The epithet “legendary” is bandied about and attributed to so many debatable characters these days that, at times, it seems to have lost its true power of meaning. There are very few musicians extant who are truly deserving of this prefix before their name. Thankfully, Ken Hensley is one who deservedly over-merits this status.
A wonderful evening of music and anecdotes unfolded as Hensley, resplendent in what appeared to be a Turquoise Native American frilled jacket, strode confidently onto the stage to enthusiastic applause in the Oak Room at the Hospital Club in London’s Covent Garden.
Essentially promoting his forthcoming BMG anthology Rare And Timeless, Ken kicked off with an infectious newly re-recorded song “Free Me”, cajoling his dedicated audience to heartily sing along to its chorus.
The intimate sharing of the origins to Heep’s most cherished songs was an added bonus. Revealing that the inspiration to possibly the bands most loved song came to him in a dream, Hensley woke to pen the magical “The Wizard”. He held everyone in his thrall as he played a spellbinding acoustic version of it.
However, a monumental and cathartic medley of “Illusion”, “Circle Of Hands” and “Sweet Freedom” wrung every pore of emotion from artist and audience. Hensley’s voice hardly wavered. It was as though the spirit of David Byron was in the room, and at his side, as he reached for and grasped the top notes that Byron would have then took on a octave higher.
Further stripped back versions, as they were originally written and played to the rest of the band, of songs “Rain” and a jaw-dropping “July Morning” weaved a magic spell entrancing the pledge ticket holders.
As he took questions from the floor, Ken revealed that the inspiration behind “Circle Of Hands” arrived when attending a seance whilst the band were on an Italian tour. It remains a powerful, timeless and epic track inspired by an encounter from “the other side”!
Thereon a pleasant surprise occurred when Ken’s brother Trevor joined him on acoustic guitar for a familial folk club feel on early Heep hit “Lady In Black”.
Furthermore, it was also a pleasure to see the urbane and personable original Heep bassist Paul Newton in attendance, pleasantly chatting away with the assembled throng of fans.
Interestingly and of significant interest, I met Heep’s re-mastering guru the producer Rober Corich, during the evening, who revealed that there is a cache of “goodies” left in the Hensley/Heep well of songs still to be released. This bodes well as Corich curates the Heep catalogue of releases with the infinite care and attention that this proud man and band truly deserve.
Sadly, when a fan enquired about the health of Heep’s longest serving drummer Lee Kerslake, Ken confided: “l heard from him yesterday, he’s not doing very well otherwise he would be here tonight. If you are the type of person who prays then do so for Lee because he is quite ill.”
A triumphant and thoughtful evening to treasure with one of the true legends of British rock music.
Ken Hensley Rare & Timeless digipak CD released 30 March 2018 through BMG.
Words: Paul Davies / Photos: Eric Duvet
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Event Date: 27-Feb-2018