitarist he was.  Check out his performances on the blues-rock ballad '
When Evening Comes' and his slinky slide guitar on 'Proud Words'.  The Uriah Heep connection certainly guaranteed some sales; the set hitting # 173 on the US album charts.  It probably would have done even better with a more distinctive cover.  = )

"Proud Words On a Dusty Shelf" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) When Evening Comes   (Ken Hensley) - 4:35   rating: **** stars

For a guy best known for playing keyboards, Hensley displayed some nice chops on the opener 'When Evening Comes'.  A tasty blues-rock ballad, the song was helped by surprisingly restrained vocals and some of the most effective blues guitar I've heard in a long time.   The song was tapped as the album's US single:

- 1973's 'When Evening Comes' b/w 'Fortune' (Mercury catalog number 73410)
2.) From Time To Time   (Ken Hensley) - 3:35  
rating: **** stars

Geez, never though I would say this about something in the Uriah Heep "family", but the acoustic 'From Time To Time' was a truly beautiful ballad.  Laidback and subtle, this was 180 degrees different than your typical Uriah Heep effort.  Damn good and the cheesy '70s synthesizers struck a soft spot with me.  The track was tapped as a promotional single in the States, but never seems to have seen a commercial release:

- 1973's 'From Time To Time' b/w '' (Mercury catalog number 73382)
3.) King without a Throne   (Ken Hensley) - 3:51  
rating: *** stars

Sporting an easy-going rollicking melody, musically 'King without a Throne' was a major surprise.  For goodness sakes, there was even a catchy chorus.
4.) Rain   (Ken Hensley) - 3:14 
  rating: ** stars

The first part of the ballad 'Rain' isn't all that different from the Uriah Heep version.  Not sure if I like this one more, or less.  
5.) Proud Words   (Ken Hensley) - 3:15  
rating: **** stars

The title track also served as the album's most commercial and catchy track.  With a bouncy melody an "uplifting" lyric, and some stellar slide guitar, I've always wondered why Mercury didn't tap it as the single.


(side 2)
1.) Fortune   (Ken Hensley) - 5:22
   rating: *** stars

Again showcasing Hensley's sweet slide guitar work, the opening segment of 'Fortune' was among the prettiest things he ever wrote.  From there the tune went off in a Uriah Heep rock direction; meaning lots of twists and turns; stops and starts.  Interesting, but not my favorite performance.
2.) Black-Hearted Lady   (Ken Hensley) - 3:36  
rating: **** stars

Originally included on Uriah Heep's 1971 "Salisbury" album, it was interesting to hear Hensley covering his own tune.  Hensley sang the Uriah Heep original (David Byron supposedly disliked the song and refused to sing it).  The remake ditched the acoustic, folky feel for a more rock orientation and while it was nice, the original was better.
3.) Go Down   (Ken Hensley) - 3:10  
rating: **** stars

Ironically, kicked along by some pastoral acoustic guitars, 'Go Down' actually reminded me a little bit of the Uriah Heep version of 'Black-Hearted Lady'.  Pretty, relaxing tune that showcased what a sweet voice Hensley had.
4.) Cold Autumn Sunday   (Ken Hensley) - 5:29  
rating: *** stars

Hensley fans gush over 'Cold Autumn Sunday' and while I'll admit it was a pretty enough tune, it's always struck me as one of those songs where he simply tried too hard.  Maybe pompous pushes it too far, there's just something forced and artificial on this one.  The song was released as a single in Japan:

- 1973's 'Cold Autumn Sunday' b/w 'Rain' (Bronze catalog number L-2600-BZ)   
5.) The Last Time   (Ken Hensley) - 2:48 
rating: ** stars

Hearing pedal steel guitar my natural instinct is to run ...  That was certainly the case hearing 'The Last Time'.   Hearing Hensley stretch to hit the high notes didn't do the song any favors.  Unfortunate way to end the album.