Stuart Smith is a brilliant, underrated guitarist releasing this Heaven and Earth disc on his own Black Star Records with a little help from his friends -- Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi, Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple and Trapeze, Steve Priest from the Sweet, and more. The version of Gary Moore's "Still Got the Blues" is mournful and majestic, a terrific vocal from Rainbow's Joe Lynn Turner complementing Smith's sublime guitar lines. The 16-page booklet includes the lyrics, credits, and tons of photographs. This is intelligent metal, played with craftsmanship sorely missing from the genre. Check out vocalist Paul Shortino -- he of Quiet Riot '89 Live in Japan fame -- on "Howling at the Moon," bluesy enough with a touch of simmering anger. Hurricane's Kelly Hansen has a go at "Trouble in Paradise." The plethora of guest singers may make the disc sound almost like a tribute compilation -- almost. Stuart Smith keeps it all together and Heaven and Earth sustains the presence of all these illustrious names without clutter. The instrumental "Dreams of Desire" gives the guitar star a chance to shine, with Heart's Howard Leese adding some strings over Pat Regan's sparkling keyboards bringing this cut to the verge of Euro progressive rock. The 16 tracks clock in at 72 and a half minutes, and all of it is impressive and fun. But serious fun. Joe Lynn Turner does the honors on the title track, a highly commercial pop ballad with plenty of energy. Toto's Bobby Kimball gets to rock out hard on "Life on the Line," which bridges the various worlds this album entertains. Genres cross, but the hard rock sensibilities are maintained. Many of the guests, including Stacie Rose, Kelly Hansen, and Robbie Wykoff, add to the Joe Lynn Turner performance on "It's Got to Be Love," a true party atmosphere on a solid effort that is consistently entertaining.
Heaven and Earth Review
by Joe Viglione