by Keavin Wiggins
There was a discussion on one of our message
boards recently where a few readers were commenting on the absence of new
great blues hard rock these days. If you look at the Billboard charts all
you see are insipid pop groups and singers, rap and bands like Limp Bizkit
that don’t venture far from drop tuned power chords. We have good news
for those seeking the bluesy style rock that made Deep Purple, Rainbow
and Bad Company legendary bands.
Heaven and Earth is not only a testament
to the great hard rock tradition of the 70’s and 80’s, they bring that
spirit into the 21st century, and remind us of a time when music had more
substance and melody. When musical skill and great song writing ability
were the hallmarks of a rock group. Plus let us not forget the keystone
of that sound, killer lead guitars!
The Heaven and Earth band is an outgrowth
of Stuart Smith’s solo album of the same name. On his solo debut, Stuart
included a host of guest musicians. Stuart’s Heaven and Earth CD was hard
rocks answer Santana’s Supernatural, featuring legendary musicians like
Glenn Hughes, Richey Sambora and Joe Lynn Turner, just to name a few. The
album hit the AOR scene like lightning, receiving critical praise and turning
fans onto Stuart’s guitar playing and musical style.
Stuart wanted to build on the success of
Heaven and Earth but this time instead of guest musicians; he decided to
assemble a world-class team to aid him in bringing his musical vision to
the world. The band Heaven and Earth was born.
Featuring Stuart on guitar with Arlen Schierbaum
on Keyboards, drummer Richie Onori, and vocalist Kelly Keeling. Together,
they have taken the music to a new level with their new CD “Windows to
It’s no secret to anyone who knows about
Stuart that Ritchie Blackmore has had a huge influence over his guitar
and writing style. The two men have been friends for years and Blackmore
is said to have been a mentor for Stuart. Fans of Deep Purple and Rainbow
will find familiar elements on Heaven and Earth. Blackmore and former Rainbow
vocalist Joe Lynn Turner both received co-writing credits for tracks on
the CD. But don’t write Heaven and Earth off as a Blackmore knockoff.
While there are similarities, Heaven and Earth does have thier feel and
a few of the songs are a touch above classic Deep Purple and Rainbow.
From the first track the wisdom of the
addition of vocalist Kelly Keeling and keyboardist Arlen Schierbaum are
evident. Fans of Deep Purple will rejoice when they hear “Dogs of War”,
it’s a safe bet that if Deep Purple was still together this is how they
would sound. What sets it apart is the Celtic undertones. Stuart brought
some of that sound into the music on his debut album but it really stands
out here. The songs take the best aspects of the late 60’s and 70’s
blue-hard-rock sound and expand on them to give them a fresh 21st century
style. Vocally Kelly Keeling at times sounds like a dead ringer for Ian
Gillian and at others a young Sammy Hagar or Paul Rodgers. The keyboards
would do Jon Lord, Goldy McJohn and Don Airey proud. What more can you
Make no bones about it, Windows to the
World is the must have release of the year for guitar rock fans.
I will close on a person note: I worked
with Stuart briefly in 1991 when he was leading his previous band Midnight.
I lied about my age, and used my older brother’s ID to land the gig. I
started out as a bass tech but when the road manager quit I briefly inherited
the job, being a young kid right out of school I was way out of my league,
and the band quickly discovered this and replaced me. The reason I bring
this up is that experience has proven invaluable to me over the years.
It introduced me to the rock world, and showed me a bit of how things really
work and just how difficult it is for bands to make it. But the most important
thing that came out of that summer was a deep respect for musicians. I
am not talking about respect for talent that is a given, I am talking about
the character required to bring your musical vision to the world. You see
at that point in time the music scene was dominated by groups like Bang
Tango, Bullet Boys, Guns n Roses, and the radio friendly songs from Metallica’s
black album. Stuart’s style was firmly founded in the bluesy hard rock
tradition of Deep Purple, Bad Company and Rainbow. It would have
been easy for him to jump on a band wagon and produce music more in line
with the “in-thing” so he could land a record deal and get the money and
fame that goes along with it, but he stuck to his guns, continued producing
the music that he really believed in. So here we are ten years later and
Stuart is still making the music he believes in and most of the “hot” groups
from those days are now footnotes in music history or a cautionary tales
on VH1’s “Where are they now?”.
So I send out a special thanks to Stuart
for maintaining his integrity, sticking to his guns, finding the right
band and producing one of the best rock albums to be heard in years. I
know he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
to MP3 samples and purchase Windows to the World
the Official Heaven and Earth Website
Keavin Wiggins is the managing
editor and founder of the iconoFAN Network.