Musicians: Heaven and Earth

Audio CD (April 23, 2013)

Label: Quarto Valley Records


It's 1978, and a new band takes the stage at your favorite arena. They're called Heaven and Earth and it doesn't take long for you to think to yourself—these guys are drinking from the same rock and roll waters as Deep Purple and Rainbow. Guitarist Stuart Smith seems to be channeling Ritchie Blackmore, singer Joe Retta is in the same mold as Paul Rogers or Ronnie James Dio, keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum knows his Jon Lord organ swells, and bassist Chuck Wright and drummer Richie Onori fill the rhythm section bill as well as any hard driving backing team ever has.

But no, it's not 1978—it's2013. However, this Heaven and Earth wants everything about their new Dig to bring back the early years of hard rock. There's a touch of irony here as Smith and Onori are alumni of Steve Priests' ongoing version of the glam-rocking Sweet, not exactly in the Purplish mold. But the first Heaven and Earth album came out in 1994, their Windows to the World came out in 2000, and a revolving cast of rock royalty have been involved along the way: Kelly Hansen (Foreigner), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow), Kelly Keeling (King Kobra), Howard Leese (Heart, Paul Rodgers), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), and Carmine Appice (Jeff Beck Group/Vanilla Fudge). In short, Heaven and Earth has been a Supergroup Tribute band, but in tribute to the music of a certain era, not any particular band. And all the numbers are band originals.

For Dig, Smith assembled the current line-up to be a tight touring band to perform the new good old-fashioned Arena Rock belters. As another indication of their mission, producer Dave Jenkins even used a Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor (CLASP) to integrate real analog tape recording into digital tools creating a vintage sound. So we get it all from the video hit “No Money, No Love” to "Man and Machine" featuring Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora's signature talk box and slide guitar, all deliberately sounding like it was recorded quite a few yesterdays back.

Clearly, in both style and substance, Dig is predictable fare. The surprise is just how well Heaven and Earth paints by the numbers. If you like Purple, Bad Company, Rainbow, and that breed of rock, it's hard to imagine you not digging Dig. Whether you miss hearing the old bands or missed out by not being around at the time, the 12 tracks on Dig are the real thing. Dig, man?

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