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Heartland - 'Travelling Through Time' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 11, 2011    
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A great value for money package.

Heartland, if you've been counting, have ten albums under their belts now and so this is as good a time as any to release a retrospective. It's been personally compiled by Escape's executive producer Khalil Turk and you can tell the band hold a special place in the Escape catalogue. 'Heartland III' was effectively the first new album on the label and it was Turk who introduced guitarist Steve Morris to the man with the golden tonsils, Chris Ousey, after original guitarist Gary Sharpe left. It's been a fruitful relationship that's lasted over the last eight albums for one of the UK's premier AOR bands. 

There are a generous twenty six tracks, in non-chronological order over two CDs; some classic tracks, one newbie and six previously unreleased tracks (which if I'm being pedantic isn't strictly true as 'I Believe' popped up on a Japanese version of 'Communication Down' and the top notch version of Foreigner's 'Long Long Way From Home' appeared on Escape's 'Millennium Collection 2' if I remember correctly). Most albums get a couple of tracks each but the debut is conspicuous by its absence. Something I'd imagine that's down to copyright reasons rather than a quality control issue. 'Heartland III' and 'As It Comes' fair best as they get four tracks each, although the former has a couple of those as alternate versions.

Naysayers might say that their material all sounds the same and while the compositions are similar, especially the layered, almost gospel tinged choruses, I'm of the belief that Ousey and Morris know exactly the sound they want and have the musicianship to hit that spot with a consistency that means choosing the best tracks is a difficult choice. If you can trace a development in their sound it would be that they've gone for more of a band feel as the records have progressed and this has led to a slightly rockier sound.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Ousey, like FM's Steve Overland, has one of those rich easily recognisable rock voices that oozes class and has the ability to imbue every line with soul. He follows in a long line of great British vocalists who owe a debt to the great Paul Rodgers. From the terrific new upbeat track 'The Search Goes On' to 'Leap Of Faith' and 'Best Is Yet To Come' his phrasing is a joy. Steve Morris knows how to support a great vocalist, having also written and played with Ian Gillian and the aforementioned Overland in Shadowman. His playing is melodic with riffs and solos that should have meant radio play, tunes built for American FM but it never worked out like that. Instead they remain the secret pleasure of those of us with our radars tuned to all things AOR.

Everyone will find their own favourites here, or may be surprised by some of the exclusions, but personally the polished 'Heartland III" songs and the thumping 'Move On' tracks included here shake my tree hardest, but there's not a duff song on the CDs. While the previously unreleased tracks vary in sound quality (volume) they still stand shoulder to shoulder songwise with the rest of the material, and for the fan the lure of unheard tracks and the novelty of hearing the tracks in a non sequential order makes this worth a look. If you're unacquainted with Heartland this is the perfect place to start, a great value for money package ideal for our financially straight-jacketed times.

Duncan Jamieson

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