HEAVEN & EARTH – Dig (2013)
British guitarist Stuart Smith started the project / band HEAVEN & EARTH in the Nineties releasing a highly praised first album in 1998, an then two more in 2001 and 2004 respectively.
The band’s lovable style akin traditional Hard Rock acts plenty of valvular-generated riffs, Hammond B3 organ and classic choruses received instant support from many superstars in the genre who cooperated on all three recordings: Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner, Carmine Appice, Richie Sambora, just to name few.
“Dig” marks an eventful return of what started more as a Stuart Smith solo project to an actual recording band, and the synergistic force of all involved shows with passionate fruition and hard labor.
After almost a 10-year hiatus, Heaven & Earth returns with a new line up including vocalist Joe Retta from Sweet fame fronting the band.
And holding all together are not only the great vocals of Retta, but the return of vintage keyboard / Hammond master Arlan Schierbaum, Chuck Wright (House of Lords, Quiet Riot) at charge of the groovy bass lines, The Sweet’s Richie Onori behind the skins, as well as the mastermind behind these classic hooks in Stuart Smith himself; a multi faceted player who was tutor by one of the all time best: the great Ritchie Blackmore.
While Smith brought forward the guitar riffs and the rest of the band ran away with the songs, Retta with it’s tremendous vocals wrote vocal melodies and lyrics.
The sound featured on “Dig” is extremely polished and really displays all instruments in crystal clear sound, opening things up nicely for the band’s overall mix of modern and vintage melodic hard rock tones.
The album opens through the dark groove of “Victorious” with an added middle eastern vibe going on. This is one of the hardest songs on the recording, with a good unexpected riff keeping things interesting. Retta just explodes on the mic letting his banshee vocal operatic talent take helm and sound like a vocal god, and Schierbaum chords are majestic and bring a transfusion of art and transient vibe to the fold.
“No Money, No Love” is a nod to the old school melodic rock / hard rock crowd, a nice driving rhythm brings shades of bands like Heartland and a little bit of Joe Lynn Turner solo work for good measure.
But the goodness doesn’t stop there, another great tune stands in the ballad “I Don’t Know What Love Is” which has Retta moving the melodic chains with sway and smooth, whilst some nice piano led rhythm gives way to some outstanding vocal harmonization by the band.
“House Of Blues” is indeed, a bluesy hard rocker in the Rainbow vein driven by a fat groove and an addicting hook, followed by one of the highlights; “Waiting for the End of The World”. With it’s melodramatic entry, this greatly composed melodic track rocks with a climatic riff, zig-zag drumming and Joe Retta just pushing the boundaries with another addictive chorus bringing memories of Kansas.
Shades of Whitesnake appears in the awesome “Sexual Insanity”, the catchy, foot-tapping “Rock & Roll Does” pays tribute to Bad Co. (Retta really sounds like Paul Rodgers here) and the slow “A Day Like Today” is beautiful arranged with some progressive juglar melodies.
“Good Times” ups the tempo again with a bouncy rhythm (nice percussion touch) tons of Hammond B3 and a little Purple feel, while “Live As One” wrap the album in the form of an emotional, classic ballad.
After years of stopping and starting, adjusting and shifting, “Dig” finally establishes Heaven & Earth as a ‘real band’.
Stuart Smith got it right; no matter how long it took to make it, they got it right everything from the classic production, to the riffs, to the incredible keyboard sound, the propelling vocals, the concept, the impressive artwork designed by Glen Wexler (Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Slaughter), it all just fits and puts every classic rocker back in time where this music once rule the land.
“Dig” will be released on CD and vinyl (this album deserves this format), but seems the distribution has been delayed some weeks. When you see this baby available don’t hesitate to take home a copy, it’s a very recommendable purchase.
01 – Victorious
02 – No Money, No Love
03 – I Don’t Know What Love Is
04 – Man & Machine
05 – House Of Blues
06 – Back In Anger
07 – Waiting For The End Of The World
08 – Sexual Insanity
09 – Rock & Roll Does
10 – A Day Like Today
11 – Good Times
12 – Live As One
Joe Retta: Vocals
Stuart Smith: Guitars
Arlan Schierbaum: Keyboards, Hammond B3
Chuck Wright: Bass
Richie Onori: Drums, Percussion
BUY IT !