Released: 2004, Black Star Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Heaven & Earth is the brainchild of British guitarist Stuart Smith and drummer Richie Onori. Smith released an album in 1996 called STUART SMITH’S HEAVEN & EARTH that featured such marquee vocal talent as Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rainbow) and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi). Using that release as a springboard, he brought along Onori for 2001’s WINDOWS TO THE WORLD and now A TASTE OF HEAVEN, a teaser for a full-length to be released later this year. Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot) has been enlisted for vocal duties this time around and brings his bluesy rasp to perfectly suit these AOR-styled melodic hard rock songs. A TASTE OF HEAVEN features three new tracks from the upcoming full-length as well as five tracks from the first.
“Screaming For Redemption” is a bluesy track with Shortino’s vocals taking over the song immediately. Shortino always seemed like a vocalist who never realized his full potential because of the bands he chose to front. Too bad, too, because he still seems to have some excellent chops reminiscent of David Coverdale. “Heaven” and “It’d Be True” are throwaway power ballads but “Nasty Piece of Work” is a driving rocker with some solid drumming from Onori and great riffing from Smith. If the rest of the new full-length CD is anything like this, sign me up! The instrumental “Dreams of Desire” is a cover of an old 70s song that some may recognize as “that circus song” from the film, BOOGIE NIGHTS. Smith and keyboardist Scott Warren really let loose on the song and add new flair to this prog classic. “When A Blind Man Cries” is another bluesy track with a Hammond B3 organ that makes the track sound similar in style to Deep Purple’s “Child In Time.” Sambora’s voice has always been an excellent compliment to Jon Bon Jovi’s and as he displayed on his 1991 solo album, he can belt out the tunes when handling primary vocal duties, as well. The unmistakable voice of Joe Lynn Turner lends a more cheerful air to the proceedings on “Heaven & Earth,” an incredibly catchy track that would settle right into a classic rock station’s playlist. Black Sabbath fans may remember Glenn Hughes from his vocal work on their SEVENTH STAR release but Hughes goes all hambone on “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” delivering a raucous vocal performance that wavers between bluesy crooning to heavy metal screams. A real standout cut.
Fans of blues-based rock and classic rock will eat this release up and metalheads who listen to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rainbow, Whitesnake and Rough Cutt will also enjoy A TASTE OF HEAVEN. There are plenty of meaty riffs and solos and the vocal talent here is something else.
KILLER KUTS: “Screaming For Redemption,” “Nasty Piece of Work,” “When A Blind Man Cries,” “Heaven & Earth,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”