Heaven And Earth
"Both Guns a Blazin'"
Refreshing is the word that most often comes to mind when listening to Stuart Smith’s debut opus, Heaven and Earth, an album brimming with a glorious array of seasoned performers, well-crafted songs and brilliant musicianship. Smith has been in, around and among the music business for nearly two decades. His roots reach back to York, England where, as a child, he was classically trained on the guitar. Yet, once rock ‘n roll slithered its wicked way into Smith’s traditional playing, delicate scales were replaced by a full volume arsenal. His youthful style needed direction, so he turned to Deep Purple’s In Rock as the study guide while Ritchie Blackmore, quite literally, became the teacher.
“Ritchie was a mentor,” explains Stuart over the phone, “He was my greatest teacher. It wasn’t so much how to play the guitar with him, it was how to release the emotion inside the instrument.” Smith’s tutoring began in 1981 when, after playing in a number of local outfits, he made his way to London and there met his idol. Blackmore was on the road promoting Rainbow MIII with Difficult To Cure fresh out of the box. Sharing the spotlight center-stage was newcomer, Joe Lynn Turner. A friendship soon developed between the Rainbow vocalist and the struggling guitarist. The association proved lasting as Turner is among the highlighted artists on Smith’s Heaven and Earth. The title track achieves, in one song, the summation of clarity and advanced development of a première guitarist.
“It wasn’t so easy getting this record done and released,” Smith admits. “It was put together over a number of different sessions with a lot of different guys.” Smith grappled with the change of fashion for an artist of his genre. If Heaven and Earth can be directed at a common vision, it must start with Smith’s friends. Attracting a diamond-studded line-up of the best in power metal superheroes, the CD defends the right to play its brand of music with force, taste and superior range. His cast reads like a Who’s Who of classic rock. Performing vocal duties are Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner, Ritchie Sambora and Hurricane’s Kelly Hanson. His session musicians are Marvin Sperling, Ray Rodriguez and the immortal drummer, Carmine Appice. The playing proves to be top notch only to be crowned with the exceptional production talents of Pat Regan and Howard Leese.
Smith handles all guitars (except an occasional addition by brother-in-law, Ritchie Sambora). His dexterity is compelling. Don’t Keep Me Waiting, Trouble in Paradise, Lose My Number and It’s Got To Be Love, kick the record into full gear, hard, fast and heavy. In juxtaposition are the sensitive Heaven And Earth, Dreams of Desire, and the power ballad Do You Ever Think of Me? The guitarist’s adaptation of the blues in See That My Grave Is Kept Clean and the Purple classic When A Blind Man Cries, revel in a working knowledge of what makes the Delta weep. Shadow of the Tyburn Tree has Smith as a modern day minstrel paying homage to his mentor. To get your copy, order online (www.stuartsmith.com).
Smith is also featured on Windham Hill's Sounds of Wood and Steel with Joe Lynn Turner.