Ever since guitar legend, Ritchie Blackmore, shifted his focus from classic, blues-based hard rock to renaissance-inspired folk music, there has been a musical void for fans of Deep Purple and Rainbow. Until now! Heaven + Earth is poised to fill that void with “Dig” – one of the best bluesy hard rock albums to come along in several years.
If you happened to hear any of the tracks from “Dig” on the radio, you would swear that Blackmore was back on the hard rock scene with a new record. He has inspired many guitarists over the years, but none have come close to stylistically capturing the Blackmore sound like Heaven + Earth founder and visionary, Stuart Smith.
Heaven + Earth has been around in various incarnations as Smith’s side project since the 1990’s, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that he decided to turn it into a world-class recording and touring band. With Joe Retta (vocals), Chuck Wright (bass), Arlan Schierbaum (keyboard) and Richie Onori (drums), Smith has achieved his recording goal with the release of “Dig.”
The beauty of “Dig” is that it is a throwback to the old days when artists created albums to mark a moment in time rather than a collection of songs with the hopes of getting radio airplay. This is an album that is meant to be listened to in its entirety, and even then, it leaves you wanting more because it goes by so fast.
With “Dig,” Heaven + Earth has created a masterpiece, inspired by Blackmore, but unique in its own way. The songs on the record harken back to the Ronnie James Dio and Joe Lynn Turner days of Rainbow, and the Blackmore days of Deep Purple with Turner and Ian Gillan, due in no small part to the distinct sound of Schierbaum’s Hammond organ, which invokes the spirit of Jon Lord. Given that Smith was mentored by Blackmore, the Rainbow and Deep Purple influences are to be expected, but there are some unexpected subtle influences as well.
Retta’s powerful, soulful voice over the Blackmore-esque guitar parts most closely resembles Turner, but he is far from a JLT clone. Shades of Steve Walsh (Kansas) can be heard on songs like “Waiting For The World To End” and “A Day Like Today,” while “Man & Machine” features some signature Sammy Hagar type wails. The vocals throughout the album are incredible, but Retta’s shining, and perhaps defining moment, takes place on the albums final song, “Live As One.”
Very few albums in recent memory have as many layers as “Dig,” which may be why it just keeps getting better with each listen. Always melodic, at times anthemic, “Dig” features intense, driving rhythms, beautiful vocal harmonies and infectious, pulsating grooves to go along with Smith’s brilliant guitar virtuosity.
It used to be that the only guarantees in life were death and taxes, but that is no longer the case. Fans of Rainbow and Deep Purple are guaranteed to “Dig” what Heaven + Earth has delivered with this album.
For more information about Heaven + Earth please visit the band’s official website at www.HeavenAndEarthBand.com.