British band Heartland has been around for quite some time. The core of the band, Chris Ousey on vocals and Steve Morris on guitar, bass, and keyboards have been together since 'III' (1995), their first release on the fledgling Escape Music label. In those early days Heartland played in the basic AOR style. In later years they moved on to a harder edge yet still remained melodic. 2005's 'Move On' is proably the apex of this musical move. It was a very good album which garnered good reviews across the pond. 'Mind Your Head' follows in this same vein and offers another fine collection of melodic hard rock songs.
The two unmistakeable qualities of any Heartland release are the tremendous vocals of Chris Ousey and amazing skills of multiinstrumentalist Steve Morris. Mr. Ousey excels and soars with quite the range on 'Mind Your Head.' He never appears strained or out of control. Mr. Morris is equally impressive as his guitar work is never monotonous, always clear and creative. 'Magazine,' the first cut, and 'Moutain To Climb' are superb examples of these two features.
There is much to enjoy on this album so I will point out some highlights. 'For Pity's Sake' throws you back to the '80's for some terrific melodic rock stuffed with great guitar and a catchy chorus. 'Last Man To Fall' is one of those songs that starts out slow and then rushed into great rock number supported by a hard-hitting rhythm section. A personal favorite, 'A Fathom I Fell,' finds Ousey at his most soulful and Morris tugging at your heart strings with his six strings. 'Mountain To Climb' is, plain and simple, a guitar driven hard rock number. Ousey nearly growls the lyrics, although never in a dirty vocal way, and Morris rips it up with some intense fret work. 'Time To Believe' is a severly heavy number that grips you if only because of Ousey's passionate vocals. The final track, 'The Best Yet To Come,' is essentially 'in-your-face' fast paced, hard driving rock and roll, a fitting conclusion to this album.
Although from beginning to end this is a strong work, I did find myself yawning on several numbers. Neither 'Frozen Hearted' or 'A Richer Vein' succeeded in impressing me. I wouldn't call them 'fillers,' because they both have some redeeming qualities. Yet, somehow I've hard this all before. And 'Run For Your Life,' though a very interesting number, seemed to lack the punch that the lyrics and arrangement required.
Some critics and fans will bemoan the fact that Heartland does not wish to return to the good old days. The same may say that all was said and done on 'Move On.' As for the latter, they may be right: no new ground is being broken here. However, what is here is singular consistency and craftsmanship. Ousey and Morris know their craft and pursue it wholeheartedly with good, though sometimes imperfect, results. In a world where good melodic hard rock is hard to find, particularly here in America, Heartland continues to expel the stale air of mediocrity with their music. 'Mind Your Head' is quality stuff and I can easily recommend it.
- Craig Hartranft
In a world where good melodic hard rock is hard to find, particularly here in America, Heartland continues to expel the stale air of mediocrity with their music. 'Mind Your Head' is quality stuff and I can easily recommend it.