I have to admit that I’ve had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for HEARTLAND (no pun intended!) ever since they released their 1998 “Miracles By Design” album. “Miracles” was the complete album to me. It had great songs that flowed perfectly, top-notch playing, and solid production.
Of course, “Miracles By Design” isn’t where life started for HEARTLAND. They released their debut album way back in 1991 on A & M Records. That self-titled debut was Heartland’s only major label release and even though they have continued to regularly release records, they have since decided to take the Indie label route. First they went with the German Long Island Records label for the 1995 release of “Wide Open” and then with the UK-based Escape Music for all subsequent albums. In total HEARTLAND has released nine albums to date and I’m happy to say “Move On” may be their best since the release of “Miracles” and one of their best overall.
The new album opens with the track “Hard Hearted Man” and the song has a harder edge than I’ve heard from the group in a while. Singer Chris Ousey, who bears a striking resemblance in the vocal department to Eric Martin of MR. BIG fame, turns in some impressive work on the song but guitarist Steve Morris steals the show on this song with some ripping axe work. Also, the production is crisp and slightly different feeling from the bands previous work. In the past I would have classified the band as pure AOR but this album starts out more of a melodic hard rock affair, and that is fine with me when it’s done this well!
As if the opening track wasn’t rocking enough “City of Lights” cranks it up a notch further. The song has some great, huge backing vocals and again some awesome guitar work from Morris.
“Take Me Alive” has sort of a hard funk feel to it not that far from something you might hear from say, the STEVIE SALAS COLORCODE. The style is not usually my favorite and something I wouldn’t expect from HEARTLAND but nontheless they do it well and make it work.
The next trio of songs harkens back to the vintage HEARTLAND sound. “How Was I To Know” is a true AOR power ballad and it features acoustic guitar mixed with Morris’ melodic electric solo. “Hell or High Water” has a laid back vibe mixed with a little Hammond B3 sound. “Too Sad to Cry” with its melodic AOR style reminds me of something from the “Miracles” album. The quality of the production really shines on these types of tracks also.
“Getting Ready” has a latter-day DEF LEPPARD feel right from the start. In fact, if you heard the opening few seconds you’d know exactly what I mean. Meanwhile “Remember Me?” is a high energy track with an absolutely killer guitar solo. I must say Steve Morris has a great tone to his guitar sound.
The instrumental “Redemption” is very nice with a mellow acoustic beginning that leads into some great electric soloing. You really get an appreciation for the diversity with which Morris plays... one moment he’s playing a rough and ready solo on tracks like the aforementioned “City of Lights” and “Remember Me?” and then you get the beautifully melodic moments like in “Redemption”.
Next up is the track “Where Do We Go From Here”. The song is another cool melodic rocker in the true HEARTLAND sound. The song is keyboard dominated and not too far from classic ‘80’s JOURNEY sound-wise. “One Fine Day” is a laid-back acoustic laced track. It’s as close to pure pop as you can come with its gospel-like backing vocals and melodic guitar sounds.
The album’s closing track “Rotate” brings back a little of the funky sound the band tried with “Take Me Alive.” It’s highlighted with yet even more impressive guitar work from Morris.
HEARTLAND has never really made a bad album in my mind but “Move On” is one of the better offerings from the band. I can see this disc getting quite a few spins in my CD player in the coming weeks. If top-notch AOR with some hard rock thrown in (and even a couple funk-influenced tracks) is your bag you could do far worse than this release. HEARTLAND is a veteran outfit that has added some new rocking sounds to their usual AOR repertoire and have made a fresh sounding album because of it.
- Chris Ousey - Lead Vocals
- Steve Morris - Guitars, Keyboards
- Rasmus Duedahl - Drums
- Bjarne T. Holm - Drums on 'Getting Ready'
- Mathias Gregersen - Bass
- Hard Hearted Man
- City of Lights
- Take Me Alive
- How Was I to Know
- Getting Ready
- Hell or High Water
- Too Sad To Cry
- Remember Me?
- Redemption (instrumental)
- Where Do We Go From Here?
- One Fine Day