Orianthi’s third album, Heaven In This Hell, is a blatant distant departure from her sophomore release.
Despite her more recent touring with Alice Cooper, or her previous metal licks heard in the film “This Is It,” don’t expect this to be metallic by any means.
This album is produced by Dave Stewart, most known for his work with the Eurythmics.
It is hard to tell whether it was Stewart that brought it out in her, or if touring with Alice Cooper gave her more confidence, but as opposed to the album Believe, Orianthi is no longer aiming for solely a tweeny-bopper audience.
The music and the writing is much more serious here.
When it comes to upgrades heard in the recording studio with Stewart, the album speaks volumes.
On her new release, she shows more confidence in showcasing her guitar skills, but still holds back a bit, as the songwriting and vocals are clearly the main theme here.
When it came to her sophomore platinum-selling album Believe, Orianthi had stated it was her intention to play down her guitar playing, in an effort to achieve a hit pop album.
As opposed to her album Believe, on Heaven in this Hell, Orianthi seems to view herself more of as a guitarist and a contender, rather than merely another replaceable female pop singer.
The songs on the new album are all co-written, primarily with Stewart.
Dan Dugmore on lap steel, and Stewart, who plays rhythm, provide additional guitar playing on the album. With three guitars, it gives Orianthi a lot of freedom as a lead guitarist. While she takes her solos, there is certainly no overkill.
On the album, Orianthi switches between playing lead and rhythm.
She also exchanges guitars, playing both electric and acoustic, as well as taking on nylon strings. On the album, Orianthi also picks up a 12-string, a bass and banjo.
Additional support comes from country bassist Michael Rhodes (Wynona Judd, Dixie Chicks, Randy Travis, Dolly Parton), drummers Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Mark Knopfler) and Shannon Forest (Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Gretchen Wilson, Rascal Flatts), keyboardist Mike Rojas (Dave Stewart, Blue Sky Riders, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean), and Jimmy “Z” Zavala on harp, who famously played with Stewart on the Eurythmics track “Missionary Man.” Zavala has recorded or played with an endless “who’s who” list of rockers, ranging from Ronnie Wood to the late Etta James.
The album is mixed by John McBride (Dave Stewart, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks).
Also contributing to the album are Nashville-based back-up singers Drea Rhenee and Wendy Moten.
With this line-up, one has all the elements needed for a country album.
Stewart’s direction is so immersed in the album, that he even shot the album’s front and back cover, and inside photo, as he did with Stevie Nicks’ “In Your Dreams,” which he also produced.
The album is released on Rob Christie’s Robo Records. Christie is heard playing keyboards on the album, as well.
Stewart’s production literally brings out a new voice for Orianthi, which gains far more strength in her lower octave range, than the poppy, higher pitched vocals heard on her Believe album. Her previously demonstrated pop-teen queen voice has shifted. On Heaven in this Hell, she is now vocally a cross of Pat Benatar and country singer Carrie Underwood.
The title track is a hard rock track, with a lyric line that has elements of country crossover. In an interlude, she plays using nylon strings.
The album’s first single “Frozen,” an earthy, hard rock track, is a distant departure from 2009’s “According to You.”
“You Don’t Wanna Know” is a country crossover rock song with a rock solo. Orianthi also plays banjo on this song.
“How Do You Sleep?” is one of the most interesting songs on the album. A keyboard driven song, the focus here is really her voice here as she belts it out. There are a few subtle blues leads, and a driving guitar solo.
The nylon strings at the end are a nice approach, and with the melody line she plays, it make more sense using them as opposed to any other type of stringed approach.
“Rock” is a pop song, but not as light as fare as on her last album. It is here where Jimmy Z’s harmonica becomes highly evident.
“Fire” is another crossover country rock song, as is the ballad “Another You.”
Orianthi offers another ballad with “If You Were Here With Me.”
There is a soulful, R&B feel to the album’s track “How Does that Feel?” in which she offers a guitar solo, which many of her fans are likely looking for from her.
The swampy, dirty “Filthy Blues” is one of the harder rock, country influenced numbers on the album. More country than blues, more L.A than Nashville, here she brings out the 12-string for a short solo, and then breaks into harder rock solo, turning up the distortion, but only for a short while.
One of the songs is aptly titled “If You Think You Know Me.” It’s hard to tell if this album is truly reflective of who Orianthi really is, but it’s interesting to see this side of her that Stewart has brought out in the studio.
Heaven in This Hell can be purchased on iTunes by clicking here.
Tracklist for Heavin in This Hell:
1. Heaven in This Hell
2. You Don’t Wanna Know
4. If YouThink That You Know Me
5. How Do You Sleep?
8. Another You
9. How Does That Feel?
10. Filthy Blues
11. If You Were Here With Me
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~ Phyllis Pollack