Anyone who either knows me or has followed this website should be well aware of my longstanding passion for all things Deep Purple, and listening to this latest release from Heaven & Earth, titled Dig, it's pretty apparent that guitarist Stuart Smith most definitely shares that same passion. Mentored at one point by none other than ex-Deep Purple & Rainbow guitar god Ritchie Blackmore himself, Smith formed this band as a homage to those acts, and this new CD is a must hear for any fan of those two bands, as well as Bad Company, Whitesnake, early Angel, and Giuffria. Smith has actually also kept busy in Steve Priest's version of Sweet, as has singer Joe Retta & drummer Richie Onori, and the trio have joined up here with Quiet Riot/House of Lords/Giuffria veteran Chuck Wright on bass, and keyboard player Arlan Schierbaum (Joe Bonamassa/Ritchie Kotzen).
If you thought for one minute that anthemic, guitar & keyboard led hard rock with soaring vocals died over 20 years ago, think again. Dig is chock full of memorable, melodic tunes with plenty of muscular might, sizzling instrumental virtuosity, hooks to die for, and some of the best vocals I've heard in a while. Though I'vehad exposure to Retta on a recent live Sweet release, I was not prepared for his performance here, which is truly a revelation. Mix Glenn Hughes, Paul Rodgers, Joe Lynn Turner, and Doogie White all together in a blender, and out comes Joe Retta. This guy is the real deal, soaring over some blistering Blackmore styles riffs & solos on the rampaging "Victorious", and adding a delicate yet forceful touch to the emotional, Hammond organ soaked "House of Blues". Many of these songs bridge the gap between Burn, Perfect Strangers, Straight Between the Eyes, and Stranger In Us All, with a little bit of Bad Company's Straight Shooter thrown in for good measure. Other highlights include the bluesy rocker "Waiting For The End Of The World", the heavy rock bombast of "Rock & Roll Does", and the swirling guitar/Hammond ripper "No Money, No Love". Whitesnake fans will love the raunchy, sleazy blues rocker "Man & Machine", featuring rampaging Hammond organ, and some sizzling slide guitar & talk box from guest Ritchie Sambora.
If I have any complaint about Dig, it's that the back end of the CD loses a little steam by containing a few too many ballads (though the crankin' "Good Times" is slotted in there nicely), but even those are extremely well done and again feature Retta's strong vocals. Smith is a fantastic player, but doesn't overplay here one bit, injecting his Blackmore inspired solos when needed and giving Schierbaum plenty of room to solo and layer in his many keyboard sounds. When the two trade off, as they do on "Back In Anger", you'll instantly be reminded of the glorious Blackmore/Lord exchanges of the '70s.
Classic hard rock is alive and well folks, and if you are into that sort of thing, Dig is most certainly something you'll want to get your hands on immediately.
2. No Money, No Love
3. I Don't Know What Love Is
4. Man & Machine
5. House Of Blues
6. Back In Anger
7. Waiting For The End Of The World
8. Sexual Insanity
9. Rock & Roll Does
10. A Day Like Today
11. Good Times
12. Live As One