Gary Thain

“In the magic garden, some were singing, some were dancing…”’

To my ears, heavy metal and hard rock bass playing has “mostly” devolved into an aide-de-camp to the guitar – oft duplicating formulaic root notes, identical rhythms, and little else. However ‘twas a time when hard rock bassists brought their formidable understanding of jazz, classical, and blues to the genre – as evidenced in the bass artistry of the late Gary Thain with Uriah Heep. Thain, who paid his dues with the influential Keef Hartley Blues Band in the late 1960s on such seminal sides as Halfbreed (1969) and Overdog (1971), lifted Heep into their golden era when he joined the lads in the early 1970s.

Though the prog-metal masterpiece The Magician’s Birthday (1972) is considered to be the New Zealand native’s greatest work with the potent Heep, I prefer Mr. Thain’s wicked rhythm and blues grooves which bolster the underrated Sweet Freedom (1973) and Wonderworld (1974)– wherein Gary’s resonate Fender bass work boogies akin to the soul masters James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey, and Jerry Jemmott.

Formed in London in 1969 and still working, Uriah Heep’s influential metal canon is deserving of Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame honors.