KEN HENSLEY – “BLOOD ON THE HIGHWAY”May 25th, 2007
|Rock’n’roll in the Seventies – a particularly colourful chapter in music history. There’s been hardly another era in the annals of popular music that has had an equally significant influence on the developments to come, proved to be a lasting inspiration for many artists and changed so much in political and social terms. Ken Hensley experienced the golden Seventies in his position as a true rock star. As Uriah Heep’s guitarist, vocalist, main songwriter and keyboardist until 1980, but also as a successful solo artist with numerous impressive releases in his own right, he went through countless ups and downs, enjoyed successful concerts, suffered difficult phases, yet only ever wanted one thing: to continue his life as a musician. From the stuff that well over thirty years of wistful musician’s dreams are made of, Ken Hensley has now written and composed an album that is exciting and sounds authentic to the last note. Blood On The Highway is much more than a pure concept album. It’s a memoir of a golden decade, Hensley’s tribute to perhaps the most important era of the genre and a haunting rock album full of emotions, vitality and dynamism. Or, as Hensley puts it: “Blood On The Highway tells a very special story that is autobiographic to a large extent, but also reflects the experiences of many of my friends and colleagues. It’s the story of the Seventies from a rock musician’s perspective.”
Hensley was supported by a number of renowned singers whose voices suit the individual songs. “I wanted to reflect the different characters of those days, the many facets that rock’n’roll consisted of back then,” he explains, substantiating his selection: “Jørn Lande with his raw timbre stands for great vocalists such as Free and Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers or the young David Coverdale, who joined Deep Purple during that era and went on to form Whitesnake. Like Rodgers and Coverdale, Jørn’s voice oozes blues and rock.” The charismatic Norwegian singer recorded five tracks (‘This Is Just The Beginning’, ‘Blood On The Highway’, ‘You’ve Got It’, ‘Okay (This House Is Down)’ & ‘We’re On Our Way’), Glenn Hughes (ex-Trapeze, Deep Purple) lent his voice to two. “Glenn sings on ‘The Last Dance’, and I absolutely wanted him on ‘What You Gonna Do’, a number that raises the all-decisive question after years of excesses and debauchery: Where do you want to go with your life?”
Hensley enlisted the expressive Eve Gallagher for his compositions about love, lust and passion. The native Brit who occasionally sounds like Tina Turner has worked with Boy George, had two club hits of her own in ‘Love Come Down’ and ‘Heaven Has To Wait’ and is the eponym of her own band, Eve Gallagher and Missing Link, who are scheduled to release a new album this year. “I made a point of looking for a female voice for the songs that deal with emotions and relationships,” comments Hensley. “Eve really was the perfect choice for ‘Think Twice’, a number full of feelings and depth.” ‘It Won’t Last’ saw Hensley reunite with his former Uriah Heep colleague John Lawton, who proclaims his categorical belief in our own strength: „No need to take the blame, no need to change your name, it wasn’t your mistake, you were trapped and you had to escape, go on and ride the crest, thinking it’s you that’s blessed.” It would be difficult to imagine a more stirring appeal for high self-esteem.
Naturally, Ken Hensley also sang three songs himself (‘There Comes A Time’, ‘Postscript’, and ‘I Did It All’). Having penned all the songs and lyrics, he left his own musical mark, always taking care that as much as possible from the era that Blood On The Highway deals with is transported to the present without ignoring the possibilities of modern studio technology. Hensley: “This is a traditional rock album with a modern flair because it was produced on contemporary equipment. The recordings sound as authentic and honest as possible, which means few synthesizers, real strings and a real piano.”
To Hensley, Blood On The Highway is a reminiscence about his own life, a kind of retrospective of an era when music was still pressed on black vinyl records, when musicians wore long hair, bell-bottoms and technicolour shirts. It’s no look back in anger, no summary of time lost, but an ode to probably the most exciting period of his life. Is there a message on Blood On The Highway, a moral to the story? “No,” says Hensley emphatically. “In those days, every musician followed his dream. If anyone had given them a tongue-lashing or disabused them, their reaction would have been: Thanks for the advice, but I’ll do it the way I feel is right.”