Dreamboat Annie (1976)
The debut by the Wilson sisters(Ann and Nancy) and their fellow bandmates/boyfriends is not underrated, nor is it overrated. Robert Christgau, whose opinions I respect a great deal, said basically that it was a moderately interesting piece of work, but nothing special. I haven’t found a single non-diehard-fan that calls it anything near a classic. I’m going with Rob on this one…after “Crazy On You” and the full version of “Magic Man”, there isn’t much left.
(“Crazy On You”)
2010: (Atmospheric mysticism…my heart was broken when I read a review referring to “Tugboat Annie”) Grade: B-
8/8/12: “Alright…we’ll call it a draw” Grade: C+
Little Queen (1977)
From the fanciful if slightly laughable costumes the men were forced to wear on the cover, to the striking/alluring poses made by Ann Wilson on said cover, you can tell the sisters put a lot of work into trying to create something mystical and beautiful. Unfortunately it drags considerably after a great opening salvo that shows you both soft and hard. Some of the rest is derivative, some of it is pitiful, but “Little Queen” salvages the second side from complete irrelevance. Barely.
(“Barracuda”, “Love Alive”)
2010: (Giving Ren Faires a good name) Grade: B
8/8/12: “Dream of the Archer” and “Barracuda” rip “The Battle of Evermore” and “Immigrant Song”, respectively. But who cares? Every Zep song was a rip. The thing is, Zep made their rips BETTER than the originals, and while Barracuda > Immigrant, Dream is redundant. “Love Alive” and “Little Queen” are the other two songs of any discernible interest whatsoever. Grade: B-
Dog & Butterfly (1978)
The mammoth hooks AND gracious melodies on “Mistral Wind” blew me away for years, and are deserving of praise. The rest is mostly filler, served hard AND soft, just the way it always is.
Before I savage this release, let me explain that this is not a regular Heart album release. It is in fact Heart’s old label releasing some substandard Heart material to cash in on their success. So it’s not Heart’s fault if most of it sucks, and it does. A couple of interesting songs start and finish the album, and in the middle it’s pure tedium.
Bebe Le Strange (1980)
Here’s where they start to turn from an incredibly inconsistent but occasionally very interesting group into a sad and slightly Spinal Tap-ish joke. Sure, it’s mostly hard and the music isn’t half bad, but even on the best songs you wish someone would put a muzzle on both Ann and Nancy to prevent the rather embarassing lyrics from ever being sung. This shows once again how many potentially good songs are ruined once they’re actually given WORDS.
(“Rockin Heaven Down”)
2010: (Riffs Never Sleep) Grade: C+
Greatest Hits (1980)
It’s sad when a great song is left off a supposed best-of. It’s even more painful when you hear the doo-doo that took it’s rightful place. Mostly they got it right, though…the “hits” portion is quality. The live portion, on the other hand, is tedious and frustrating, showcasing some poor-to-wretched covers, which is punishment enough. Then they somehow take most of the life out of their best song ever. The sad fact is, this probably only charted well because of a cover of “Tell It Like It Is”. Bleh. Yes, I joined the Heart fan club when I was an impressionable (and horny) teen. But I’m much better now.
(“Crazy On You”)
Private Audition (1982)
Horrible. Without their former lead guitarist, Roger Fisher, the sisters have noone who can write quality music, even at an inconsistent rate. Thus we are left to ponder Annie’s vocals and discover the hidden treasures lying therein. Right.
Following the absolute commercial and artistic disaster called ‘Private Audition’, they ditch the artistic integrity idea and start screaming for outside songwriters to bail them out. Unfortunately, they don’t arrive until after this one flops, big time. The finished product CAN, I repeat CAN be played without a wince or a hearty belly-laugh. If you want something so bad it will make you question the existence of a higher power, try ‘Private Audition’. If you want something good, buy ‘Greatest Hits’.
I don’t see why I’m even bothering to review this as a Heart album. The four hits(and four best songs, what a surprise) were all either written or co-written with a song doctor. So sure it charted high, stayed there, and sold millions of copies. It’s designed to do exactly that. They even let it be self-titled so young impressionable fans wouldn’t accidentally discover their back catalog and instead would buy the new Heart version 2.0 (a bit Spinal Tap-ish, no?). The Heart originals get an F, and the Heart fakes get an A. The A is stronger, I think, and it balances out well for their commercial future, if not their artistic one.
(“Never”, “These Dreams”)
8/8/12: Blech…only two songs (see above) have aged tolerably. The rest is bad female Nelson. Grade: C-
Bad Animals (1987)
One album after being saved by outside songwriting, they start to tank it again, even WITH outside help. This is becoming very sad. And very annoying. The ratio isn’t as good here, and once again all the Wilson-penned songs are pretty much garbage.
(“Alone”, “Who Will You Run To”)
8/8/12: Two songs, a “rocker” and a “ballad”, that aren’t as good as last time. Blech! Grade: D+
Scratching and clawing to survive, this band is plummeting in a free-fall…again. And that is even WITH a heavy prescription of song doctors. Dated, sad, not as embarassing as Private Audition, but much too close. This is a band that doesn’t know when to quit. Think Monty Python and the Black Knight. Can the sisters Wilson pull themselves out of the grave again? I certainly hope not. To end, a piece of advice for Ann: if you’re going to sing blatantly about sex and use it to sell your albums, you shouldn’t be afraid to actually appear in full view for your audience to see during the music videos.
8/8/12: Well…”Stranded” is almost as good as “Alone”. Grade: D-
The Essential Heart (2002)
Disc 1 mostly gets it right from when they wrote their own songs.
Disc 2 mostly gets it right from when they didn’t.
Which is better? Depends on your taste. Get both, enjoy one(Or both, if you’re a really big fan).
8/8/12: See Rush: Chronicles review, replace “one” with “two” Grade: B