Heaven and Earth – Dig – Album Review

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Remember the rock and roll we all listened to pre-hair bands and before grunge came along and changed the music industry without asking us what we thought? If you do, Heaven and Earth will sound familiar and comfortable, right where your ears belong. Heaven and Earth isn’t about quantity. No, this is about vision and producing a distinct sound. And they aren’t about to be rushed either. “Dig,” the latest incarnation of Stuart Smith’s rock and roll vision has been years in the making, and stays true to previous work offering Big Sound rock and roll that pays homage to 70s guitar and keyboard work.

“Dig” clearly isn’t shying away from recreating a sound that has already been popularized, but they are willing to make it even bigger and bolder. There is nothing small here, nothing subtle. The brainchild of award-winning guitarist Stuart Smith, mentored by Ritchie Blackmore, Heaven and Earth goes back to the classic work honed by the greats and calls their spirits back into the studio. The Heaven and Earth of 2013 features Smith along with powerhouse Joe Retta, a man able to create rock and roll vocals that call to mind the range and talent of Glenn Hughes and Paul Rogers. Keyboards, provided by Arlan Schierbaum, feature prominently in nearly every song, often equal to lead guitar and making “Dig” innovative while familiar. Rounded out with bassist Chuck Wright and drummer Richie Onori, Heaven and Earth has pulled together band members with talent, personality, and longevity.

“Dig” is twelve songs deep with each and every offering creating another facet of classic rock and roll performance. Starting out with the hard driving “Victorious,” Retta’s vocals soar and reach with Smith and Schierbaum producing exotic musical effects to reinforce the intensity of this track. Next, “No Money, No Love” tells that age old tale of a woman’s greed. I’d argue, but I’d rather just enjoy those keyboards reminiscent of John Lord. Radio friendly, the link to this video is below for your enjoyment. “I Don’t Know What Love Is” slinks and slows, with Retta’s vocals showing us more dimension while pounding out a power ballad.

When rock and roll and fast cars get together in a song, the energy lifts dramatically. “Man and Machine” starts out with guitar and drums working together like a fine engine firing up and taking off. It makes perfect sense. Ritchie Sambora helps out here with his signature talk box. Then the opening riff for “House of Blues” turns the cd’s direction smoky and lonesome with heavy blues guitar and keyboard that never turns sobering or mundane.

Capitalizing on the classic rock sound of the early 1980s, “Back in Anger” pushes faster, urgent in arrangement and vocals, while “Waiting for the End of the World” is lighter without losing intensity or power. “Sexual Insanity” let’s Retta showcase his vocal acrobatics, flipping from one end of his range to the other, accompanied by the same dynamic work from drums, guitar, and of course, keyboards. This song is interesting, filled with character and verve.

Providing testimony to the power of music, “Rock & Roll Does” could have popped out of a forgotten vault in some music studio and includes elements reaching well back to the music of the 1950s. The message? Well, it tells the story of all of us at some point as we stared at the ceiling with a turntable going around and around…. “When you need something to hang on to, something that is real, it is always there for you. I know just the way you feel. Rock & roll will.”

Taking a brief pause to head out through the meadow, “A Day Like Today” is soft and dances lightly, but the sweetness is soon overtaken by the Latin beat of “Good Times.” “Got to escape to a rhythmical world, be where the magic is real, yes, these will be the good times.” This track is fast and enjoyable with guitar and keyboards clear and complementing the beat while staying true to the classic sound. And finally, “Live As One,” ends the cd with a ballad, full of harmony, urging us to “learn it from our children before they learn it from us.” Right out of the book that rock and roll wrote but as true today as ever – be nice, follow your dreams, do what is right for you, and respect others.

Stuart Smith said that Heaven and Earth is “an energized collective of like-minded musicians who are excited at bringing its unique, celestial brand of rock to audiences all over the world in 2013.” Swing into Maine, Mr. Smith. This music is strong from the studio – I bet it is one wild, thrill ride of a show live. We have a stage all ready to go!

Special thanks to 1980s rock guru Christopher Joles. All my love.

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