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Heartland - Into the Future

Heartland
Into the Future
by Chris Hicklin at 15 December 2021, 5:52 PM

Chugging along since 1990, albeit with a decade long break that is ended with this album, HEARTLAND is an accomplished AOR act now notching up their tenth full length release with “Into the Future”. As the name might suggest, the band is not looking over its shoulder as lead vocalist Chris Ousey has assembled a new line-up of seasoned industry pros who have worked with the likes of SAXON, Steve Walsh of KANSAS fame, even a Bee Gee in Robin Gibb. Lead guitar duties are now ably handled by British Prog Rock stalwart Mike Slamer (CITY BOY), who’s fluid style has seen him in demand as a session player playing the solos for, amongst others, the questionable rock outfit WARRANT on several of their albums.

Kicking off with a futuristic sounding keyboard intro, “A Foreign Land” sets the tone for the album, it’s a powerfully melodic sound, with driving bass, twin guitar solos, abundant 80’s keyboard sounds (they have three keyboardists for those who are counting,) and a soulful vocal delivery from the highly capable Ousey. Mike Slamer wastes no time in proving his abilities as a lead guitarist, pulling off several technically impressive solo sections utilising a slew of techniques. The theme continues in “Caught Up” which features a chugging fast guitar riff in the verses and choruses, but also some sparkly clean guitar breaks to break things up. The layers of harmonised vocals are meticulously performed and recorded, and again the guitar solos are virtuosic.

There’s not a great deal of variety on display, I’d say the first few tracks are much of a muchness stylistically, although the writing is intelligent enough and the performances are faultless. Things do step up a little by track five, the slightly poppier “A Dangerous Game” which has a feel of early “Runaway” era BON JOVI, with its memorable keyboard riff. There’s more than a bit of Richie Sambora in Slamer’s solo deliveries here as well. “Climbing Your Wall” has a big fist pumping chorus that will get concert audiences up on their feet, and “Mouth to Mouth” adds a bit of southern groove with a great guitar riff and a little Hammond Organ flavour.

The pianos on “Not Guilty” bolster an already very tuneful piece, Ousey’s slightly gravelly vocals work very well and give a lot of heart and soul to the material, while the quality rhythm section of Wayne Banks and David Anthony take centre stage on the much faster paced and more Proggy sounding “Bolt from The Blue”. This is the highlight of the album, it sees the guitars, bass and drums all locked into a technically difficult, hard driving 4 minutes of pure Rock that doesn’t let up for a moment.

From here it is a bit of a plod to the finish as, like the start of the album, we are back into straightforward AOR territory, well written and performed, but all mid-paced and radio friendly, if your radio is 35 years old. The album ends with a lyrically entertaining song called “When The Band Plays” about the joys of live entertainment, which is fitting as while the album is expertly recorded and performed, I feel it is probably quite a bit more exciting in the flesh.

Holistically the album is a fine piece of work, it does not stretch the art of song writing however, playing almost everything just that bit too safe. But on the few occasions where the band takes risks they succeed, and these moments often are the most memorable and exhilarating the album has to offer.

Songwriting:7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. A Foreign Land
2. Caught Up
3. A Living Thing
4. Giving It All Away
5. A Dangerous Game
6. Climbing Your Wall
7. Mouth to Mouth
8. Not Guilty
9. Bolt from The Blue
10. White Lies
11. Working for The Man
12. When the Band Plays          
Lineup:
Chris Ousey - Lead Vocals
Mike Slamer - Guitars and Keyboards
Barish Kepic - Guitar and keyboards
Ged Rylands - Keyboards
Wayne Banks - Bass
David Anthony - Drums
Record Label: Escape Music
     


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