Heaven And Earth has been around since the 1990s, releasing two albums (a self-titled debut in 1998, and “Windows To The World” in 2001), one EP (Taste Of Heaven in 2006), and a DVD (Making of Heaven And Earth in 2007). The lineup has shifted over the years, but founding member and guitarist Stuart Smith has been around throughout. On “Dig” he’s joined by Joe Retta (formerly of Sweet) on vocals, Chuck Wright (known from Quiet Riot) on bass, Richie Onori on drums, and Arlan Schierbaum on the Hammond organ.
These guys certainly have some serious musical chops, and “Dig” comes loaded with some very well-crafted melodic hard rock, decked out with fine touches of classic rock, and melodic rock as well. A quick look at the list of guest musicians hints at some of the band’s influences, for example, there’s Howard Leese (Heart), David Paich (Toto) and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi). Several tunes also bring Deep Purple to mind, and not just because of that Hammond organ – there’s just an attractive 1970s sensibility to the music, infusing all that hard rock with a lot of groove and blues.
You get the feel for that 70s-vibe right away on opening track “Victorious”, a rousing rocker that feels like an epic battle hymn, with a melody that swings and grooves with Schierbaum’s terrific organ playing. It’s one of the album’s best tracks, showing off Stuart’s huge and skillful guitar work, the power of the rhythm section, and Retta’s strong and impressive rock’n’roll pipes.
Second track “No Money, No Love” is a great hot and heavy rocker, and the band revs its hard-rocking engine again on the speeding “Man & Machine” with some serious rock’n’roll howls, and beautifully heavy drums.
Other standouts include the passionately bluesy “House of Blues” with excellent vocals and dazzling guitar work; and the riffy and groovy “Back In Anger”, touching on some of the doomsday news currently making headlines. My favorite tune on the album is probably the dark and evocative “Sexual Insanity” which switches easily and effectively between slow and smoldering heat, and hard-driving, hard-rocking passion.
While I prefer Heaven And Earth’s heavier tunes, there are some good ballads here too. The best of the bunch is “I Don’t Know What Love Is” – the kind of tune that tugs at your heartstrings with a gorgeous acoustic intro, and tender vocals. “Waiting For The End Of The World” is a keeper as well – it has a folk-rock tone, starting out with some softer vocals before the band fires up and reveals the tunes heavy rocking heart.
A couple of the ballads towards the end are a bit too soft for my liking, but this is still a solid and inspired album. Fans of melodic hard rock and classic rock will definitely find lots to love here.