Saturday, February 3, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1100: Heart

After a very fun night out with friends at the Victoria Film Festival gala, I awoke this morning to a mild hangover but a sunny disposition fueled, in part, by the revelry of the night before. If you’re going to have a hangover, make sure the event was memorable.

I’m now off to CD shop and (hopefully) get as many as I can by my new obsession: Minnesota rapper/singer Dessa. This stuff is great and I MUST have all of it. Such is my sickness.

I don’t feel that way about this next band, although I do have a few so obviously I like them.

Disc 1100 is… Dreamboat Annie
Artist: Heart

Year of Release: 1976

What’s up with the Cover? A double Giant Head cover featuring Ann and Nancy Wilson looking dreamy. Ordinarily I’d think a cover like this rather boring but for some reason it appeals to me…

How I Came To Know It: A while back my buddy Chris was playing Heart’s 1977 album “Little Queen” and it appealed to me. Remembering all the Heart songs I liked when I was a kid I decided to dig into their back catalogue. Debut record “Dreamboat Annie” came out as one of the highlights.

How It Stacks Up:  I have three Heart albums. I used to have four but I got rid of “Bad Animals” after reviewing it. Since this is my last Heart review, here is a full recap, including the one I sold:

  1. Little Queen: 4 stars (reviewed at Disc 970)
  2. Heart (Self-Titled): 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 960)
  3. Dreamboat Annie: 3 stars (reviewed right here)
  4. Bad Animals: 2 stars (reviewed at Disc 827)
Ratings: 3 stars

Heart gets thrown into the category of Hard Rock with dismissive regularity, but Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson are a lot more than just two more Zeppelin disciples. On “Dreamboat Annie” they demonstrate a lot of influences, not so much blending them as artfully pinning them together.

For all that the album’s opener (and best known song) “Magic Man” is more of a Zeppelin fueled guitar riff, with a chunky sound and Ann Wilson’s vocals climbing into the stratosphere before dropping back down to a bluesy resolution of the melody. Nancy’s guitar is blues-rock excess in all the good ways and on an atmospheric solo in the middle of the song she shines like a bright star.

Fun fact – there is a crazy guitar lick at the 3:53 mark of “Magic Man” which is sampled by Ice T on the song “Personal”. On “Personal” that little riff is core to the song’s awesomeness but on “Magic Man” Nancy throws it out there, then immediately moves on never to return. She’s got other musical fish to fry.

However, this album is about more than just “Magic Man” (and its other classic rock song, “Crazy On You”). Heart incorporates dreamy pop elements and a proto-disco sexy groove that gives the album balance and depth. “(Love Me Like Music) I’ll Be Your Song” has a smooth almost yacht rock quality, but also could be played as a slow dance at Studio 54. It feels slick and silky but never artificial, grounded as it is in exceptional and honest musicianship.

It can be taken too far, mind you. The title track is a meandering bit of treacle that predictably became the song that got overplayed on AM radio to the detriment of the record’s better songs. “Dreamboat Annie” is not even that good of a song, and it doesn’t help that there are three versions of it (the second and last track on Side One, the last track on Side Two).

There are a lot of prog elements on “Dreamboat Annie”, something I don’t think Heart gets enough credit for. Everyone is obsessed with the fact that two beautiful women are rocking out, and tend to overlook how cleverly they are doing it. “Magic Man” has early synthesizer sounds in that would be equally at home on a Rush album. “Soul of the Sea” is six and half minutes of constant shifts that feels like it could be the soundtrack for a contemporary dance number. “Sing Child” drops some Jethro Tull style jazz flute into the middle of its rock groove.

“Dreamboat Annie” is at its best when Heart feels like they are trying to be two totally different bands at the same time, fusing styles and production choices from multiple influences into an amalgam that is something new. It is hard to pull off, but for the most part, they totally get away with it.

In fact, songs like “White Lightning & Wine” which are just straight up blues tracks suffer by comparison, coming off as derivative. It can’t even be saved by cowbell, which is usually a sure fire musical cure for what ails you.

Despite a couple of these misses, overall, “Dreamboat Annie” is a solid record that for a debut shows incredible maturity and complexity.

Best tracks: Magic Man, Crazy On You, (Love Me Like Music) I’ll Be Your Song, Sing Child

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