METAL SLUDGE EXCLUSIVE: With an explosive rock CD called “Dig,” Heaven & Earth is plugging away with a new rhythm section, but the band is as strong as ever heading into a European tour
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
LOS ANGELES — Heaven & Earth, led by heralded guitarist Stuart Smith, made a huge splash in 2013 with their CD “Dig,” considered among the best rock releases in a long time. But with the recent departures of bassist Chuck Wright and drummer Richie Onori, a lot of us were wondering if the 70’s-influenced band would be just as good without them.
Turns out, Heaven & Earth has nothing to worry about. Readying for a European tour, the group played a special private showcase on Friday, June 20 at Third Encore Studios in Los Angeles, and the band proved even more spell-binding than before.
With new drummer Jackie Barnes (son of Australia’s rock sensation Jimmy Barnes) and bassist Lynn Sorenson (ex-Bad Company), Heaven & Earth is doing just fine. The group played an hour-long set featuring most of the top songs from “Dig,” including “Victorious,” “No Money, No Love,” “House of Blues” and “Living As One,” and though there was only about 100 of us in the room, the band performed with a fiery intensity just like they were in an arena.
Stuart Smith and Bruce Quarto
Graham Bonnet and Beth-Ami Heavenstone
Smith, a Ritchie Blackmore protégée, is the key figure, and the 58-year-old guitarist feels good about the way things are going.
“We’re actually way better now. We’re a more cohesive unit,” Smith said. “We’ve just jelled better.”
The curly-haired guitarist grew up in England, and he is looking forward to returning. The tour starts on June 26 in Birmingham, UK and there are stops in Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and Ireland.
“The band is doing very well in Europe, so it should go well,” Smith said.
Heaven & Earth has actually been around for awhile, but the group is surely peaking with “Dig.” The band has a millionaire financial backer in Bruce Quarto, who drives a Ferrari and does everything first class. Smith, meanwhile, was chilling with a Playboy playmate named Ivy Ferguson, who was trying not to notice everyone ogling her in the room.
Stuart Smith and Playboy playmate Ivy Ferguson
Retta is also an important component, too. He and Smith played together in Sweet before veering off in Heaven & Earth, and the singer has an exceptionally strong voice that well suits Heaven & Earth’s progressive, heavy songs.
Among those in attendance on Friday were ex-Rainbow singer Graham Bonnet and his new bassist, Beth-Ami Heavenstone from Hardly Dangerous, along with ex-Trash Cowboys drummer Joey Durant plus a bunch of photographers and media types.
Indeed it’s difficult for any rock band without a bunch of old hits to succeed in today’s market, but Heaven & Earth is two steps ahead over just about any competition you care to throw its way. The group has yet to tour extensively in the USA, but their profile could increase if they’re successful in Europe.
Here’s hoping so.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]
Heaven & Sludge