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|Reviews : Heartland - As It Comes
Voltz 7 - November 2000 - Gez Chell
Its no secret that I love Heartland, but it wasn?t always so, they had to earn my affection. Over the years I had given up blindly following one particular band or artist as I?d eagerly await a follow up album only to find they had split up, lost a band member or produced a pile of garbage. I can?t say that any other band especially a UK artist have produced consistently high melodic AOR albums such as Heartland have.
Heartland, it has to be said, stand head and shoulders above the pack, peddling their own blend of Anglo-American radio rock, never straying too far from their unique formula or sound but each album manages to be a progression from the last What always surprise's me is that with each album you are convinced that they?ve reached the pinnacle of their creative genius yet they manage to pull the proverbial rabbit from the hat and outdo themselves and create another masterpiece.
Chris Ousey, easily the best vocalist in rock music today, is emotive and beautifully expressive and teamed up with Steve Morris, the consummate professional, his sparring partner, they are one incredible duo, it has to be said that these two are the Heart of Heartland.
This, their latest album 'AS IT COMES' is another slice of pure AOR heaven, layers of harmony soaked songs and luscious keyboards, as you would expect. BUT what DOES surprise is a rather tough and dirty Steve Morris who sounds like he?s on a mission slashing out some killr riffs.
The opener, ?Staring Down The Gun? kicks in with a blistering solo underscored with a classic Jovi bass line, ?Eyes Wide Open? is more familiar Heartland and the Schon style solo starts the track beautifully, containing the excellent lyric ?Dreams just waiting for wings to fly.? 'you get the picture.
?She Blows Me Away? is a strong ballad and whether their was something in the water Mr Ousey has penned another classic . I'm not big into lyrics but these are without doubt some of the best he?s penned. ?Wiling To Fly? picks up the pace again with a strong pumping bass line courteously of Tim Hewitt, ?Love Resurrection? is another rocker and should be a great track Iive.
?Too Good To Be True? follows and is probably one of my favourite tracks on the album (Even my illustrious editor was seen tapping her foot to this one....). The song is simple and spacious. Steve Gibson's solid and simple drumming keeps the mood and pace to perfection and the lyric ?choking on my swallowed pride? is pure class.
?Whatever Gets You Through The Night?, is another contender for my favourite track on As It Comes. A great ballad with a few mood changes along the way, check it out.
One Love finds Steve Morris & Steve Millington (keys) sparing on a track that wouldn?t be misplaced on any STRANGEWAYS album.
Some albums tail off towards the end, NOT SO with Heartland, the album just gets better. It?s a good job cd players have a repeat function.
Space forbids me tell you just how far Heartland have come over the years. The atom lyrics are easily the best penned by the very talented Ousey and the emotion and skill of the very under-rated guitarist Steve Morris are second to none.
This album will take fans by surprise and the doubters and unconverted will certainly be won over I have no doubt. Few albums of recent years can boast this production or have sounded this big, perhaps AS IT COMES will open the door to a new AOR revival.
As It Comes is album number 6 for Heartland and once that sort of catalogue is established, it is hard to distinguish the material amongst all the other albums before it and also hard for a band to record something new to sound original and excite fans.
Fortunately Heartland do a little of both, with several songs that retain the sound we know and love and pleasing long time fans, while also throwing in a few new tricks to break the flow of the album up and hopefully reach a few new fans. As a result, As It Comes is probably the best album the guys have recorded since their softer AOR debut.
The main thing I can report from this album is the songs have more life to them and remain more memorable.
Having said that, the only thing the guys can do to improve now, is work on their choruses. Heartland remain a band that rely on intricate and changing melodies contained in the whole song, rather than a killer chorus that sticks in your head endlessly.
Opening track Starring Down The Gun has more punch than just about
any other Heartland number I can think of. It suits the guys and Ousey sounds great. The more intense drumming makes an effect and the chorus, while it comes and goes very quickly is effective.
Eyes Open Wide is classic Heartland at their best. A fast tempoed, but moody AOR rocker that contains a smoldering vocal and a verse layered with several guitar and vocal melodies. This is the sort of track I could always hear more of.
She Blows Me Away and Willing To Fly are both good moody rock tracks, musically in the vein of the band's first album, but with the production of their recent style.
Love Resurrection is another more guitar dominated track like the opening number.
Whatever Gets You Through The Night is one of those new tricks I was talking about. This is possibly the darkest track the guys have ever recorded, with plenty of atmosphere and a tough chorus where the vocal takes a back seat to the guitar and musical layers. A good track.
On The Run Away, Steve Morris plays some tasty guitar and Chris Ousey does some of his best Eric Martin vocals. Another classic style Heartland track.
You Make Me Smile also harks back the softer AOR style of the debut with some great smooth vocals and some great pure keyboard AOR hooks. A pretty ballad.
Conquer All finishes the album with some urgency - a fast moving pop rocker with a memorable chorus and more great vocals.
BOTTOM LINE: A few tracks stand out as classic AOR numbers, but put the whole album together and it adds up to possibly the best Heartland album to date. At the very least it is the band's most musically diverse, even when they don't stray from the formula of past albums too much. It still leaves a positive feeling and a regard that the band are still capable of being creative and making good AOR records after several years on the job. It's also great to see an AOR band establish a real track record. Like fellow UK rockers Ten, I expect Heartland to be round for several years to come.
This is the kind of album that irritates me as a reviewer. It?s not bad enough to rip into, yet it?s really not that good enough to heap praise upon.
Like Ten is for Now & Then, the guys in Heartland seems to have become Escape?s house band, for better and worse. This one lies on the side of better thankfully.
It certainly does have it?s moments, and though it?s clichéd to say, when it?s good?it?s really good. Chris Ousey still sounds a lot like Eric Martin, which ain?t a bad thing. And musically too this band resembles Mr. Big. It?s just a shame that songs like ?Eyes Wide Open?, the soaring ?Willing To Fly? and ?Live To Fight Another Day? outshine the rest by a wide margin. Not that any of the others are bad, just so damned average and feel like filler but still a lot more listenable than most of what?s out there today. A good release that points the way to their inevitable classic
Fireworks 2 - Nov to Dec 2000 - Nick Baldrian
I got into Heartland after seeing them supporting Winger way back in 1991. I bought their debut A&M Records album which was a classy piece of melodic rock and pure AOR, featuring such gorgeous songs as 'Carrie Ann' and 'Fight Fire With Fire' amongst others.
The band then joined up with Escape music a few years later and have since released a catalogue of high quality releases, the only problem was that altough those albums were good, they oftn contained some mediocre songs as well ad great songs.
'As It Comes' squashes all those albums with ease and is definitely Heartland's best album since that debut.
Chris Ousey's voice sounds as if he mans it again, sounding very much like Eric Martin all over 'As It Comes', especiall on 'Love Resurrection'. This song is very melodic and the chorus is very easy to sing along to. 'Too Good To Be True' is another high quality song. Tracks like 'Whatever Gets You Through The Night' is a gorgeous piece of AOR that I know Heartland's fans will be going crazy over, but the albums best songs for me are 'One Love' and 'Conquer All'. The former is very very catchy and includes some exquisite guitar playing, a great catchy chorus and features some nice seventies sounding keys. The song is quite heavy and will be a definite live favourite in years to come. The latter is my favourite song and you can't knock the band's ability on this hugely influential track - an awesome song which I'm playing to death.
A mention must also go to 'You Make Me Smile' which is another huge song with some rather tasty guitar ditty's a la Eric Johnson. Actually the song reminds me of Johnson's 'Cliffs Of Dover' from his 'Ah Via Musicom' album.
All in all I'm very impressed with 'As It Comes'. each song on this album is class and is easily the band's best album since the debut. Recommended.