Quarto Valley Records
Review By: Alan Holloway
You know, since we’ve been rating bands out of five instead of ten I’ve been very cautious about giving anything the full whack. Yeah, I’ve doled out fours, and for good reason, but until now nothing has warranted digging deep down in my pocket for that extra, special fifth “R”. Well, as you can see that has finally happened with Stuart Smith’s latest Heaven & Earth album, an album that finally sees him with a set band instead of a roster of guest artists, and what a band they are.
Straight off the bat, I have to admit that I am a big fan of Rainbow, regardless of the vocalist. Heaven & Earth’s new singer Joe Retta may not be a ‘name’ to many, but has honed his skills in tribute bands to Led Zep, Queen and the like, and so can basically handle anything that’s thrown at him. Here, he seems to effortlessly straddle classic era Joe Lyn Turner and Ronnie Dio, more toward the former but with hints of the latter. This is a pretty good thing, as band boss Stuart Smith has given us an album that absolutely reeks of classic Rainbow, and in a very good way. Smith himself was taught, in part, by the legendary Ritchie Blackmore, and he seems to have embraced the work of his mentor in a big way.
This is immediately evident on the opening track, “Victorious”, which has the epic feel and middle eastern tweaks of “Stargazer”, with Joe Retta channelling Dio with real style. “No Money, No Love” follows with a gamut of Deep Purple style keyboards, sounding like something from Rainbow’s “Right Between The Eyes” or “Difficult To Cure” albums. The same can be said for “House Of the Blues”, another track that wears it’s blues rock influences on it’s sleeve. We also get more solid rockers, such as “Man & Machine”, with a certain Ritchie Sambora joining the fun, or the energetic “Rock & Roll Does”, which has the pace and energy of “Death Alley Driver”. “A Day Like Today” at first seems like a mis-step, and is more Blackmore’s Night than Rainbow, but after a few spins it gets under your skin, as does the excellent closing ballad “Live As One”. Throughout the album, Stuart Smith’s talnt shines through like a beacon, with smooth, controlled solos that have a beautiful tone to them, another reinforcement of the retro vibe that runs through the whole album.
If you’ve ever listened to your old Rainbow albums and wondered why Ritchie Blackmore never scaled those heights again, then “Dig” is for you. Twelve tracks long, it’s the epitome of “All Killer, No Filler”, and if you played it to someone without giving any details you would be able to fool them it’s lost Rainbow tracks. Perfectly produced by Dave Jenkins, who allows all the instruments to shine, “Dig” is going to be a very hard album to beat for the “Album Of The Year” tag, and I hope the band stays together as it is for another few albums, because this is a perfect blend - can you dig it?
Official Site: http://www.heavenandearthband.com/wordpress/
"No Money, No Love" Video: