Saturday, March 24, 2007

My Musical Guilty Pleasure - Heart

I have, for quite some time now, harbored a love for band that isn’t critically celebrated. In fact, even though I have nearly all of their albums I seldom admit it. The band in question is HEART. The Wilson sisters first came to prominence in 1976 (the year I graduated from college) with their hit “Magic Man” from their debut album Dreamboat Annie. The combination of the crunchy guitars of Nancy Wilson and Howard Leese along with the amazing vocals of Ann Wilson made for a dynamic first single. The album was released on a small label (Mushroom Records) (which we would probably now call and indie label) but it sold like crazy and, for a time, the Wilson sisters and their band were at the top of the charts. Their second album, Little Queen was on a major label, included the mega-hit “Barracuda” and solidified their place in the seventies rock establishment. This was cool stuff and Ann Wilson could really sing!

Things didn’t always go well for Heart, though. They had a couple of albums that I thought were great but didn’t sell like the first two, Bebe LeStrange and Dog and Butterfly (which, while it may not have been a huge hit, may be their best). Then after a couple of really weak albums they reinvented the band in 1985 with a new rhythm section, a new glamorous look, a new record label and a self-titled album. (I should mention that the album just before they got big again, Passionworks, was a particularly strong album even though no one seemed to notice.) Soon Heart were hot again and the album spawned a number of hit songs. One of their hits even featured guitar playing sister Nancy on lead vocals. Their sound was smoothed out a bit, keyboards played a bigger role in their songs and they were a hot 80’s band (complete with 80’s hair). And lets face it, these sisters were made for video and the new MTV loved them. But this didn’t last long either. Each successive album sold less than it’s predecessors, Ann gained weight and became less of an MTV hottie and the audience drifted away. She could still sing up a storm though but eventually Heart finally packed it in. (Recently they reformed and put out a new album but I haven’t heard it yet.)

Nonetheless, I stayed with them for a long time, even in the lean years (typified by their worst album, Private Audition.) Every once in a while I have the urge to hear the old stuff and I get out a couple of albums and crank it up. While on vacation in the car I heard a couple of Heart tunes on the radio and realized that the time had come to pull out the old CDs again. (I like them enough to have repurchased those first few albums on CD even though I had them on vinyl.) As I write this I have their 1985 self-titled comeback album playing and I find myself knowing an awful lot of the words. Listening to this album brings me back to when I lived in Denver. I remember walking on Evans Avenue with a tape of this album on in my Walkman. I also remember that when I saw them on the Bad Animals tour they were fabulous and put on a great show. (If my memory serves me correctly a new singer named Michael Bolton was the ignored opener.)

So because I so often find myself listening to this stuff it is time to come clean – My name is Bob and I actually listen to Heart. And I enjoy it.

If you want to try to figure out why I like this band so much a great place to start is Dog and Butterfly. It shows that Heart could be a rockin' electric band but also had an interesting acoustic side to them too.

So, what's your musical guilty pleasure?


c said...

"my name is bob and i actually listen to heart."

LOL. that is really a funny line.

knights of cydonia by muse has a total heart vibe in portions of it. and i love it. so maybe that's my guilty pleasure.

even worse than heart: i have an old car with a tape deck in it and sometimes when i forget my ipod and i am in my car, i listen to the def leppard tapes that i bought when i was about 11. and sometimes i like it ...

exnihiloman said...

That's great, Bob!!! My name is exnihiloman and I actually saw Heart during my high school years. Dream Boat Annie tour, maybe? My friend and I were really blown away when they did a Zeppelin cover to a T.