Heart – [Album]

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Those of a certain age may remember events a little differently but, forty years after they started, it has become difficult to recall what Heart should have been known or remembered for – outside of maybe a few songs like “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” “Love Alive” and “Heartless.” How'd something like that get forgotten? Unfortunately for them, Heart broke through in Canada before they made it in the U.S. (in spite of being American) and they were regularly brushed aside and/or taken for granted every time some “new, homegrown talent” came along in both countries. To further add insult to injury, Heart eventually came to be regarded as a “musician's band” – which meant they were recognized for their talents (Kurt Cobain was fond of reminding journalists who contended that “Nirvana put Seattle on the map” that both Heart and Hendrix were also from The Emerald City), but seldom if ever got their names dropped in a “pop importance” context.

Such widespread ignorance to Heart's contributions to rock history should be criminal but, after sort of floundering in limbo for most of the last twenty years, the band finally appears to be in a position to set the record straight with Fanatic; Heart's fourteenth album and the thickest, roughest, hardest rock record they've done in about twenty-five years.

From the very top of the title track which opens Fanatic, sisters and Heart staples Ann and Nancy Wilson blurt forth with an unexpected force which will cause those who remember Heart in their prime to recoil. It's a safe bet that no one – literally no one – would have expected Ann Wilson to be in the muscular vocal shape that she is here (she is sixty-two years of age, after all and, where most guitarists have already begun declining into comfortable competence (see Eric Clapton) or, worse, are attempting to compose contempo-casual jazz (hello Randy Bachman!), Nancy has her Les Paul loaded with solid rock hooks which ensnare listeners before they even see the band coming.

Such praise may seem overstated, but it really isn't; the effect really is just that potent and will have everyone – both fans and those who had written Heart off decades ago turning so fast and hard to look twice that whiplash is a very real concern.

Heads will still be spinning and wondering what just happened as the groove keeps rolling into “Dear Old America,” and Ann Wilson slaps listeners upside the head with her trademark bark and Nancy settles into a swaggering, swinging groove. Those two elements (the Wilsons' voice and guitar) are presented here like the sure antidote to the simpering pop breathiness and pitch correction which has seemed to overtake rock, and the result is a revelation. Kids too young to remember the days of “Disco Sucks” T-shirts and have become accustomed to well-adjusted personalities driving rock bands will hear something here unlike anything they've heard before: it is rock with heart (no pun intended) and soul.

Such a delivery may very well have the chance to send their minds reeling even as early as “Dear Old America,” but Heart doesn't bother to slow down and let listeners catch up. “Skin And Bones” and “Million Miles” both keep the sweet grooves and hard rock chops flowing and seem destined to win a few rock fans from the clutches of pop vacuity. It's great and, even when Heart does begin to show its age a bit by beginning to drag their feet through “Pennsylvania,” “Rock Hill” and “Corduroy Road,” they're broken up brilliantly by “Mashallah” and “59 Crush” in order to keep attention spans from waning. In the end, while it would have been nice to not let the album finish on “Corduroy Road” (it's just another slow song which is pretty static), long-time fans will find themselves finally sated and new kids will be wondering how they never heard anything like this before; everyone will be excited, and that it's possible to say such a thing about Heart – a group who has really never been given the shake they deserve – is another point to get excited about too. Fanatic might just end up being Heart's second coming and it's just good enough that it might overshadow their first one; which would be a good thing indeed, because it might mean they'll finally get their due.



Fanatic will be released on October 2, 2012 by Legacy/Sony Music. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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