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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

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Heart - Strange Euphoria - Box Set Cover
image Epic Records 2012

More Heart:
A Retrospective: Live Performance and Album Reviews (2004)

Ann and Nancy Wilson
click on image for Heart's FaceBook
Heart: Ann and Nancy Wilson
image Legacy Recordings 2012
 

(12 June 2012) It could be argued that this website owes a great deal to Heart. Before the mid-70s, female-fronted rock bands were amazingly rare. There were plenty of female solo artists, of course, names like Joni Mitchell, Buffy Saint Marie and Janis Joplin trip of the tongue easily. But aside from Fleetwood Mac, a band with two female singers? Now that was a real novelty.

Though always very much a band, since 1976 it has revolved around sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. The two women provide an interesting contrast. Ann--dark haired and passionate--has a huge voice, capable of massive, bluesy power and gentle restraint in the same song. She is operatic in spirit, though her voice is far more natural sounding than many of the power vocalists featured in this website, taking her lead from soul, and the blues influenced Robert Plant, rather than the metal singers of the 1980s. Her useful flute playing is also seriously underrated.

Nancy--blonde and slim--has a gentler, folkier voice, and sings lead on perhaps 20% of the band's material. Her virtuosic acoustic guitar playing is her greatest strength, though her mandolin work is wonderful, and over the years she has developed into a more than useful electric rhythm player. Importantly, their voices combine beautifully, with both power and delicacy.

The band had existed in the Seattle area long before the two sisters became involved, but Ann joined the band in the early 70s. She was just the impetus the band needed, which already revolved around talented guitarist Roger Fisher and multi-instrumentalist Howard Leese, and she had soon drafted in her little sister to provide backing vocals and acoustic guitar. By the time they had signed to tiny Canadian label Mushroom, the Wilson sisters were writing most of the band's material. Find our contest question below and be the tenth to respond to our contact address to win your own copy of the box set.

Heart's new box set Strange Euphoria (Epic/Legacy (USA), 2012) is a carefully crafted and considered anthology of their biggest hits and best-loved songs set alongside deep catalog treasures, rarities, demos and live performances. The box is comprised of three compact discs and a DVD in a deluxe box. A bonus CD of Heart's Led Zeppelin covers is provided in the special amazon.com edition. Although the women were not available this year for a Musical Discoveries interview, selected comments on the project were provided.

"In all the years we have been making music we have seen trands come and go," said Anne Wilson. "We have always felt that to try and chase the latest 'it' sound is pointless, and we have tried to remain true to ourselves as songwriters and musicians. Sometimes we have had amazing success and heard ourselves on the radio." She continued, "At other times not so much, but the music is always playing in our house."

All of the CDs in this box set are graced with previously unreleased demos, live tracks or alternate versions. It makes the set a great addition to diehard Heart fans as well as listeners that may be hearing the band for the first time. The demos pay tribute to the tremendous assets of these women and allow their vocal and instrumental chops to shine.

Ann Wilson said, "In this box we have included many things that until now have never seen the light of day. Also here are our favorite deep tracks and live moments that really speak to who we are on the stage and the connection between us and the people who show up to rock." She says, "It has many facets just like we do, but the spirit running through it is all Heart."

Musical Discoveries' 2004 retrospective on Heart (feature) not only provides further depth on Heart's history but also includes reviews of their albums up to that date. Heart released their first album of new material since that article entitled Red Velvet Car (2010), embarked on additonal tours, and we understand that the band is completing of an album of all new material set for release later this year.

Strange Euphoria's listeners will immediately notice the lighter texture that the first compact disc has over Heart's later material. The demos and acoustic tracks have a folky feel and will appeal most to female vocalist enthusiasts. The more richly produced rock numbers will certainly be equally appreciated. While the box has much to offer every listener, the demos and acoustic tracks were most appreciated by our editorial staff.

Heart stormed the charts in the 1970s with hits like "Crazy On You," "Magic Man," "Barracuda," "Straight On," "Even It Up," "Kick It Out," and many more. These hits are all included in the box set in one form or another. Pay specific attention to the tremendous demo version of "Crazy On You" on the first disc. Not only did the Wilson sisters lead the band, they wrote the songs and played the instruments, making them the first women in rock to do so.

The band continued to chart through the 1980s and 1990s with songs including "These Dreams," "Alone," "Never," and a string of other hits that showcased Ann and Nacy's tremendous talents as both musicians and singers. They sold more than 35 million records, had 21 top 40 hits, sold out arenas worldwide, and profoundly influenced the sound and direction of American rock music while inspiriting woman around the world to rock out in bands of their own. They were also the 2008 recipients of VH1 Rock Honors, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Northwest Grammy Foundation and received ASCAP's award for Excellence in Songwriting in 2009.

While those purchasing the box from amazon.com will be treated to Heart's covers of classic Led Zeppelin tracks, everyone that buys the box will be provided the KWSU program from February-March 1976 entitled The Second Ending featuring Heart on DVD. Well produced for video from this time frame, the DVD includes ten of Heart's classic tracks including "Crazy On You," "Dreamboat Annie," "Heartless" and "Magic Man." All will agree with our editorial staff that the band are as tremendous on stage as they are in their studio recordings.

Heart has endured across four decades and thirteen studio albums, from Dreamboat Annie (1976) through Red Velvet Car (2010), is simply the quality of the music and the Wilsons' ability to eonnect to the emotions and experiences of their audience. Strange Euphoria represents the first time Ann and Nancy have personally curated a collection of their work and is the only time they've opened up their vaults to share stunning demos and rarities never before heard by the public. The set includes song-by-song annotations, anecdotes and commentary by the Wilson sisters. Fantastic!

 
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