Heart is a very important band for two distinct reasons: not only it was instrumental in showing to the macho Rock world how girls could truly rock fronting a Rock band, it also drew attention to an ignored American Northwestern city, Seattle. Yes, years later it would be known as the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones and bands like Queensryche, Metal Church, Sanctuary, The Sonics and the whole Grunge movement, which I really don’t care about, but in the mid-seventies it was largely ignored.
Jimi Hendrix only exploded in the USA after going to Britain, nobody bothered in knowing where Quincy Jones was from and The Sonics were only revered in the states of Washington and Oregon.
Therefore, Heart was actually the first band hailing from Seattle that became a success nationwide. If you need any prove of that, all you need to do is go to Seattle or watch the brilliant Foo Fighters documentary, Sonic Highways, to see what I’m talking about.
Anyway, knowing that a lot of Heart fans will curse me until the day I die for some of my choices, here they are:
#5: Jupiter’s Darling
Released in 2004, this album marks the completion of the Wilson sisters return to the scene. After spending most of the nineties playing with the Lovemongers and solo, Ann and Nancy revived their band in 2002 with a great tour (immortalized on the wonderful Alive in Seattle CD/DVD, which is not on the list because as a rule I only consider studio albums) and later this album. They were so prolific that there are 17 songs in it! The best of all being the wonderful “The Perfect Goodbye”. It also marks the first and only time I ever saw them alive at Sweden Rock Festival. I still have the t-shirt.
#4: Little Queen
Despite a strong debut with Dreamboat Annie the sisters were still enduring commentaries about said album cover which showed them with their backs to each other and slightly (very slightly) suggested they were bear-chested. Therefore in the cover of Little Queen, they appeared dressed as British settlers in America, to see if people would finally pay attention to the actual songs. And if they didn’t, it was their loss. The album opens with the perennial “Barracuda”, and its killer riff lifted from Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand” (Nancy Wilson said that) and it is followed by the wonderful ballad “Love Alive”. Other great highlights are the dual vocal performance in the ethereal “Dream of the Archer” (check it out its version on the unplugged The Road Home) and the great Heavy Rock of “Kick it Out”.
#3: Desire Walks On
Although this album marks the last recording Heart would ever do until their return with Jupiter’s Darling, it has some moments much worth of noting. Another great vocal duo is present in “Back to Avalon” and a killer version of Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” with Ann’s great friend, the late Layne Stanley from Alice In Chains (it also won a great version on their last DVD/Blu-Ray Heart & Friends – Home for the Holidays). “Will You be There (in the Morning)” is a great Ann Wilson vocal show case in a composition of none other than the wizard of the 1980s productions, “Mutt” Lange. The album was produced by the great duo from the early nineties, John Purdell and Duane Baron (Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears, Dream Theater – Awake). Despite a changing musical climate (ironically, brought by bands from their hometown, with plenty of musicians that used to hang around Ann Wilson’s house), the record sold respectable 500,000 copies and went Gold in the US.
Heart was on a roll from the mid-eighties to the early nineties. After exploding with the self-titled album, the follow-up Bad Animals wasn’t so great (despite having the anthemic “Alone” on its track list). However, their next album would again show all the talent of the band (if not as songwriters – they were relying on outside writers at the time) at least as interpreters. It opens with a killer cover from Romeo’s Daughter, “Wild Child”, and is followed by a feminine cry (despite being written by “Mutt” Lange) of sexual freedom and one night stands, “All I Wanna do is Make Love to You” and following more or less the same subject, a gem from Holly Knight: “Tall, Dark Handsome Stranger” with a great horns arrangement. It is followed by “I Didn’t Wanna Need You”, another contribution from a well-known eighties hitmaker, Diane Warren. The Brigade tour yield a great live video, unfortunately only available as a bootleg till this day.
“We made a deal with the Devil and the Devil was right”. That’s how Ann Wilson describes, in the delicious Heart biography, “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll”, what happe4ned before their eighth and self-titled album. After the success of Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen and Dog and Butterfly, the band reached a creative standstill. A writer’s block, if you will. Bebe Le Strange, Private Audtion and Passionworks made their sales dwindle considerably and therefore, the record company suggested they try some outside writers. They accepted and their popularity skyrocketed through the roofs, although both sisters would regret it later, having success singing other people songs. But the fact is: Heart, the album, is masterpiece in AOR/Melodic Rock. Let’s just take a look on the first four songs: “If Looks Could Kill”, “What About Love”, “Never” and “These Dreams” (originally offered from to Fleetwood Mac, but they refused). How can you argue with a track list like that? You can’t. “These Dreams” reached number 1 in the Billboard charts and “If Looks Could Kill” was used on advertisements. Ann and Nancy might have been upset later in using all those outside writers, but I’m sure they don’t argue with the quality of those songs.
Humble Pie – As Safe as Yesterday Is
The Damned – Damned, Damned, Damned
King Diamond – House of God
Heart – Night at the Sky Church
Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
The Walking Dead – Season 1
Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz – Rudy Sarzo
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