Oh what a fun this album is to listen to! Stuart Smith is Ritchie Blackmore's disciple, which is quite an interesting event. The result of two guitar players' co-writing we'll hear on the second "Heaven And Earth" outing to be released soon while this one is extremely interesting, too.
The opener "Don't Keep Me Waiting" starts off with a folky tune turned into the catchy riff with brilliant guitar spells immediately smelling of the Man in Black. Kelly Hansen of HURRICANE fame delivers a light vocal line a little contrasted with heavy chords. Especially impressive is the middle bridge and what's great is that Smith doesn't try to cram too many notes in one solo as does Yngwie. For coda Ray Rodrigues supplies hi-fi Hammomd solo leaving a listener bedazzled on facing something familiar yet original.
Another acoustic intro leads us into the title track. Joe Lynn Turner sings very softly - just like in "Tearin' Out My Heart" or "Love Conquers All" - but later on the piece becomes uptempo, really RAINBOW-like, although acoustic guitar remains there all the way through. Yes, the next one is pure blues, a classic "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" by Blind Lemon Jefferson as 'talked' by Smith's acoustic slide guitar and Richie Sambora's dobro. The voice is unmistakable pipes of Glenn Hughes. He starts vocalizing and you find - if you didn't know this before - that it's not "L.A. Cut-Off", that amazing Glenn is never as good blues singer as funky. Hughes gets over the top with his mannerism and melismas and screaming that just doesn't fit the blues. But it's quite heavy and anyway good. The shiny rhythm section consists of Chuck Wright and one Carmine Appice.
The blusier the purplier and we are treated with "When A Blind Man Cries", not only played but sung by Sambora. It punchs you even more than original as Richie doesn't imitate Gillan. Solos deviate from Blackmore's too. "Memories" is a great melodic song which fits Joe Lynn like a glove. We always love him to sing such a poppy hard rock that gets us joining in in the chorus.
And you just can't help laughing as some acoustic guitar bars make room for the familiar beat of "Difficult To Cure', which it's not. The track called "Dreams Of Desire" is a take on Bach, not Beethoven. Well, the organ is replaced with harpsichord but the arrangement and vibe leave no doubt that it's a loving joke towards Ritchie.
As is the following "Trouble In Paradise". This rock'n'roll is a re-make of "Can't Happen Here" both in musical and lyrical context, though the riff is similar to that of "Rock Fever". Thanks God, the singer is Hansen, not JLT. Ah, there's another vet present, Steve Priest, the bass man of SWEET. Turner returns to sing "Shadow Of Tyburn Tree", a real gem close to the BLACKMORE'S NIGHT stuff but much more greater. It's a long time since Ritchie managed to have written a ballad so beautiful and gentle as folky. Acoustic guitar supported by strings from Pat Regan make this one more deep. Very tearful and sentimental cry for lost love.
And not to let you break down "It Got To Be Love" kicks off, organ-laden rock'n'roll with pseudo-brass and female back vocals and hand-clapping and feet-stomping - all like in "Power", RAINBOW tune that's hard to bear.
Now Blackmore's eventually left behind and the blues are welcomed in again. "When The Blues Catch Up With You", written and delivered by Al Mirikitani would have suit Paul Rodgers well. There's Paul ex-cohort present in the person of Howard Leese whose guitar makes trio with axes of Stuart and Al. "Do You Ever Think Of Me" sounds bluesy too but is more uptempo and very close to the 80s AOR. The second instrumental piece, "The Road To Melnibone", plagiarizing "The Loner" which everyone is familiar with by Gary Moore's version, has three guitars singing - Smith's, Leese's and Iain Hersey's 12-string.
Paul Shortino was invited to belt off "Howlin' At The Moon", bluesy hard rock number with hooky riff and if it's nothing special one just gets high with "Telstar 2000" written by Blackmore's mentor Joe Meek. Smith maintains the spirit of time with low sound, not distorted by processors and with acoustic guitar background. To finish the album off the band gives its full in "Lose My Number". This rock'n'roll is preceded by a strange electronic sound but develops into rather standard piece with all the PURPLE tips that make you think what quotes are in it.
"Heaven And Earth" is essential for every Blackmore's fan. For the rest it's classic hard rock in its best.
***** - for fun