Heaven & Earth - 'Dig' Hot

Added by James Gaden     July 18, 2013    
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You’d be a fool to miss out on its many wonderful merits

2013 has already thrown up quite a few albums that (potentially) will make my end of year top ten. Definitely joining those albums will be this brand new release from Stuart Smith’s Heaven & Earth. The album itself is a huge sounding retro hard rock juggernaut, with enough nods towards Rainbow, Whitesnake, Bad Company and Foreigner to keep anyone who reads this magazine more than happy. I personally found myself grinning like a loon as I first listened to ‘Dig’ because the sound on it is so warm and familiar, that you can’t help falling in love with the music and performances you find throughout its nearly sixty minutes duration.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Before I get to the songs I must first mention the vocals of Joe Retta (The Sweet/solo) who comes across as a mixture of Joe Lynn Turner, Paul Rodgers and Graham Bonnet (think ‘Down To Earth’ era Rainbow) and on whose performance this whole album rests. If you then consider that he is taking over from the likes of JLT, Paul Shortino and Kelly Keeling, he really delivers the goods in spades. Try the ‘Gates Of Babylon’-like opener ‘Victorious’ with its sweeping guitar refrains and riotous Hammond organ runs (prevalent throughout this album) and tell me you’re not listening to a class act. Then following this scorching start we move on to the rocky ‘No Money, No Love’, a track full of attitude and verve; then it’s the turn of glorious ballad ‘I Don’t Know What Love Is’ where Joe Retta sings like his heart and very soul were breaking apart. ‘House Of Blues’ follows and once again it sees Retta and guitarist Stuart Smith combining to produce a full blown melodic retro-masterpiece and with ’Waiting For The World To End’, ‘Rock & Roll Does’ and ‘Good Times’ all joining in just for the fun of it. Yet even with all this wonderful melodic rock floating around it’s the John Denver country/folk influenced ‘A Day Like Today’ that I love the most, mainly (again) because of Joe Retta’s wonderful emotive and different sounding vocal performance.

‘Dig’ is one of those rare “all killer, no filler” albums that come along only every now and then and you’d be a fool to miss out on its many wonderful merits. Is ‘Dig’ one of the best melodic hard rock albums of the last few years? You decide. I already have!

Ian Johnson

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Franco Cerchiari said:

I'm not sure why, but when I heard that a new band called Heaven & Earth had just released their debut, I was thinking that this was a power metal band. Perhaps it's because the bands I had heard and whose CDs I do have, with the name "Heaven" in their name (Heaven Shall Burn, Heavenly, Heaven Below, Heaven Hill, Dark Heavens, and While Heaven Wept,) all have that power metal/modern hard rock sound.

So, slipping this into my CD, without knowing much about them, was I in for a surprise, for coming my way was an excellent classic hard rock sound that took me back to the days of Deep Purple, early Whitesnake and the great Bad Company. With an organ played much like Purple's legendary Jon Lord did, it is out in front, never used a side note, or just as a way to add a "soft" blanket." Here the organ is where it's supposed to be, loud, front and center. And that is just fine with me.

What an absolute stunner of a CD this is. Produced by studio maestro Dave Jenkins (Tower of Power, Metallica, Armored Saint,) Dig features the ballad, "I Don't Know What Love Is," which is fantastic, as is the bass guitar work of Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot, Impellitteri, Ted Nugent, Doro Pesch, Greg Allman,) on "Back in Anger," with again that organ punching it's way to the front of the song. "Back in Anger," was all classic rock sounding (almost reminiscent of the classic rock band Boston from their jaw dropping debut meets The Last In Line era Dio.) The organ solo heard on "Back in Anger," did remind me of Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time." And there's not a thing wrong with that either. As equally impressive was "s*xually Insanity" that would fit right in on any Saints and Sinners or Slide It In era Whitesnake release. Keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum (Eddie Money, Richie Kotzen,) shows that he is a forced to be reckoned with. His keyboard is inspiring.

Bang your head to the hard rocking "Man and Machine," that one can imagine being heard in concert with the Bic lighter held high overhead. Want a reason to find an open road where the traveling is easy, the traffic light, and the sun shinning overhead and coming from the car's CD player is some terrific driving music, then find such a road, and listen (loudly,) to "Rock 'n' Roll Does." Talking about how music "is always there for you." "Rock 'n' Roll Does," is all 1970's arena rock, which is only further complimented by some sensational guitar solos, and soulful vocals done by gifted vocalist Joe Retta. The backwoods, nasty "Good Times," couldn't be turned up loud enough, and the closing track, the contemplative, "Live As One," showed just how great of a vocalist Retta is. His voice resonates into the highest emotions and he pours out his heart here singing about how a relationship with that special someone is worth it all. In certain moments here I heard a similarity to Eric Martin, (Mr. Big, Tak Matsumoto Group, Avalon, Pushking.) The final bars of "Live as One," began to swell as layers and layers of vocals pushed this track higher and higher and coming toward the listener was this huge, colossal sound of voices. What a great way to end a song. Almost like the gospel songs of the far south where the church choir got louder and louder toward the end of the song, the same is felt here with it all coming together at a joyful end. Wonderfully done.

It is a hope the boys of Heaven & Earth follow up Dig with a new collection of tracks - and soon. Listen to this CD often, for to quote the great 1980's glam metal band Von Groove on their track of the same name, "..once is not enough."
September 21, 2013
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