Friday, September 17, 2010

Heart Has Plenty Of It As Sisters Approach 60

My absolute favourite review. This was just breathtaking to read. Enjoy :)

Not only does Heart even it up; they kick it out on their introspective, lifetime-in-the-making, spanking new disc, “Red Velvet Car.”

Seattle's rock chick siblings (Ann and Nancy Wilson, 60 and 56, respectively) prove they are still better rock 'n' roll role models than most pop stars half their age. Not only do they have longevity (selling more than 30 albums and scoring 21 Top 40 hits in a career that spans 34 years), they have integrity to boot.

In the mid-'70s, Heart built a reputation as the premier, hard-driving, rock 'n' roll band fronted by two strong-willed pagan goddesses. In the mid-'80s, the sisters became teased-hair, corset-wearing video vixens and mega-selling, pop-rock hit makers. And, for a while in the '90s, the Wilsons established themselves as the female equivalent of Bon Jovi. Who said rock 'n' roll wasn't an equal-opportunity business. Heart's 13th studio release, “Red Velvet Car” is a return to the sisters' breakthrough 1976 release, “Dreamboat Annie,” without being a maudlin or half-hearted affair.

Sounding like they're performing around a bubbling cauldron, the two bewitching sisters prove they still have plenty of mojo on the foreboding opener, “There You Go.” As elder stateswomen who have seen it all, they offer worldly wisdom for young up-and-comers whose lives are on the fast track and (whether they know it or not) spinning out of control. Ann Wilson weaves together this cautionary tale of tawdry success and toxic excesses with her smoky, alluring voice, while kid sister Nancy delivers earthy and organic acoustic guitar riffs and enchanting harmonies.

The powerhouse duo shows why Heart was always the closest thing to a female equivalent of Led Zeppelin on the confident, cocksure rocker, “WTF.” With her howling, Robert Plant-like vocals, Ann surmises, “The hardest thing you'll ever learn is what bridge to cross and what bridge to burn.” So when in doubt, burn everything to the ground. Ann Wilson is mesmerizing as the emasculating marauder while ax-wielding sister Nancy shifts from serious Jimmy Page-inspired blue riffage to Pete Townshend power chord crunch. Although this adrenaline-pumping offering is all too brief, it single-handedly flattens any misgivings left over from Heart's cheesy '80s past (even though Heart at their cheesiest still runs circles around most of today's prefabrication pop divas at their best).

Ann Wilson is a combination chauffeur, savior and survivor on the bluesy, acoustic-tinged title track, “Red Velvet Car.” Tender but tough as nails, Ann passionately cries with the power and conviction to wipe away all the tears and years of misery and self-doubt. Never have the words, “I'm coming for you/I'm coming for you/I'm coming for you” sounded so reassuring and welcome as they do here. In the end, “Red Velvet Car” is a combination of holy apparition and a godsend of a number.

From Jimi Hendrix to grunge (with Heart prominently falling somewhere in between), Ann and Nancy Wilson are both very familiar with the rich musical legacy of their native Seattle (and, if they weren't, I'm sure Nancy's hubby, Cameron Crowe would fill them in if he had to). With the fiery, psychedelic rocker “Queen City,” the Wilsons take the listener on a whirlwind tour of the Seattle of their restless rock 'n' roll youth, concluding that there's something in the air that entices fellow Seattleians to become rock stars. Nancy Wilson shines as the passionate, poetic and poignant paramour smitten by the intoxicated effects of love and, later, reeling from the lingering aftereffects of love lost on the '60s-inspired folk-rocker, “Hey You.” At first, a guitar chiming Nancy Wilson is deliciously sweet and spacey declaring, “Swear by my September stars/I will go where you are going/Forever's never very far/As my love is overflowing.” Then, when the romance turns sour, she snaps, “Did you tangle with the trees/Did it bring you to your knees/Have you had enough of me/Hey you.” In addition to being emotionally rich and satisfying, it's one of the album's true highlights.

Ann and Nancy Wilson burn some rubber and leave the neon lights and the shiny people in the dust on the wanderlust opus, “Wheels.” Accompanied by revved-up guitar chords, locomotive bass lines and rumbling drum beats, Ann advises, “Just close your eyes now/And breathe a sigh now/We're going out of here/Out of here/Riding the wheels.” You can practically smell the petrol fumes on this high-octane rocker.

With its twangy acoustic guitars and impassioned vocals, “Safronia's Mark” has all the makings of being a “Dreamboat Annie” for the new millennium. Ann Wilson delivers a richly told story about heartbreak and human frailty as evident in the lines, “Though her eyes are far away she looks at you/Through her windows darkly she don't see/Her face is like a door you wanna walk on through/'Cause something deep inside just might belong to you.”

“Sunflower,” a song Nancy Wilson wrote about her sister and gave her as a birthday gift, is a deeply delicate and loving ode from someone who obviously has a deep connection with the subject-matter. Nancy's sensual, earth-mother musings and dreamy delivery give Sheryl Crow a run for the neo-hippie troubadour title.

Originally done on the Wilson sisters' acoustic-based offshoot project “The Lovemongers” back in 1990, “Sand” certainly deserves another shot to be heard and discovered. Ann Wilson sings, “A trick of light upon our eyes/A trick of time upon our lives/Ancient songs cry out to you/Surely this sweet sand is slipping through.”

Alas, life is fleeting but the hope that this is not the last we hear of Heart springs eternal.


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