Veteran L.A. rockers assemble to inject some fresh ideas into the tried and true classic rock sound on Dig
By Alex Baker
Founded by ex-Sweet guitarist Stuart Smith, Heaven and Earth is a neo-classic rock outfit from Los Angeles. Smith is an Englishmen who was mentored by Ritchie Blackmore. And it shows. In fact it’s apparent from practically note one of Dig.
The album‘s opener, “Victorious” features an Eastern sounding guitar intro that gives way to a kind of exotic caravanesque hard rock riff. As soon as lead singer Joe Retta comes in, its apparent the guy’s got a grade A rock and roll voice, a la Paul Rodgers. The song is good and sonically interesting, even if it goes on for a bit.
Apart from the obvious influence of Blackmore and Deep Purple, there are some heavily pronounced Zeppelin accents scattered throughout Dig, especially on the organ-driven “No Money, No Love,” and the acoustic “I Don’t Know What Love Is.”
The album is a little heavy on power ballads and anthemic rockers, although Heaven and Earth really seem at their best when they take the foot off the brake and deliver a straight up rocker. “Man & Machine” – probably the rowdiest number on the record – is a good example, with guitars and vocals dirtied up in an AC/DC vein and the rhythm section tearing rambunctiously through the changes. And who doesn’t like a rock and roll song about cars?
“Back In Anger” is another rocker with a nice big drum intro from Richie Onori, great organ from Arlan Schierbaum and more impressive riffery from Smith. More than any other track on the album, “Back In Anger” makes it apparent that this band can really play together with Retta’s muscular hard rock tenor in top form.
“Sexual Insanity” alternates between a moody organ groove and an AC/DC style rock riff, while building to a crescendo that unashamedly veers into Seventies prog rock.
The band sound really heated up on “Good Times.” One of the most infectious tracks on the album, it features a powerful rock vocal performance from Retta and a ripping guitar solo.
“Rock & Roll Does” is another track which demonstrates that Heaven and Earth are really in their element when they turn up the gain and allow Joe Retta to push his voice to the edge.
On “A Day Like Today” Retta shows greater range and melody than on anywhere else on the album; his soaring melody delivered over a piano riff almost recalling Queen.
“Live as One” seems it was intended to be the album’s true anthem, and for the most part, it delivers with strong lyrics nice changes, and hooky inspiring chorus. It’s highlighted by a soaring guitar solo from Smith, delivered in a sort of Brian May style.
Throughout the album one of the best things about Dig is Retta. Again and again he shows himself to be the ideal singer for delivering the band’s neo-classic rockers.
Visually heaven and Earth project a scarf-laden old school rock image that suits their Deep Purple retro rock sound like a tailored pair of crushed velvet trousers.The thing about them is that even though they at times embody certain classic rock cliches, they do it pretty well. So if you buy the ticket, it’s a pretty good ride.
If you believe as Noel Gallagher of Oasis once said, that all the best rock and roll songs have already been written and the only thing to do is re-write them, then you’ll probably dig Dig. Unabashed classic rock revivalists they may be, but Heaven and Earth have got songs, a very capable lead guitarist, and a lead singer who can stand and deliver. While it may not be the height of innovation, it’s nice to hear a band like Heaven and Earth come along and inject a little life into the classic rock sound.