Heaven & Earth
Heaven & Earth - Featuring Stuart Smith
Review by Larry Toering
This is a review of the Japanese import version of Heaven & Earth which features a lot of musicians that Stuart Smith assembled for this great band. I tend to give it a prog tag because not only did the project sport an assortment of harder rocking musicians, it was balanced very well with prog factors, mostly consisting of the AOR variety with guys like Jay Schellen of Asia, Keith Emerson who helped the proceedings one way or another, and Richie Onori as well (a prog drummer like Schellen). The music falls into a “more prog than not” feel, although its basic attitude is AOR with a strong blues vibe as it's main texture to the sound. Everyone turned in grand performances on this fine recording with Howard Leese, Joe Lynn Turner, Bobby Kimball, Kelly Hansen, Richie Sambora, Glenn Hughes, Carmine Appice, Pat Regan (who also produced it), along with others. There is a DVD of the making of the album which gives a lot of insight and actually helped with this review. A new disc is being recorded with some of the same musicians and newly added ones as well, as Smith gears up for another outing while on break with Sweet. If you like AOR rock with a prog sense, then this is a must have for any collection. What a fantastic player Smith himself is, having learned a few things from the Ritchie Blackmore, a very close long time friend.
|Track by Track Review
|Don't Keep Me Waiting|
This contains a riff that was admittedly partly nicked from one of a couple of great guitar interludes in Deep Purple's “No No No.” Here it takes the shape of a hot groove as the song wears on, with Kelly Hansen providing his spot on lyrics for what I understand to be a tune that started off when they went under the name of “Midnight.” The vocals here really showcase Hansen's talent and point up why he was the right guy for Foreigner. They came up with a stormer in this tune that the band used as their opener at shows. It also features a totally killer keyboard solo, handled by two players in Ray Rodriguez on one half, and Pat Regan on the other.
|Heaven & Earth|
The strong AOR vibe instantly kicks in on this fantastic track that features a performance that Joe Lynn Turner said he felt at the time was probably one of his most inspired to date. At the time I would agree myself with that, although he's come a long way since then. Still, this likely remains a favorite of his. This has an epic appeal, and I do find it to be a huge moment for Turner. It is one of those tracks that picking up the “Making Of” DVD provide insight in how it came together and how funny the circumstances were surrounding it. This track also features an acoustic intro provided by Howard Leese(Heart/Paul Rodgers), as well as a great twin lead solo between Smith and Leese.
|See That My Grave Is Kept Clean|
The old Blind Lemon Jefferson tune gets a big workout here with the usual amazing vocal performance by Glenn Hughes. The dobro part was played by Richie Sambora. Originally it was Paul Rodgers who Smith wanted to sing this, but he was busy at the time so Hughes was the obvious next choice. This also features Carmine Appice and Chuck Wright. Everyone was impressed with each other’s input on this screaming blues rework.
|When A Blind Man Cries|
This track was written and recorded by the original mkII lineup of Deep Purple. Part of the Machine Head album sessions, it only wound up on a B-side single. This is one of my all time favorite blues tracks, as that is exactly what it is, a straight forward blues of astonishing proportions. This features Sambora on guitar and vocals, and if you ask me he nailed it well in his own right. It was finally brought into the Deep Purple live set just prior to this. They did it more like this version than the original when it comes to the guitar approach, and the song has actually taken on a life of its own since then. I find this to be one of the best selling points of the disc, just a phenomenal performance.
|Life On The Line|
This one features Bobby Kimball (Toto) on vocals, and lyrics by Turner. These lyrics are so relevant to what's going on in the world today that it's almost scary to consider. I would call it very provocative indeed in that respect. It’sa great job by Kimball here, one of his career best if you ask me. Others who play great here include Jay Schellen and Chuck Wright.
|Dreams Of Desire|
Smith decided to make a tune based around Bach's “Jesu Joy Of Mans Desire,” which happens to be a favorite of mine, and he obviously has a soft spot for it, too. This, along with the opening track features a very Blackmore-like sound coming from Smith. I happen to know this is also a piece that Blackmore would often take opportunities on stage to weave in and out of the odd arrangement. Leese gets credited with helping bring out the best of Smith on this track. This is amazing stuff here with Smith just flying all over it.
|Still Got The Blues|
This is a cover of the great Gary Moore track featuring Turner on vocals and the excellent Scott Warren(Warrant/Dio/Heaven & Hell) on keys. There isn't a whole lot to say about such a number that hasn't already been said, but this is such a great version that is all there is to it.
|Do You Ever Think Of Me|
This is one of those great tunes that Turner had under his belt. This was supposed to have Sambora singing on it, but Hansen wound up in that role. It seems tailor made for him.
|It's Got To Be Love|
This was a studio jam that Smith wound up keeping around for its growth potential. Grow it did, so they wound up using it here. It actually features horns played by Regan, which surprised me, because I know him as a keyboard player and producer, but had no idea he could blow a horn. This is another thing the DVD reveals at one point. This features Turner once again, in another fine performance with Hansen backing him. The whole thing ends with a very funny “domestic quarrel” going on in the background, which provides the perfect atmosphere for the tune.
|Shadow Of The Tyburn Tree|
There is quite a story to this unique tune. I have always thought that this piece featured one of the most original vocals of any I’ve heard Turner. The theme is medieval, with an acoustic performance by Smith, and they completely nailed it all the way. The whole feel to it is absolutely authentic, and the Tyburn Tree itself is actually the Hangman's Gallows. This would go down to be a big favorite of mine concerning all involved, but Turner in particular. I loved this from the first time I heard it.
|Road To Melnibone|
This would be the second instrumental found on offer, and again Smith came up with quite the tune here. Once again Leese provided a killer acoustic performance on twelve-string. He commented that it wasn't easy of course, having to squeeze the neck for such a thing. It is another mystical track in the end.
|When The Blues Catch Up With You - Howlin' At The Moon|
These are sort of two tracks in one that were also recorded for this import version of the disc. As Smith and Leese went to the studio of Al Mirikitani(B.B. Chung King) to record them, they were already written by Leese, and Smith just re-recorded the guitar parts. This is another one that makes the DVD worth picking up just to hear another great story behind one of the tracks. Blues is the overall idea here, rocked up quite a bit, though. It’s simply amazing stuff, and Leese just can't be denied in his whole role in this band of many fine artists.
Another track to feature Appice on drums and Wright on bass, it's really just a fine number. Appice provides some cool fills to add to the arrangement. It's also a track that was added to the live set with great response.
|Trouble In Paradise|
Smith recalls this as the first track he and Turner ever wrote together. They reworked it into a more accessible number. This features Hansen who put his own stamp on it. There is also a nice piano arrangement and some fantastic organ from Regan to top it all off. Another feature on this tune was the inclusion of Steve Priest (Sweet) on bass duties.
|Lose My Number|
Once again Smith mixes a couple of Deep Purple guitar ideas for a smashing tune. At this point you don't want the whole thing to end as it comes to a head with only one track left. You will be not only exhausted but fully impressed with the entire set by now. I guess Smith gave Schellen a hard time for adding weird timings, as the prog artist he and many others here are. Smith apparently told Shellen to stop with the math testing factors, comparing his skills to that of a mathematician.
|The Eyes Of Man|
This one is a bonus track for Japan only, featuring keys by Warren, recorded once again at B.B Chung King studios. It contains all the elements to be found within the disc. It’s just another killer tune that somehow belongs with the rest of the set.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
© 2013 Music Street Journal
Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./Beetcafe.com