Escape Music ESM-075
Produced by: Steve Morris

Released: OUT NOW / Website
Relatives: The Distance, Change Of Heart

  1. Imagine My Surprise
  2. Follow Me
  3. Man In The Iron Mask
  4. The Best Of Times
  5. Fight The Good Fight
  6. Time And Tide
  7. The Bottom Line
  8. Black & White
  9. Refugee
  10. All Her Own Way
  11. Classical Blast

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 thins 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.
ESSENTIAL FOR: All Heartland/Ousey fans, fans of polished guitar driven melodic rock.
DISCOGRAPHY:Heartland . Wide Open . 3 . Bridge Of Fools . Miracles By Design . When Angel's Call . As It Comes . Communication Down

01/09/03: Paul Makinson -
Rating: 95
It doesn't get much better - classic AOR with a hard edge - their heaviest to date. Ousey's vocals, whilst "nasal" always hit the mark. But the real star here is Steve Morris. What's going on? This guy plays an axe like no other with passion, accuracy & real feeling. Why doesn't everybody know him? The only reason this doesn't get 100% is that Steve's getting even better - looking forward to the Shadowman project - come on Escape - pull your finger out and release the project - the prospect of Steve Morris & Steve Overland together is breathtaking.

30/07/02: Owen McManus -
Rating: 85
This is the first Heartland album I have actually heard and bought! To some up to album as a hole I can only say it is a great album. My reason however for giving it 85% and not any higher is that I think they do tend to trail off into strange riffs in some songs. (Personal issue other will disagree with). Other than that I will say the the album comes highly recomended.

06/07/02: Dag H Moldskred -
Rating: 78

Good record from Heartland,but miles away from the classic first album.The problem is as always ,not catchy enough refrains.
Remember the fantastic song Fight fire with fire from the 1 st album,none of the songs on this album is close of that class.
Its a solid record though ,well worth getting,bit i am missing stand out tracks,as the songs are very alike.

04/07/02: KAOS FAN -
Rating: 95
In a nutshell, this is a "killer" release. In an ideal world it would sell truckloads especially so in the wake of decrepit releases like Poison's latest.It's the heaviest Heartland Ive ever heard without sacrificing the melodies the band are noted for.
The production is strong and much like Heartland's last album "As it Comes" the songs are more adventurous with stronger arrangements.Ousey sounds distinctive as always and there's an added rawness to the songs which adds real bite.
It could well be the strongest Heartland album in terms of songwriting."The Best of Times" features brilliant lyrics - extremely thoughtful and captivating and one of the more slower tracks.
"Time and Tide" is almost metal in its delivery and I love it.Steve Morris's guitar work is searing on this track and I love the chugging rythm section.The opener "Imagine My Surprise" is another belter and forewarns the heavier approach of the album.The songs are uniformly catchy and Paul Dean's mixing(of Loverboy)fame has produced one of Heartland's better sounding albums.
As a fan of the band Im delighted to see them developing and writing better songs.It's time this band got the recognition stateside and in the U.K. that they garner in Germany,Holland, Japan and in many other markets where they are one of the biggest AOR bands. This is an album that over time will and should be compared to the classics like Foreigner's 4 and Kansas's Leftoverture.A mighty fine release and a perfect introduction to the uninitiated!Cheers.KAOS FAN!!

26/06/02: rubi -
Rating: 97
Heartland have always been known as one of the great AOR bands but I can't confess to be an expert on the band.If anything I thought they were a bit "soft".Boy, was I wrong!This is top quality,hard edged AOR with great vocals.
The production is superb.It really sounds a million bucks and the songs flow seamlessly. Particular mention to the guitar playing of Steve Morris which is top notch.This is obviously a band that realises the importance of a good song and a great melody.
Every song is huge.Particular standouts are "Imagine my Surprise" and "Fight the Good Fight" but it's harsh to prioritise.There are no fillers.And for once an instrumental is a complement rather than an afterthought to the album.
Simple recommendation.Buy it.Top quality melodic rock!Must investigate the back catalogue.

24/06/02: freddy de keyzer -
Rating: 85
As always, Heartland has released another fine record. Personally I don't believe it's their best, but it's still worth your attention ! What disturbs me a little is that they are getting harder and harder with eveery release. And although Chris has a very nice voice, I think that the more pure AOR orientated tracks suits him much better than the hard tracks.
Best exemple of this is the wonderful song called 'The best of times', which is were Heartland and Chris are at their best.
All by all, a good release with a good procuction, but Heartland shouldn't go harder/heaviër than this if they don't wanna lose their loyal fans !

22/06/02: Ernie Manzo -
Rating: 8
Now here is a well-produced (mixed by Loverboy’s Paul Dean) cd that shows a band playing with passion and purpose. Even though this is the band’s 8th release, their past catalog has eluded me thus I can not compare this to their past works. Nevertheless in the never-ending sea of new releases in the melodic rock genre, this one has all the class and integrity required of a superior cd. For my money the vocals could be better yet the singer Chris Ousey does an outstanding and varied performance that demands his every energy. The opener “Imagine My Surprise” puts you on notice that this band knows how the puzzle goes together. Another recommendable aspect of this release has to be the lack of a totally dominating instrument, yes the cd is guitar driven but it never feels forced down your throat. If you yearn for the best of 80’s classy guitar driven rock with razor sharp production and with a fun rock and roll attitude truly this release is hard to beat. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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