|HEARTLAND - "MOVE ON"
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HEARTLAND - "MOVE ON"
23rd March 2005
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11th April 2005
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|Reviews : Heartland - Communication Down
Fireworks 9 - Aug/Sep 2002 - Dave *bleep*ett
Hard as it may be to believe, ?Communication Down' is something like the eighth studio album from Chris Ousey and Heartland in a little over a decade.
First coming to the fore fronting the all too short lived Virginia Wolf back in the 80?s, Ousey has consistently proven himself to be one of the finest UK MHR singers of his generation, up their with the likes of Steve Overland and Danny Bowes, and in I my book they don't come much better. Since hooking up with former Ian Gillan guitarist Steve Morris for 96's 'Heartland III' opus, his songwriting prowess has also gone from strength to strength, each subsequent release building on the foundations laid down by its predecessors.
Follow up to 2000's 'As It Comes' release, 'Communication Down' sees Ousey and Morris strive to recapture a heavier, slightly more guitar dominant sound, stepping back just a tad from the slick, super smooth AOR which has been the trade mark of their last few efforts.
However, don't make the mistake of confusing heavier guitars with less sophisticated songs, as 'Communication Down' is quite possibly the best and most memorable release to emerge under the Heartland banner to date. Full of gloriously hook laden melodies borne aloft on the wings of Morris' excellent fret work, these songs exude power and passion from every pore. Opening with the punchy 'Imagine How I Felt', a great bluesy romp with some suitably earthy vocals from Ousey (Heartland meets Jagged Edge anyone?), the band set their stall out from the word go. Having seized the momentum, next track 'Follow Me' continues with the same groove, whilst 'The Man In The Iron Mask' (touches of Def Leppard and Bad Company) has real radio potential written all over it. Known for their big production ballads, Heartland don't disappoint with 'Fight The Good Fight', although the gospel tinged 'The Best Of Times' (think Jimmy Barnes circa 'Freight Train Heart', only much classier) with it's huge chorus runs it a very close second in my opinion. But that's not even half of it, check out the energetic 'Time And Tide', the brooding, almost progressive undercurrent of 'Black And White', or the bright and bubbly 'All Her Own Way?. And that's the real beauty of this album, eleven tracks, all different, all thoroughly memorable.
Rounded out by a lush, vibrant mix from former Loverboy man Paul 'The Machine' Dean, 'Communication Down' is the perfect answer to all those who'd have you believe the UK AOR scene was dead and buried. Highly recommended.
One of the tracks on Escape Music?s ?Millennium Collection 2? sampler that made a deep impression on me was the opening track of CD1, called ?A Man In The Iron Mask? by Heartland, the label?s flagship. Being one of the best tracks I ever heard from Chris Ousey and co., it surely whetted my appetite for the band?s (then upcoming) album.
As regular as clockwork Heartland comes up with a new studio album and this ?Communication Down? is already number eight in a little more than a decade. After having released four albums in four years (I?m speaking of the period 1997-2000), it was wise to wait two years before releasing a new album. Now that the feeling of overkill has gone, we can listen to this ?CD? with a sort of fresh mind again.
The album opens up with ?Imagine My Surprise? and betrays a heavier Heartland straight away. Of course it?s still ?classic? Heartland, but with a more aggressive guitar sound from axe hero Steve Morris. An original intro then paves the way for track # 2 ?Follow Me?, which is dominated by the excellent vocals of Chris Ousey. After the album?s absolute highlight ?The Man In The Iron Mask? come a couple of tracks - ?The Best Of Times? and ?Fight The Good Fight?- both showing us Chris?s immense vocal prowess (once again). After ?Time And Tide? - another slice of typical Heartland stuff - all lovers of tasty vocal harmonies and swirling keyboards will enjoy ?The Bottom Line? to their heart?s content. ?Black And White? is a moody song, but with a massive wall of sound, combining guitar and keyboards to maximum effect - Heartland at their heaviest! ?Refugee? and ?All Her Own Way? close the album in the classic Heartland way. The grand finale comes by way of an intriguing instrumental piece, called ?Classical Blast?, after a minute of silence followed by a hidden (vocal) track, of which I can?t mention the title, simply because it?s mentioned nowhere.
Produced by Steve Morris in the UK and mixed by Paul Dean (Loverboy) in Canada, this ?Communication Down? is yet another jewel in Heartland?s crown
Heartland are back and better than ever. Each album I review I feel there is a little more added to bring the band closer to nailing the perfect album. Same too with Communication Down. They are closer than ever to the perfect album, with this album to me sounding better than any before it.
At the forefront is the production - it's crisp, clean, even and well mixed. You can hear everything going on and it's easily the best production quality since the band's major label debut.
This is also the band's heaviest album to date. Not metal heavy, just hard edged guitars backing vocalist Chris Ousey, who sings with a more aggressive edge to his delivery.
Another past criticism of the band is their lack of catchy choruses. That too is addressed here - these songs rank as some of the band's most memorable to date.
The album was mixed by Loverboy's Paul Dean, who has done a perfect job.
Track By Track: Imagine My Surprise is a killer opening track. Fast and in your face. Although there's no huge chorus, it does feature a wonderful bridge to that chorus which, in collusion with some vocal melodies makes the song an instant hit with me.
Follow Me follows on perfectly, with some excellent opening guitar riffs leading into another rocker that features another verse, bridge, chorus set up. Solid chorus and good musical backing makes the track another highlight.
Man In The Iron Mask remains uptempo, but takes the foot off the peddle a little, allowing some keyboards parts to take centre stage. More inspired vocal melodies lead into a short chorus, with the bridge again the song highlight.
The pace steadies for the moody The Best Of Times. Steve Morris again provides some excellent guitar playing through the intro and verse. The chorus is one of the best of the album, stepping up at least 2 notches, making this one of the album's best choruses.
Fight The Good Fight is the album's first ballad. Typical of Heartland, this is a stirring power ballad with a big chorus featuring Ousey on lead and backing vocals.
Time And Tide features some of the heaviest guitar work I have heard from Morris. Ousey is also aggressive. This song features a slightly progressive arrangement. Add swirling keyboards and a typically short, but rousing chorus and the song remains one of the more musically adventurous of the album. Excellent.
The Bottom Line features another cool guitar into a fast tempo track with a slight progressive edge. The song lacks a better chorus.
Black & White features a moody keyboard/effects filled intro, leading into a darker and more mysterious song. This track sees the band stretching themselves musically and is different to anything else they have done previously. No big chorus for that instant gratification, but it grows with repeated listens.
Refugee features another long moody intro, before switching pace and heading uptempo. Another interesting track with as great verse and good chorus.
All Her Own Way is an uptempo happy go lucky rocker, with a good keyboard mix and one of the best choruses of the album. A really catchy tune and one of the best of Heartland's career.
Classical Blast ends the album on an instrumental note, with Steve Morris and the rest of the band getting to strength themselves again. Once again there are some progressive elements added to this song that make it an enjoyable instrumental.
BOTTOM LINE: Easy. All Heartland and Chris Ousey fans need this record as it again moves forward and betters the last album. The heavier edge and tight production help to highlight what is essentially a great batch of songs. The extra time put into the development of this album clearly shows. A must for old fans of the band and quite capable of brining in some new ones. A credit after such a long history.
"Communication Down" is the ninth album from UK melodic rockers Heartland who are now in their eleventh year which is something of a achievement in itself. The great thing about Heartland is that they have always stuck to their guns and this new record is one of my favourite releases from them yet as there's so much musicality going down, from heavy pompy keys to burning hot guitar solos from axeman Steve Morris. And what of Chris Ousey's vocals on this baby then? They sound really good and very similar to Mr.Big's Eric Martin, so at the end of the day "Communication Down" is a wonderful new AOR and melodic rock release and a 'must have' to add to your CD collection, and a good starting point for all you American's who have yet to discover the treasures of Heartland's music.
I feel quite selfish really as us Brit's and Europeans have really had Heartland to ourselves for such a long time, it really is time for you American's to check out what you have been missing, there are some quality songs on this sucka that American radio stations should be playing!!! Earlier on in their career Heartland even toured with the mighty Winger, whilst this album has been produced by none other that Loverboy's Paul Dean, so what you get is classy melodic rock and AOR. from track one through to the final instrumental track called Classical Blast.
I am pleasantly suprised at how polished the production sound is, clearly allot of time and effort has been crafted into this album, each song is played with tons of emotion and superb professionalism, and oh boy are their some catchy tunes going down here. Check out the Mr.Big-ish The Man In The Iron Mask, the beautiful AOR of The Best Of Times and All Her Own Way, the rocking Imagine My Suprise, Time And Tide, The Bottom Line, Follow Me with it's burning Brian May style guitar riffs, and the excellent and my favourite track Fight The Good Fight which again reminds me of Eric Martin in the vocal department. Ousey puts in a unique performance, his voice as I mentioned earlier sits closely to Eric Martin and the songs hooks will satisfy even the most judgmental of rock fans, this is one album driven by pure quality, which Heartland have cunningly avoided falling into a fate of the same old same old. The bands ability to express feeling into their instruments and lyrics is rarely bettered.
So my advise to you is to buy the album, I assure you that you will not be disappointed with 'Communication Down' - one of my favourite albums of the year so far, I'm biased!!