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Heaven & Earth: V

I’ve absolutely no hesitation in proclaiming that both Dig (2013) and Hard To Kill (2017) are amongst the best Classic Rock albums released during the two-thousands. Guitarist Stuart Smith and his band Heaven & Earth unleashing a pair of utterly stunning records that were full of a vibrant energy and urgency which is missing from most bands so unapologetically following a well worn musical path, no matter the genre. Smith is an acolyte of Ritchie Blackmore and no mistake, with his style positively reeking of the man in black and even his stage moves are, shall we say, borrowed from the same source. However, none of that mattered one jot when you put on either of those albums and became completely ensconced in the rich riffs, howling Hammond and rambunctious rhythms contained within.

What’s also worth mentioning however, is that the band’s latest album, V (yes, it’s their fifth outing) finds a key change in the line-up of a band never afraid of a reshuffle or seven. Hence, filling the shoes of singer Joe Retta comes Italian, Gianluca Petralia, a thoroughly talented chap who, had I never heard this band before, I’d be more than happy with as the focal-vocal point in this collective. And yet, much though I try, I can’t quite dismiss the fact that the man who came before not only blew away his own predecessors in the shape of Paul Shortino, Kelly Keagy, Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner and even a guest spot from Richie Sambora, but announced himself as possibly the current premier voice in this style. That Petralia falls short of such a mantle should be no surprise and no disgrace, with his performance on the energetic “Ship Of Fools”, mid-paced bombast of “Running From The Shadows” and Hammond hued humdinger “Flim Flam Man” impressive indeed. And in that light, what I’m left wondering is, did having a singer of the peerless class of Retta leave H&E in the situation where good, but not great Classic Rock vibes were vaulted to superior status by a stunning singer, because what I can’t quite get over here is how run of the mill some of this album sounds compared to the band’s more recent offerings. Don’t get me wrong, Smith is still stinging ferociously on the frets and in keyboard player Gyorgy Barabas (who is also making his first appearance with the band) he has a superb foil for the forceful riffing and searing solos. And yet, by the time that closing track “At The End Of The Day” atmospherically brings this album to a conclusion, not much has really stuck in the mind, while in the shape of the twee “Little Black Dress”, this album even contains one real clunker.

Heaven & Earth are still an excellent Classic Rock band, but with V, for me anyway, they’ve slipped back into the pack from a position where they were way out in front. Hopefully it’s a minor aberration and normal, phenomenal service will be resumed with their next outing.

Track Listing
1. Drive
2. Beautiful
3. Never Dream Of Dying
4. Ship Of Fools
5. Poverty
6. Flim Flam Man
7. One In A Million Men
8. Little Black Dress
9. Big Money Little Man
10. Running From The Shadows
11. Nothing To Me
12. At The End Of The Day

Added: August 21st 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Heaven & Earth online
Hits: 1029
Language: english

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