Back in 1997, guitarist Stuart Smith got together with a rather large group of musicians to record an album of Classic Rock music. Together, this group of musicians (which included the likes of Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes and even Steve Priest of the band Sweet) created several different musical formations of the same band which came to be known as Heaven & Earth. Some of the participating musicians in the recording project lent their talents to only one or two of the resulting tracks, while others (including bassist Chuck Wright, drummer Richie Onori and keyboard player Arlan Schierbaum) were a bigger part of the recording process as they lent their talents to several of those tracks.
After the self-titled album from Heaven and Earth was released, the band later added to that album and the resulting 2004 re-release easily stands as strong as any Classic Rock/Hard Rock release from The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin or even Steve Priest’s band Sweet. It’s the talent of the musicians and the strength of the music that you notice; you would never know the album took seven years to become a reality.
Now, almost a decade after that first album was released, Heaven & Earth have returned. While that first album had its unique circumstances with how it was created and by whom, this new release, entitled Dig, has been written and performed by five main musicians who finally feel like a band. The quintet that brought Dig to life consists of: Guitarist Stuart Smith, bassist Chuck Wright, drummer Richie Onori and keyboard player Arlan Schierbaum, all of whom participated in the recording process that led to that first album. The final piece is newcomer Joe Retta who adds both vocals and lyrics to the songs.
Dig from Heaven & Earth begins with the track “Victorious”. “Victorious” contains a slightly different feel than anything that was contained in the band’s self-titled release. While it does have a Hard Rock approach as the basis to the music, there is also a very prominent and unmistakable Middle Eastern flavor to it, as well. In fact, the beginning of the track with the inclusion of the Middle Eastern flavor feels almost symphonic in nature. Once the intro to the track plays out, the song launches into a strong Classic Rock vibe that will remind you of a mix of Queensryche-inspired and Aerosmith-inspired music. The song feels vast in its musical sound and because of that, it is the perfect way to start off the newest release from Heaven & Earth.
The second track on Dig is “No Money, No Love”. With the track, Heaven & Earth bring a more typical Hard Rock feel to the music that feels like something that might have been created by either The Cult or the later versions of the band Great White. If you’ve been looking for a solid Hard Rock song but not finding it in today’s modern music scene, this track does a fine job of reminding us of just what Hard Rock can sound like.
While the “power ballad” had its day back in the late eighties and/or early nineties, there still seems to be a definite need for it, especially when much of today’s music is so cold and hard. The track “I Don’t Know What Love Is” finds Heaven & Earth taking a more acoustic approach on this track, which helps to reinforce the sadness in the lyrics that are sung with both passion and strength by Joe Retta. The inclusion of strings and a sizable chorus to handle the background vocals helps to add to the beauty of the track that was already there in the initial tracks of the song.
Like the best Classic Rock bands that came before them, Heaven & Earth includes some of the Blues in their style. The track “House of Blues,” an appropriately-named song, is proof of that. The slower pace of the music and the soulful vocal approach of Retta bring forward that Blues/Rock combination that embodied much of that classic style of the music. The keyboards by Arlan Schierbaum really help to add that Blues flavor to the song. “House of Blues” feels like a modern take on the old standard of “House of the Rising Sun”.
The album Dig from Heaven & Earth comes to a close with the track “Live as One”. The song has a very uplifting message and also feels very positive as you listen to the band and the Agape Love Ensemble deliver that message of accepting each other as we are.
The twelve songs that make up the album Dig from Heaven & Earth combine to make one great album of Rock and Roll. While the band’s 2004 self-titled release was a very well done album, the new album Dig feels much more solid and finds the band of Stuart Smith, Chuck Wright, Richie Onori, Arlan Schierbaum, and Joe Retta truly feeling like the band they always should have been.
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