Hard To Kill
Heaven and Earth
2017 / Quarto Valley Records
Review by Michael Debbage
It has been 4 years since the very impressive Dig and how so much has changed yet remained the same. What has changed is that with the exception of the creator of Heaven & Earth Stuart Smith and stellar vocalist Joe Retta the remaining members are new to the band. What has not changed is the absolutely quality this band is capable of recording which makes Hard To Kill easy to thrill.
While the most obvious group additions come in the form of A1 session drummer Kenny Arnonoff, bassist Lynn Sorenson and keyboard player Ty Bailie seamlessly step in so much so that you essentially forget the top players they were replacing. Even more notable is that with the exception of a few songs credited to Retta and Smith alone, the songs credit the entire band which is reflected in a much unified planetary performance somewhere between heaven and earth.
As for the material itself, while there is still a significant Purple Blackmore influence, Heaven & Earth continue to develop their own voice. With Hard To Kill including all killers and no fillers, the 48 minutes of playing time just seems to fly by just leaving you wanting more. But it is not just about the playing but also the presentation with a stunning artistic cd booklet along with an accompanying DVD. That said the DVD is staged videos of each song in the same room with costume changes which is a nice addition but feels like a missed opportunity. An inside look into the making of Hard To Kill or some live performances may have maximized this portion of the release.
This should not take away from the 48 minutes of stellar music that opens up with the frantic “Hard To Kill” followed later by the toe tapping “Till It’s Over”. Add the almost Marilyn Manson “The Beautiful People” opening introduction found on “The Game Has Changed” clearly Heaven & Earth are more than capable of moving you. Fortunately all song comparisons with Manson ends there with a nice add of harmonica from Retta. Counter the above songs with the “L.A. Blues” (the title gives it away) along with the mid tempo “Bleed Me Dry” (the closest you get to a ballad), Hard To Kill gives you a bit of everything.
Much like Dig, Heaven & Earth are still flying high the Classic Rock flag and creating music that is very familiar. However with Hard To Kill this band is showing more and more shades and hues of their own voice versus the color Purple or for that matter the Rainbow. With yet another stellar recording to their name complete recognition to Heaven & Earth is long way overdue.
February 12, 2018
Review by Michael Debbage